The tape then showed Hagler telling HBO commentator Larry Merchant, "That flurry stuff didn't mean nothing." Leonard leaned forward once more. This time he addressed Hagler's unhappy visage on the screen, "It meant points. Points!"
So what began almost a year ago, when Leonard issued his challenge to Hagler on a Washington, D.C., television broadcast, ended late last week with Leonard talking to a TV set outside that same city, trying to explain to a man who could not hear him what he had done to that man. It had been a long year for Leonard, the most difficult and agonizing in his professional life. He had worked his head and body into the kind of shape required for him to do what no fighter had ever done.
When Leonard went into serious training last fall, it seemed to the world at large to be the most quixotic of labors. But gathered about him was a coterie of believers who would prove instrumental in preparing him for the fight. Trainer tried to persuade him to spar in all-out wars, without headgear, against some toughs wearing 10-ounce gloves. Leonard resisted. "It's not necessary," Leonard told him. "What are you trying to tell me about boxing for?"
This was in late September, when Leonard was merely going through the motions in the gym, not doing any exercises and not even hitting the bag or skipping rope. He would spar six rounds, take a shower and go home. Trainer urged him to take on the toughs, and even Juanita criticized Leonard's lackadaisical regimen. Their critiques upset Leonard.
"You all stay out of my training," he told them both. "Mike represents me as far as law is concerned. You're my wife. Stay out of it." But Trainer wouldn't back down and continued to call for sparring wars. "I want to be sure that this is the way you remember it," Trainer said. "You've been away from it for five years, and I want to be sure you remember it the way it was. I want you to get the feel back."
Leonard ultimately acquiesced. "I held my own," Leonard says. "I needed to be hit. I needed to be hurt." Around this time, too, Leonard told Trainer he was "fed up" with those around him who did not think he could win. He gauged their faintness of heart by the looks on their faces. Trainer told him, "Ray, you don't understand. They know that Sugar Ray Leonard can win this fight, but they don't know if you're Sugar Ray again." This struck a chord with Leonard.
"It made a lot of sense," Leonard says. "Ray Leonard couldn't do it, but Sugar Ray Leonard could. It was whether I was willing to make that transformation. I went back and started exercising and running harder and training. It would hurt. God, it would hurt! But I went back in time."
Trainer even arranged for one of Leonard's entourage, J.D. Brown, to spy on Hagler's camp in Palm Springs, Calif. Trainer told Brown that he would not pay him unless he came back with a picture of him with Hagler as proof that he had actually infiltrated the camp. After watching Hagler spar for three days, Brown not only gave a full report of all that he had seen but also brought home the required color snapshot of himself, hair dyed partially gray for the assignment, posing with Hagler.
Finally, when Trainer sensed that Leonard's aides were tiptoeing instead of making their opinions known and enforcing their own instructions, he urged Dundee to come to Leonard's training camp in Hilton Head, S.C., five weeks before the fight instead of the customary two or three. "It's time to come in, pal," Trainer told the Miami-based Dundee. "If there was ever a time for you to step in and go one-on-one with Ray, this is it." Dundee arrived on Feb. 28, and he and Leonard immediately worked out a strategy and final training program.
"I can't give Angie enough credit," Trainer says. "Ray's talent was there. Angie helped choreograph it. He stepped in and filled a void."