Leonard has acknowledged that he dealt with the "dark moments" of his first retirement (brought on by a detached retina in 1982) by drinking heavily and occasionally using cocaine, a practice he says he ended on his own in early 1986, the year before he fought Hagler. By the time he climbed into the ring against Norris in '91, Leonard had other troubles. Separated from Juanita in 1987, he was in the midst of an emotional divorce. Not nearly as painful, but just as troublesome, was the fractured rib he was secretly nursing throughout his training. A doctor shot him up with painkillers an hour before the tight. "It was all shadows, the worst period in my life," Leonard says. "I didn't have the resilience to rebound."
When the marriage and the career were over, Leonard picked up the pieces of his life and moved to Los Angeles, looking to put it all back together. The healing began one night in April 1989, at a Luther Vandross concert at The Great Western Forum, in L.A. Contemporary jazz musician Kenny G introduced Leonard to Bernadette Robi, the daughter of Paul Robi, one of the Platters, and the ex-wife of Lynn Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver. Leonard and Robi were married four years later. "I haven't looked back since," Leonard says. And not to celebrity gossip, but Juanita eventually married Otis Nixon, an outfielder with the Atlanta Braves at the time who's now with the Toronto Blue Jays. They live in Alpharetta, Ga., with her and Ray's two children, 12-year-old Jarrel and 23-year-old Ray Jr., along with Ray Jr.'s wife, Danielle, and the couple's two-year-old daughter, Arielle.
"Isn't she gorgeous?" cried Grandpa Ray, flashing a picture of Arielle one day in January. "She looks like me!"
If Leonard never found a second career to engage him, he kept himself trim and fit—and busy—with constant athletic activity. He worked out daily, played countless rounds of golf and ran three to five miles every morning. On the side, he set up the Sugar Ray Leonard Youth Foundation to address drug abuse and other issues that affect the lives of the young. "I can appreciate how debilitating and damaging drugs can be," Leonard says. "I tell kids, 'Don't look at what I've done. Look at where I am now.' "
Where he is right now is precisely where he wants to be, training for another title shot. The fight began to take shape last June 22, after Camacho had won a controversial decision over Duran in Atlantic City. Camacho leaned over the ropes and yelled at Leonard, who was doing TV commentary, "Hey, Ray, quit playin' golf! Put those clubs down and let's fight!"
Squinting up at Camacho, thinking Duran should have won the bout, Leonard dead-panned, "You were lucky today. You were given a gift."
By then, however, Leonard had turned 40, and he was itching for a fight. The only question was, with whom? At one point Leonard thought he had a deal to challenge Pernell Whitaker, but that came apart when the money fell short. On Sept. 29, at a reunion of boxers gathered to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Caesars Palace, Leonard found himself standing next to Hagler and Hearns in the wings of the stage at Circus Maximus. "Say, Marvin," Leonard said, "there's been a lot of speculation about you and me fighting. Is this something you would consider?"
Hagler laughed. "You waited until I got old to fight me again," he said.
"As you get old, I get old too," said Leonard.
At which point Hearns, listening in, blurted, "No, Ray! I want to fight Marvin!"