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'There Is A Burning Desire In Me'
William Nack
September 08, 1986
So says Sugar Ray Leonard of his astounding decision—for someone at once rich, renowned and ring-rusty—to challenge Marvelous Marvin Hagler
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September 08, 1986

'there Is A Burning Desire In Me'

So says Sugar Ray Leonard of his astounding decision—for someone at once rich, renowned and ring-rusty—to challenge Marvelous Marvin Hagler

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Petronelli confesses that he did not handle the matter well. "I probably should have sat Mike down before I talked to anybody else," he says. "But it all happened so suddenly."

In any case, Arum claims he has a legally binding agreement with Hagler that would give the champion the announced $10 million guarantee. And if the fight grosses more than $20 million, Arum says, Hagler would earn at least 50% of the gross over that amount. Thus, if the fight grossed a record $30 million, Hagler would receive $10 million plus half of the additional $10 million—or $1 million a round for a 15-round fight. And what does that leave Leonard?

"That's negotiable," says Arum. But the promoter figures he could give Leonard an $8 million guarantee and perhaps 30% of the gross over $20 million. Top Rank would receive about $2.5 million, after expenses, according to Arum.

What exasperates Trainer—and obviously imperils the fight's prospects—is that the Hagler-Arum agreement limits his flexibility in negotiating for Leonard, since Hagler's half of the deal is apparently set. In any event, Trainer plans to meet with Petronelli within two weeks to present his own proposals. At a meeting he had with Petronelli on the day following the announcement by Top Rank, Trainer told him, "I hope you haven't done anything that truly prevents this event from happening."

That remains to be seen. Leonard, meanwhile, continues to go about his business, doing roadwork in the morning and hitting the bags and skipping rope at the Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing Center in Palmer Park every afternoon. Since he made his seemingly rash challenge, his very sanity has been questioned. Didn't he see Hagler beat Tommy Hearns senseless on April 15 of last year, walking through the Hitman's punches like a bull through high grass? "You can't do what Hearns did, try to stand toe-to-toe," Leonard says. "You've got to break his rhythm, not let him get off. Hagler's a very sensitive man, and if things aren't going his way, I can see signs of frustration. The key is to nullify his offense. I know I can outpoint this man, and possibly knock him out. I'll beat him. If I were a betting man, I'd bet on Hagler. If I were a smart man, I'd bet on Ray."

Without even a tune-up? If the fight does come off in March, Leonard will have fought only one bout in 61 months, and that against the lightly regarded Howard. "I wasn't mentally ready to fight Howard," Leonard says. "He was obscure, not the guy to get you to the gym every day. No, no tune-ups for Hagler. I do tune-ups in the gym. If you think about the fight taking place in March, that's a year of Hagler being inactive. That's ring rust, too. And he's older than I am. I'm only 30. If I were 35, I'd be worried about me, too."

Leonard knows what his critics are saying, but he brushes it off with a shrug. "They can't relate to me," he said in Jameson's. "They didn't have what I had. They didn't feel what I felt. I reached a pinnacle that few men can claim—psychologically, emotionally, spiritually. I want to pick it up where I left it off. I've got to do what I've got to do."

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