Celebrating Black History Month: Sugar Ray Leonard

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Of all the greats of an incredibly deep talent pool in the 1980s, Sugar Ray Leonard stood above them all. With wins over Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler, Leonard reigned as the king of the 147-pound division—not to mention the titles he held at 154, 160, 168 and 175 pounds.

Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran

Sugar Ray Leonard fights Roberto Duran at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on June 20, 1980.

Coming to the national scene with a gold medal win in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal at 141 pounds, Leonard was initially uninterested in turning pro. But he had a 2-year-old son to support, and his parents became ill and unable to work, so Leonard embarked on a professional career.

Leonard quickly ascended the ranks, and won his first world title with a 15th-round technical knockout of Benitez in 1979.

It would be a short-lived reign, though, as Leonard suffered his first professional defeat at the hands of Duran seven months later in a 15-round decision.

The rematch in New Orleans worked out far better for Leonard. In that brawl, Leonard peppered Duran so mercilessly through eight rounds that Duran turned to the referee early in the round and uttered the words that would haunt his career: “No mas.”

Leonard went on to a memorable win over Hearns in 1981, but would retire in 1982.

He returned in 1984 to face Kevin Howard, then immediately retired again after the fight.

But just like the first time, Leonard would come back. And this time, it was for a long-awaited showdown with Hagler.

“The Super Fight” at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1987 saw a victorious Leonard take a hotly debated decision, and he retired afterward.

Once again, Leonard returned to the ring. He had two more memorable bouts against Hearns and Duran, then retired again in 1991 after losing to Terry Norris.

The third time didn’t prove to be the charm. Leonard came out of retirement one last time to fight Hector Camacho in 1996 at the age of 40.

Leonard, who will provide ringside commentary for NBC's coverage of the Premier Boxing Champions series, retired with a record of 36-3-1 with 25 KOs. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.

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