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The Inside Track

Hot Corner

January 16, 2002|Larry Stewart

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "SportsCentury: Sugar Ray Leonard"

Where: ESPN Classic, Friday, 5 and 8 p.m.

Sugar Ray Leonard says as this profile opens, "There is no greater feeling than being on center stage in the ring." He also says his goal "was to be world-wide known."

Leonard's thirst for fame partly explains a career that included four "retirements" before he quit for good in 1997 at 40. In his last fight, against Hector Camacho, Leonard suffered his first knockout.

As with most "SportsCentury" profiles, there are too many talking heads. And boxing fans might complain there isn't enough fight footage. But this edition ably captures Leonard in favorable and unfavorable lights.

"If Ali was the boxer of the '60s and '70s, Ray Leonard was the boxer of the '80s," says Ross Greenburg, the president of HBO Sports.

Highlighted is the first Leonard-Thomas Hearns fight in 1981, considered by many as the fight of the '80s. Leonard rallied to stop Hearns on a TKO in the 14th round.

The two Roberto Duran fights get considerable play, particularly the "no mas" fight in New Orleans when Duran quit in the ninth round. The second Leonard-Hearns fight in 1989 and Leonard's matches with Marvin Hagler also get more than cursory mention.

Outside-the-ring topics include his detached retina, his drug problems in the early 1990s--first revealed by The Times--and his failed marriage to Juanita Wilkerson and his relationship with their sons, Ray Jr. and Jarrel. Juanita, Ray Jr. and Jarrel are part of the show, as are brothers Roger and Kenny, who worked for and were fired by Leonard. Leonard married his current wife, Bernadette, in 1993 and they have two small children. His new family is not part of the show.

Juanita, who in the beginning says there are two Ray Leonards, in the end says, "I truly believe the real Ray Leonard is in there somewhere but Sugar Ray won't let him out."

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