Sugar Ray Leonard talks boxing Bots and Real Steel

Boxing Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard was a firebrand of energy and star power during his heyday and he is considered to be one of the best fighters of all time.  His career was colorful and his good looks didn’t hurt; he’s remained in the public eye since his first amateur win in Montreal in 1976. 

Now retired from boxing, Leonard has managed other fighters and done his fair share of acting in film, series and reality TV,  and  sports commentary and last year he popped again last year competing in Dancing with the Stars.  Leonard’s 2011 autobiography The Big Fight rocked the boxing world with revelations of abuse at the hands of coaches and the resulting personal problems he suffered.  

The 55 year old recently extended his resume to include training Hugh Jackman to fight robots in Real Steel.  Or at least make him look good doing it.  It was an eye-opening experienced as he told Monsters and Critics. 

M&C: Do you think this kind of robot boxing in Real Steel will ever be reality?

Leonard: You know if you’d asked me ten years ago, I’d say no way that’s crazy, but based on technology …  I’m thinking about cell phones;  when they first came out were huge and now they’re so small.  I lose my all the time.  It’s plausible maybe not in 5 or 10 years but maybe 20.

M&C: You appeared in Reel Steel as yourself.  Do you see an acting career at this stage of the game?

Leonard: I also did a cameo with The Fighter with Wahlberg and Bale and on Reel Steel I had a great time choreographing and working with Hugh Jackman.  He is just amazing.   Who knows, I may have a behind-scenes new gig.  Anne, I’m calming down now.  It’s a great place to be.  It really is. 

M&C: How much of boxing is showmanship?

Leonard: Very good question.  People don’t realize this – and I’ve never been asked that – it’s together hand in hand.  You separate yourself from the man.  Muhammad Ali had such flare and so did Sugar Ray Robinson, any boxer who could really fight and had personality charm and charisma.  Wrestling without question had that showmanship craziness.  It was sensationalized and boxing had the same thing and then it kind of slowed down.   Now it’s taken more seriously.  You don’t know what happens.  It happens to you when you close your eyes and it goes one way or another.  So I sit back and take a breather and inhale and look around and say to myself, now what?

M&C: You wrote a bestselling autobiography book last year that was revealing and shocking.  Was that cathartic?

Leonard: That book without question got me to this place.  The revelations of sexual abuse to the good and bad things that happened, it was such a release and cathartic.  It played a major role in accepting every day I have on this earth.  I took things for granted but life is good now.  The greatest change in my life is humility.  Life is precious.

M&C: You’re friends with Michael J Fox.  How is he?

Leonard: We met and liked each other and hung a little and I see him and we hug each other and acknowledge each other.  I haven’t seen him lately except on TV.  I’m so proud of him and taking on this monster [Parkinson’s disease] and not let it defeat him.  That’s a big fight and he’s standing strong and fighting.

M&C: Real Steel was a huge theatrical hit last year.   And now young kids will know who you are and your importance.  Is that meaningful to you?

Leonard: It’s just a whole different generation reintroduced to the world, dancing with the stars, plane kids say “Sugar Ray the dancer”!   After thirty years of boxing!  [Laughs]  I was honorary mayor of Pacific Palisades California at the parade and was sitting in a huge red car and this little girl runs up to me and screams “OMG!  You’re Khloe Kardashian’s godfather!!”  You have to accept that with open arms!

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