Ray Leonard is the kind of guy who's always looking at the edge of the cliff, fascinated as to how close he can get to it. He hasn't gotten to the edge yet.
Sugar Ray Leonard slipped out of his red and black Ferrari Boxer Berlinetta, strode through the front door of Jameson's restaurant in Bethesda, Md., and made his way to the bar. Leonard always seems to be the handsomest man in the room, especially when someone calls his name and he flashes that dazzling smile, and on this August afternoon he looked as if he had stepped right out of the pages of GQ.
He wore a mauve cardigan, a light mauve shirt with the cuffs folded meticulously over the sweater's cuffs, mauve suspenders—embroidered with figures of Cupid—holding up dark plaid pants, and a gold necklace, gold bracelet and a twin-dial watch as thin as a half-dollar. "I feel great, I really do," Leonard said. "I ran this morning and had a good workout this afternoon at the gym. I went in weighing 162 pounds and came out at 159�. That's my natural weight now." Of course, that makes Sugar Ray Leonard a natural middleweight.
Here is the man who truly has it all, the very embodiment of the American dream. Though raised poor in Palmer Park, Md., the former junior middleweight and welterweight champion made and stashed away so much money in his meteoric boxing career (his record was 33-1) that he is worth, according to Trainer, "in the neighborhood" of $20 million. He has yet to spend a dime of the principal he earned fighting. He can live almost exclusively off the interest he earns from that nest egg, plus the money he gets from HBO as a boxing commentator.
Leonard had done his roadwork that morning in Potomac, Md., one of the posher suburbs of Washington, D.C. He lives there with his wife, Juanita, and their two boys, Ray Jr., 12, and Jarrel, 2, in a seven-bedroom mansion whose stone facade gives it the appearance of a castle. The Leonards own 2� acres, all enclosed by an iron fence, and right next door is a pasture in which a neighbor's horse grazes. Usually, one or more of the family's four cars are parked in the circular driveway: Juanita's black Mercedes, Ray's Ferrari, a black Rolls-Royce Corniche and a Ford Taurus station wagon. Juanita got the wagon to ferry the kids here and there after getting tired of picking up three-week-old french fries from the floor of the Mercedes.
In these surroundings, Leonard says, he has never been happier. "I'm seeing my kids grow through their formative years," he says. "I'm here a lot more. It used to be Ray Jr. saying, 'Mommy, tell Daddy I'm in the school play.' I did a lot of traveling. I still do, but it's more in and out now. I love this house. It has personality. It's the family, all of us living here together."
Then why, oh, why—in the name of heaven, earth and Muhammad Ali—does this man who has it all wish to climb into a prize ring to try and take the undisputed middleweight championship from Marvelous Marvin Hagler, one of the most savage and resourceful champions in that division's history?
Leonard issued his challenge to Hagler on May 1, and 109 days later Hagler accepted it through spokesmen, allegedly saying he did not want to go down in history as the man who ducked Ray Leonard. Hagler has subsequently made himself unavailable for further comment, and he is reportedly still mulling over his decision at a mountain retreat in New Hampshire. No contract has yet been signed, no site selected, no firm date set, but the very prospect of such a bout has already commanded more attention than the making of Ali-Frazier III.
A lot of questions are being asked of Leonard these days, and he has been as accessible as always. In Jameson's last week, Leonard slid into a chair, ordered a Saratoga mineral water with a slice of lime and said, "I figure it's like something that has to be, before Marvin and me can be content with ourselves. There is a burning desire in me now. At one time the flame had gone down, but the pilot light was always lit. It's in full blaze now. If he wants to write a book some day, this is the final chapter. This is it. This is the way to close it. The challenge. And, dammit, everyone is so high on Hagler. That's why I want to do it. To prove people wrong. I like doing that. This fight's going to happen. It's got to happen."
Leonard began believing that last January when Hagler and his wife, Bertha, flew to Washington to attend the opening of Jameson's, which Trainer co-owns, and from which Leonard, though not an owner, stands to make a substantial sum of money through the lending of his name. It originally was thought that Leonard and Hagler would fight five years ago. That would have been shortly after Leonard had stopped Thomas Hearns in 14 rounds on Sept. 16, 1981, in Las Vegas as he defended his welterweight title. But negotiations fell through and the Hearns fight turned out to be the last major bout of Sugar Ray's career. The following spring, while training, Leonard suffered a detached retina of the left eye; six months later he announced his retirement. Leonard attempted one comeback, beating an obscure journeyman named Kevin Howard on May 11, 1984, but he looked like a slow-motion version of his old self and ended up getting knocked on the seat of his pants before scoring a technical knockout in the ninth round. So he retired again.