Sugar Ray Leonard is a retired professional boxer named “Boxer of the Decade” during the 1980s and competed at an Olympic level. With multiple major world titles and numerous other awards and recognitions, this legendary athlete is not only a formidable boxer—he is a philanthropist and dedicated father as well! His impressive achievements and long career in this tough sport garner him a lot of respect, and today we’re celebrating his 57th birthday!
Born Ray Charles Leonard (after his mother’s favorite singer), this heavyweight was the fifth of seven children and grew up in North Carolina, Washington D.C., and Maryland. Following in the steps of one of his older brothers, Leonard took up boxing in 1969. Eventually they formed a team and began to compete as well. Moreover, though any good mother doesn’t endorse this behavior, sixteen-year-old Leonard lied about his age, claiming to seventeen, in order to box in the Eastern Olympic Trials where he made it to the semi-finals.
Leonard’s nickname, Sugar Ray, was given to him by the assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, who told Leonard’s personal coach, “That kid you got is sweet as sugar.” The nickname stuck also in part due to the connection to Sugar Ray Robinson, who many consider the best boxer of all time. Leonard certainly went on to achieve legendary status of his own—after winning multiple championships, he made the U.S. Olympic Team in 1976. He won his first four Olympic bouts by 5-0 decisions and went on to win the Olympic Gold Medal. His career continued to skyrocket after that as he competed professionally and garnered two world titles.
Leonard’s son Ray Charles Jr. was born in 1974, then his second son Jarrel in 1984. While competing in the Olympics after the birth of his first son he kept a photo of his baby boy pinned to his sock as he competed. He married his second wife Bernadette in 1993, the grounds of his estate converted into a flower garden with 10,000 roses. How romantic! After their marriage, their two other children Camille and Daniel Ray were born.
Now living happily with his wife, Sugar Ray makes occasional TV appearances, is involved in charity work for children with diabetes, and is the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk for a Cure event. All these achievements and accomplishments over the course of his lifetime are the number one reason we would like to wish Sugar Ray Leonard a very happy birthday!