GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion is best known as “Sugar”, he is an American former professional boxer, motivational speaker, and occasional actor. Often regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, he competed from 1977 to 1997, winning world titles in five weight divisions; the lineal championship in three weight divisions; as well as the undisputed welterweight title. He was part of “The Fabulous Four”, a group of boxers who all fought each other throughout the 1980s, consisting of himself, Roberto Durán, Thomas Hearns, and Marvin Hagler.”The Fabulous Four” created a wave of popularity in the lower weight classes that kept boxing relevant in the post–Muhammad Ali era, during which he defeated future fellow International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees Hearns, Durán, Hagler, and Wilfred Benítez.He was also the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses, and was named “Boxer of the Decade” in the 1980s. The Ring magazine named him Fighter of the Year in 1979 and 1981, while the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) named him Fighter of the Year in 1976, 1979, and 1981. In 2002, he was voted by The Ring as the ninth greatest fighter of the last 80 years; BoxRec ranks him as the 23rd greatest boxer of all time, pound for pound.Today in our History – December 28, 1981 – Boxer Sugar Ray Leonard is named by Sports Illustrated magazine as the Sportsman of the Year, for World Welterweight champion from January 4, 1982. Ray Charles Leonard (born May 17, 1956).By his last retirement in 1991, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard had become the first fighter to win titles in five divisions-every weight class from welteweight to light heavyweight. He also had the distinction of being the first boxer ever to earn $100 million in purses. Handsome and glib outside the ring-and unusually crafty within it-Leonard beat a number of formidable opponents on his way to wealth and fame.Sports Illustrated correspondent William Nack called Leonard “the very embodiment of the American dream,” and claimed that the engaging boxer’s career “is the paradigm for the sport.”Melodrama played no small role in Sugar Ray Leonard’s professional life. He “retired” as early as 1976 and claimed to be through with boxing no fewer than four times; even at the age of 41, in 1997, Leonard insisted that he was still a competitive fighter, looking for a match. His numerous comebacks were celebrated with a great deal of hoopla, attesting to Leonard’s healthy ego, but they also proved that the fighter possessed unusual degrees of stamina and determination. Fighting through injuries that might have robbed him of his eyesight, overcoming drug abuse, and beating opponents who were expected to pulverize him became Ray Leonard’s signal achievements. As Nack put it, Leonard’s “was a remarkable performance, an exercise in guile, nerve, endurance and superior athleticism.”Ray Charles Leonard was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on May 17,1956. He is named not after a boxer but after jazz great Ray Charles, because his mother wanted him to be a singer. The fifth of seven children, Leonard grew up in Palmer Park, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Palmer Park is hardly a ghetto, but it is not a wealthy community by any means.Sports Illustrated correspondent Rick Reilly called the area “a poor, mixed neighborhood with more than enough trouble to go around.”Somehow the shy Ray Leonard was able to avoid the trouble. He sang with his sisters in a church choir and behaved himself in school. In a Washington Post interview, Leonard’s father called the fighter “a funny sort of kid” who “always hung back.” He continued: “ItBorn May 17, 1956, in Wilmington, NC; son ofCiceroand Getha Leonard; married Juanita Wilkinson January 19, 1980 (divorced, 1991); married Bernadette Robi (a model), August 20, 1993; children: (first marriage) Ray Jr., Jarre!. £Education: Graduated from high school in Palmer Park, MD.Amateurboxer, 1969-76; professional boxer, 1976-91. Became World Boxing Council (WBQ welterweight champion, 1979; won juniormiddleweight championship, 1981 ; became undisputed welterweight champion, 1981 ; in retirement, 1982-84; retired again after one fight, 1984-86; became middleweightchampion, 1987; became WBC super middleweight champion and light heavyweight champion, 1988; retired in 1991. Boxingcommentator and analystfortelevision broadcasts; star of exercisevideo Boxout, 1993. professional boxer, onefight with HectorCamacho, March 1, 1997, retired again.In the autumn of 1986, Leonard returned to serious training, challenged Marvin Hagler to a match, and began boasting that he could defeat one of the most savage and resourceful champions in middleweight history. Leonard and Hagler squared off in the spring of 1987. “By all logic,” Nack wrote, “in the face of all history, Leonard should never have been in that ring in the first place. Except for one sad, brief encounter with an unknown fighter in May 1984, he had not fought in five years and 50 days. And yet here he was, facing one of the most remorseless, murderous punchers in the …middleweight division, without a single tune-up to hone his boxing skills. What he was trying to do was unprecedented in the history of this consuming sport.”Amazingly, Leonard won the 12-round fight, deftly avoiding the punches of an aging Hagler. Nack declared that Leonard, the underdog, scored an “upset of upsets,” fought “magnificently, “and displayed “great courage and resolve.” After the Hagler match, Leonard decided to improve his physique even further. He added bulk and muscle, worked on his stamina, and strengthened his hands by punching the big bag. On November 7, 1988 he added two more WBC titles to his list by defeating then-super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Donny Lalonde, for the fourth and fifth championship titles he would earn in his career. Then, to the delight of promoters and boxing fans, he signed for a rematch with Thomas Hearns.The Leonard-Hearns fight in June of 1989 was preceded by all the usual publicity, with each boxer predicting his own victory. At one press conference, Hearns suggested that Leonard had used steroids to enhance his musculature. Leonard took the jibe in stride at the press conference, but afterwards he vehemently denied the suggestion, offering the counter opinion that Hearns had the proverbial “glass jaw.” Leonard told the Washington Post: ”I’m still ascending, still gaining altitude. I still have the desire, the self-discipline, the self-motivation.” Determined though he may have been, Leonard was only able to fight Hearns to a draw-and Hearns knocked him down twice. The match remains one of the most controversial of either fighter’s careers.Leonard took a year off after his meeting with Hearns to contemplate his future. With a 36-1-1 record, including 25 knockouts-and a fortune estimated at nearly $100 million-the specter of retirement began to loom again. Instead Leonard decided to fight the WBC junior middleweight champion Terry Norris, a man 11 years his junior. “I knew I had to fight again, “Leonard told Sports Illustrated.”I have to know that I’ve taken my talent as far as it can go. I want to be the guy who says, ’Leonard, it’s time to quit.’ I don’t want anybody else telling me that. It’s my life, my career, my decision.” Reserach more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!