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Thu, 05.17.1956

Sugar Ray Leonard, Boxer born

Ray Leonard

*Ray Leonard was born on this date in 1956.  He is a Black (retired) professional boxer, and motivational speaker, best known as "Sugar" Ray Leonard.  

Ray Charles Leonard, the fifth of seven children of Cicero and Getha Leonard, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was named after Ray Charles, his mother's favorite singer. The family moved to Washington, D.C., when he was three, and they settled permanently in Palmer Park, Maryland, when he was ten. His father worked as a supermarket night manager, and his mother was a nurse.

He attended Parkdale High School, Leonard was a shy child, and aside from the time he nearly drowned in a creek during a flood in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, his childhood was uneventful. He stayed home a lot, reading comic books and playing with his dog. His mother said: "He never did talk too much. We never could tell what he was thinking. But I never had any problems with him. I never had to go to school once because of him."  

He competed as a boxer from 1977 to 1997, winning world titles in five weight divisions, the lineal championship in three weight divisions, and the undisputed welterweight title. Leonard was part of "The Fabulous Four", a group of boxers who all fought each other throughout the 1980s, consisting of Leonard, Roberto Durán, Thomas Hearns, and Marvin Hagler.  "The Fabulous Four" created a wave of popularity in the lower weight classes that kept boxing relevant in the post–Muhammad Ali era.  BoxRec ranks him as the 23rd greatest boxer of all time, pound for pound.  Leonard was handled by Angelo Dundee and retired three times, 1982, 1984, and 1987. 

After boxing, for many years, Leonard has been the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Walk for a Cure. He is actively involved in raising both awareness and funds.  He testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs in 2009. The Senate hearing was titled "Type 1 Diabetes Research: Real Progress and Real Hope for a Cure". He testified about the burden of diabetes and the need for continued research funding to find a cure.  Leonard and his wife, Bernadette, founded the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and its annual Walk for a Cure. In 2009, the foundation expanded to support programs that help people rebuild their communities in ten cities across the United States. It supports accessible housing, healthcare services, educational services and job training.  

In 2007 he was awarded The Ambassador Award of Excellence by the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission at the Riviera Country Club for his continued community involvement.  In his autobiography, The Big Fight: My Life in and out of the Ring, published in 2011, Leonard reveals that as a young boxer, he was the victim of sexual abuse from an Olympic trainer and another man, a benefactor. He has since made public appearances to bring attention to the issue of child sex abuse, declaring himself a "poster child" for the cause and encouraging victims to report their abuse. 

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