Last seen, Hagler was still laughing back in Milan, Italy, where he resides.
A few weeks later, setting down his golf clubs, Leonard signed to fight Camacho. On Dec. 8 the rusty old-timer and his troop of young sparring partners—all southpaws, like Camacho—descended on the Sheraton San Marcos Golf Resort and Conference Center in Chandler, Ariz., outside Phoenix, and began the business of honing their man to face Hector the Self-protector. After all those years of running and working out, of doing sit-ups and lifting weights and strolling fairways in the sun, Leonard looked magnificent—sleek and buff and fit. He weighed 164 pounds, just four pounds above his fighting weight, eight weeks before the bout. Chasing those pups around the ring at the San Marcos, he was an easy target for peppery jabs, but now and again he would cut off the ring and hammer the bodies and heads in a fleeting reminiscence of his youth. Performer that he is, he looked sharper on the days when the tent was open to the public and he could hear the oohs and ahhs of the crowd.
A few of his oldest friends did not join him in Chandler. Manager Mike Trainer read and approved the contract, as he has with every contract since Leonard turned pro, but he has not been around. And two of Leonard's once closest aides, administrative assistant Ollie Dunlap and trainer Janks Morton, are nowhere to be seen. "After Terry Norris, I never wanted to see Ray fight again," Dunlap says. "I want him to shine, I want him to win, but he knows I don't want him to fight. The only thing I'm concerned about is that Camacho can stink a place up. He hunts and pecks and runs. He can make you look bad. I don't want Ray to be embarrassed."
Neither does Ray. "I never thought about making a fool out of myself," he says. "I have too much pride. I'm not going out there with a young kid and give him a chance to knock me off and build a reputation on me. My plan is to do my thing and have fun. To do this for maybe one fight. I know what I can do. I know how to prepare myself. I know where my mind is. I never enjoyed anything more than this. And why can't I pursue a love that I have?"
Fair enough. One afternoon in January, at a place in Chandler called LA Fitness Sports Club, Leonard had just finished a set of bench presses when his camp coordinator, J.D. Brown, approached him to announce that Leonard had been elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. "Fantastic!" the fighter said.
Perfect. Leonard was out for so long that he became eligible for the Hall. He not only has that occasion to celebrate, but also the honor of the Hall to uphold. And one last chance, if he can, to write a new kicker for his story. But just one.