Ayub Kalule vs. Sugar Ray Leonard

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1981-06-25 : Sugar Ray Leonard 153 lbs beat Ayub Kalule 153 lbs by TKO at 3:06 in round 9 of 15


  • The Associated Press reported that Kalule got to fight Leonard because WBC Super Welterweight Champion Maurice Hope "priced himself out of the match."
  • Leonard was guaranteed $2.5 million, while Kalule's guarantee was $150,000.
  • The fight was shown live on closed circuit television and was rebroadcast by NBC on Sports World on July 5.
  • Bob Arum's Top Rank promoted the fight. Arum predicted that Kalule would beat Leonard and told the media that it was only at the insistence of Leonard's attorney, Mike Trainer, that he agreed to promote the fight. "I don't want to take the blame when Leonard loses this fight," Arum said. "The match wasn't my idea." He stated that a loss to Kalule would hurt the gate for Leonard's upcoming fight against Thomas Hearns. "That's why this fight is idiotic," Arum said. Trainer responded, "I don't think it makes much sense for Bob Arum to make an issue of why Ray Leonard is fighting Ayub Kalule. But, then, Bob Arum quite often does things that don't make much sense." Trainer added, "I am Ray's business manager, but I don't make boxing decisions. When they make a decision on opponents, I don't even get a vote."
  • Irving Rudd, a Top Rank press agent, brought a witch doctor named Mugimba to Houston to drum up publicity. Kalule wanted nothing to do with him. "I am embarrassed," he said. "Why do they do this to me, like I am a fool? I didn't just come out of the jungle. Take him away."
  • Leonard's trunks for the fight were black and had a yellow cobra head on the left leg. While Leonard was training in Phoenix, he dispatched an aide to the local library to research Ugandan witch doctors. Witch doctors, came back the report, fear the color black and aren't all that happy with snakes, which are too quick to put a spell on.
  • The crowd at the Astrodome was estimated at between 25,000 and 30,000.
  • The Associated Press reported:
Leonard seemed to have the fight in complete control for six rounds, but Kalule came on in the seventh and eighth. In the seventh the defending champion landed two good rights to Leonard's head and followed with a right hook that backed Leonard up. Late in the round Leonard missed four straight head shots and Kalule answered with a left-right to the head that had the crowd roaring. Both men, who each weighed 153, scored well to the head and body in the eighth round, but Kalule was more aggressive and had the best of an exchange right before the bell. Early in the ninth, Leonard shook Kalule with a left hook and right to the head and backed him to the ropes with a flurry of head punches. But Kalule fought back with body shots and Leonard backed off. Then, suddenly, Kalule was in trouble again after taking two ringing rights to the head. Again, the left-handed champion fought back, but as the round was drawing to a close, Leonard shook Kalule to his heels with a right to the head. As Kalule staggered backwards, Leonard shot home a left hook and another right that dropped Kalule to the seat of his pants in a neutral corner. He got up, but the referee had seen enough.
  • After the fight was stopped, Leonard attempted a full 360-degree, no-hands flip. However, although he had successfully practiced this move in training, he hadn't allowed for the restrictive protective cup and ended up on the seat of his trunks.
  • Kalule told New York sportscaster Bill Mazer, who was doing the closed circuit broadcast, "I told the referee to stop it."
  • In the co-main event, Thomas Hearns stopped Pablo Baez in four rounds to defend the WBA Welterweight Championship.