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I Just Don't Want To Fight Anymore
Ray Charles Leonard
November 15, 1982
While the injury to the welterweight champion's eye figured in his decision to quit, the chief factor was that the excitement, the challenge was gone
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November 15, 1982

I Just Don't Want To Fight Anymore

While the injury to the welterweight champion's eye figured in his decision to quit, the chief factor was that the excitement, the challenge was gone

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And then I began to see the spots. I thought, "Gee, one thing leads to another." I complained about the eye, but no one took it seriously. They'd say, "Hey, we all got those spots." And mornings when I ran I would run as fast as I could just to get it over with. Then I'd head straight back to my room. Usually after a run I'd shadowbox some just to loosen up. Now I didn't even do that.

Finally a couple of weeks before the fight I'd had it. I told Janks I was going home for the weekend. And I did. That Sunday I took Juanita and my mother, Getha, to dinner at an Italian restaurant. I ate all the pasta and drank some wine. Now, I never break training, not like that. And the one day I did run when I was home I quit in the middle. I was running with Irving Millard and Craig Jones, my two security guards, and at about the mile-and-a-half or two-mile mark I just started walking. The guys were surprised and thought something was wrong. Something was. I told them, "Man, I'm tired of this. I just don't want it anymore. After this fight I'm going to quit."

When I got back to Buffalo, my eye still wasn't right, so I decided to see a doctor. You've all read about how the first doctor I saw prescribed eye drops because she didn't think my injury was serious. But I knew it was, and I went to another doctor in the Buffalo area. He was right to the point: "Ray, you have a detached retina." I wasn't shocked. The mental state I was in, I would've shown more concern if he'd told me I had dandruff. I flew to Baltimore the next day, and the following morning Dr. Michels operated on the eye.

I think I would have retired after the Stafford fight anyway. But no one really knows himself or what he'll do in the future. I might have said, this is it, and then two months later made a comeback. And I think that if, after Stafford, they had come to me and said, "Ray, here's $20 million to fight Hagler, just sign your name," I'd have gone for it.

But the injury made the decision to retire all that easier. I had beat up all the big names, and there wasn't a welterweight who could deal with me. I think it was meant for me to get out because I would have taken those little-known guys lightly, just as I'd taken Finch lightly, and it would have been a disaster.

I've always been very aware of how I perform, and I knew I couldn't perform as well as I should because I'd be thinking about the eye, and that would take away from my abilities. Knowing that, it would be foolish to say that I'm coming back. With all of that against me, I might as well go in the ring handcuffed.

Although I'd made up my mind that I'd retire after the Stafford fight, we had already signed to fight Aaron Pryor, and I wanted to go ahead with that because I just had to close his big mouth. He had been saying a lot of bad things about me, and I wanted him in the ring. I mean, I wanted him bad. Pryor was telling people that I owed him. Owed him for what? He said we'd been friends once, that I should have helped him. I asked him, "Aaron, who helped me?" He said we had been friends. That's the reason friends don't work for me—they're always expecting you to do them favors. It's difficult to have family and friends working for you.

I listened to Pryor's mouth and I was dying to put a fist into it. Even so, while training for Stafford, I told Trainer, who was negotiating for fights overseas as well as ones with Pryor and Alexis Arguello, that after Stafford I needed some time to think. Now, Mike had worked hard to line up those fights. He was always thinking a year ahead of everybody else. But I told him to cancel everything. I think I shocked him, but he said, "If that's what you want, that's what you get."

I say I had run out of challenges, but I have to admit again that Hagler was always in the back of my mind. Now here was one more mountain to climb, and if I hadn't had the eye injury, I might have gone for it. It would have been a fight on the same level as Benitez and Hearns and Duran II. I would have had no problem getting up for Hagler. And I would have fought him at 160 pounds. All that stuff about wanting him to fight at 154 was nonsense. We were just pumping up the fight. He'd have been foolish to fight me at 154. I know he wouldn't have done it, because I wouldn't have done it if I'd been the middleweight. I know Hagler as a man and as a champion, and I always believed if we fought it would be at 160.

But then came the injury, and I knew I wasn't going to fight Hagler or anyone else again. And once I made up my mind there were never any second thoughts. Not one. Juanita knew I meant it and she was happy. My father, Pops, I don't know. I think he thought I'd fight again. My mother, well, it's hard to read my mother. All my friends thought I would fight. My brother, Kenny, also had the feeling I'd fight. Ollie said he still had the door open. I think I finally convinced Janks, but it took a while. Angelo knows my decision is final. And Mike always was sure I'd never fight again.

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