Exclusive Interview:Sugar Ray Leonard

By Brad Cooney


Exclusive Interview:Sugar Ray Leonard

Boxingtalk continues to bring you the biggest names in boxing. A five time world champion, and Olympic Gold Medal winner, "Sugar" Ray Leonard is universally recognized as one of the greatest boxers in history. Ray Leonard sits down with Boxingtalk, and discusses the second Contender series that will air
this summer on ESPN. Boxingtalk also talks to Ray about his Hall of Fame career and more.

BT - Ray first of all, thank you very much for joining Boxingtalk.com

RL - My pleasure Brad, glad to be here.

BT - Ray The Contender received very nice write ups, but did not do so well in the ratings. The second series has been picked up by ESPN, do you feel the ESPN will bring a new, and improved angle to the show ?

RL - I think that our marriage with ESPN will be a hugely successful one, mainly because it's a proper platform for the sport, and the show itself. I think together as a team, it's going to be incredible.

BT - Ray, being that ESPN is a sports network, will you guys focus more on inside of the ropes, as opposed to outside the ropes like the first series did ?

RL - It's funny you mentioned that because we have tweaked the show a little bit. We made it more boxing specific, if you will. You will see more of behind the scenes, with the guys training, and interacting. We have taken out the challenges because we want to keep it clean, and credible.

BT - I think that's important for the boxing fans, don't you Ray ?

RL - Yes, it really is.

BT - Ray, talk about your relationship with Sly Stallone.

RL - Well the experience has been great with Sly. Sly has such a passion for the sport, and for the boxers. Sly is a fan of the sport, and working with him and seeing the faces of those young fighters who had the chance to meet him was a lot of fun.

BT - Ray some people say that as a younger man, Sly could have been a fighter.

RL - Sly is a student of the sport, and he's a perfectionist. If he wanted to fight, I think he would have been able to do it.

BT - Ray coming off of season one, what have you learned most that you can bring into the second Contender series ?

RL - I noticed that the first show, it was a new thing for everyone. Even the fighters didn't know what to expect, they didn't know the impact of the show. These guys didn't know what was going to happen with their careers. To me, it was like Deja-vu because it reminded me when I was a young man using boxing like them. It is boxing that made me become the man I am, and to be able to take care of my parents. The second show, these guys know that being The Contender Champion impacts their careers.

BT - Ray, Naji Turpin's passing during the first season came as a shock to all involved, what are your thoughts on what happened that day.

RL - Well you know, they call it a reality show but the fact of the matter is, this is boxing, it is what it is. This is a poor man's sport, and it's a chance for a young man like it was for me to climb out of poverty and become somebody. Unlike the Apprentice, and other reality shows, these kids don't go home to a condo, or a luxury home, they go home to nothing. These kids go back to reality, and all we do is turn the camera on them and shoot. The Contender is a wonderful show, and it's inspirational. I noticed that women love the show because they have a vested interest in boxers, some of these guys, these young men that have to box for a living.

BT - Ebo Elder is on series two, I have seen this kid fight, he's a pit bull.

RL - Oh man, I watched Ebo for many years, he's like a pit-bull like a tank. Ebo is a well spoken God fearing man, he's a good, good guy.

BT - Ray Tell the fans when they can see The Contender 2.

RL - We will kick things off on July 18th on ESPN.

BT - Ray I want to talk a little bit about your career. I was in Memphis last Saturday for Jermain Taylor vs Winky Wright, and I ran into Thomas Hearns. Is Thomas Hearns the toughest guy you ever faced?

RL - No question about it Brad, he's one of the toughest. I fought Tommy twice, and I tell him we are one and one. Tommy was tough, durable, and had balls.

BT - When I shook Tommy's hand, the guys grip was like a bear, he's still strong as hell.

RL - Oh he is man, and people don't realize how big he is. They don't realize how tall he is, and how long his arms are, and how strong he is.

BT - That's exactly what happened to me when I met him.

RL - Just think about me, and I had to fight that guy (laughs).

BT - Ray what are some of the main differences you see in todays fighters, as opposed to the fighters back in your day ?

RL - The difference between my era, and todays fighters is that not too many fighters today take pride in being champion. For us it was all about bragging rights. I mean yes, the money was great but you know what? we fought the best to prove that we were the best. We didn't go around yelling that I am the best lb for lb, only Ali could get away with that. I tell you Brad, it makes my stomach turn sometimes when I hear some of these fighters saying that they are the best lb for lb. You know what? fight the best, and let the fans be the judge of that.

BT - Ray do you think today's fighters have easier schedules earlier in their careers than you guys did back in your day ?

RL - Well in the developing stage of a fighters career, they do that. You advance them as they go along, but when they do step up one day and fight a good fighter, they get beat.

BT - Ray did you get a chance to see the Jermain Taylor vs Winky Wright fight ?

RL - Without question I thought Winky had the edge, but the only thing that bothered me is that Winky danced around in the last round. Winky should have closed the show, it would have made a huge difference. It would have made a difference because instead of saying 'maybe it was a draw'and if he was more aggressive he would have closed the show.

BT - Ray talk about Floyd Mayweather a little bit, what are your thoughts on this kid ?

RL - That young man can fight, he has every tool , and the complete arsenal. Floyd is fast, he's in shape, and I like watching that kid fight.

BT - Ray if Oscar DelaHoya does decide to fight Floyd, which way do you lean on that fight ?

RL - Well the thing is about that fight, there has to be a catch weight. The question I have, is Floyd going to fight 147? 149? He can't go up too much, because he'll lose his speed. How much can Oscar come down ? does he come down to 149? I don't thinks so. But if they pay me, I would do it myself. (laughs).

BT - Ray do you ever intend on getting back into promoting at all ?

RL - Well when I did it, I had a bad guy as part of my company who nobody liked. The guy was bad, and I think you know who I am talking about. I love working with The Contender, because this show is all about integrity, and good people, and that speaks volume.

BT - Ray how long do you keep going with The Contender ? Do you keep going with it for as long as T.V. let's you ?

RL - Yes exactly, we'll keep going, and we will go over seas, we will go everywhere.

BT - Ray, in closing would you like to address your fans ?

RL - Yes, to all of my fans, and all boxing fans I truly thank them for the many years of support. My fans have helped me through the tough times, and I want to thank you guys for letting me use my voice to build up the sport of boxing. Look forward to The Contender 2 which airs on July 18th on ESPN, it's going to be a wonderful show. We are trying to bring boxing back to where it was in the 1970's, so support these young contenders.


Send questions and comments to: bradcooney1@bellsouth.net