But then Sunday got out of Monday's way, and that comfort he had found would beget its own pain. Absolute predestination—his life and his death all in Someone Else's hands, no matter how careful he was or how well-caulked his capsule, no matter where on earth....
Except one place. "In the ring," he decided. "That is the one place I am free from that rule. In the ring."
Fair enough, right? One hundred ninety-six million, nine hundred and fifty-one thousand square miles of earth for God. A 20-foot-by-20-foot square for Ray. Surely He would never even notice.
Better test it, though. Just to be certain. He paid four top-20 middleweights to meet him in an empty gym one day in 1986, arranged for three judges and a ref and swore them all to silence. He would never embarrass himself in public again, as he had against Kevin Howard. One after the other, he took the boxers on. Yes, he could still do it! He could fight Hagler!
All the old tools, the habits of thinking and living that had brought him greatness in the morning of his life and sadness in the afternoon—they worked again, he was fighting! His smile returned, he was fun to be around again. Deep, beautiful thoughts about life, about mankind and nature and God washed over him after he had exhausted himself in training, all the thoughts that his teeming mind could not relax enough to let inside when he wasn't boxing.
But then the people flinched. The people, who loved to see athletes take their risks for them, cried to this one, the different one. No, Sugar Ray, don't do it. Hagler can't be beaten, don't chance it, what about your eye? Where were the people at 2:10 a.m.... 2:18...2:21? Had they no clue yet that his image and his eye were smaller risks?
And the moment it was finished, after he had stunned Hagler and the world, the old question arose: God's child? Or God? Where to? called the driver waiting outside the arena. To church, said Ray. To church? The limousine pulled away from the stadium and purred up and down the streets of Las Vegas, but all the churches were dark—nowhere in that neon-spangled night could God be found.
He gave up and headed back to his hotel, Caesars Palace. Which entrance? Ray asked his security men. The back door? The front, he replied. The glass doors swung open. The slot-machine arms froze, the clanging quarters fell silent, the blackjack games died. It's him! Right here! Sugar Ray! It surpassed anything he had ever seen. The people surged and lunged and cried.
"Our planet is large," said Ray Leonard. "The amount of space most people control is limited to the spot on which, at any given moment, they are standing. All space is significant. I control more of it than others. I control a 20-foot square."
Oh, to have walked off in that next sunrise, into an eternity of dawns. But darkness fell again, the digital clocks on his gadgets did their slow fluorescent march through the night.