Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sugar Ray's Time Machine

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sugar Ray's Time Machine

Article excerpt

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - He's 32 years old, but Sugar Ray Leonard is not your usual 32-year-old boxer.

He's more like a 1982 classic car that was put up on blocks and is now out on the road again, the motor purring smoothly.

Because of his detached-retina surgery that put him up on blocks for most of six years, the mileage on Sugar Ray Leonard's boxing odometer resembles that of a much younger gladiator.

That odometer was on display Monday night in his sudden ninth-round knockout of Donny Lalonde for the World Boxing Council's light-heavyweight and super-middleweight titles.

``All those years when I wasn't fighting,'' Leonard said from behind black sunglasses below a thick black leather beret, ``it was almost like being in a time machine.''

From the beginning, Sugar Ray Leonard has been described as a Muhammad Ali in miniature. And his career is also Ali's in miniature.

After his 1967 draft-evasion conviction, Ali endured an exile of three and a half years from age 25 to age 28 that kept his body fresh for his five-year war with Joe Frazier and the dethroning of George Foreman for the heavyweight title.

An at 32, Leonard's body surely is fresher than it would be if the detached-retina surgery had not forced him into a leave of absence.

Leonard was 26 years old when he first announced, several months after his 1982 surgery, that he would never box again. In 1984, about a week before his 28th birthday, he returned for a ninth-round knockout of Kevin Howard; a month before his 31st birthday, he heisted the undisputed middleweight title from Marvelous Marvin Hagler in a 12-round split decision. And now, six months after his 32d birthday, he reigns as a champion in his fourth and fifth weight classes.

``But I can assure you guys,'' he was saying now at Tuesday's news conference, ``I won't retire.''

Leonard had ``retired'' too many times in too many other years for anyone to believe him again. …

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