Donny Lalonde vs. Sugar Ray Leonard

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1988-11-07 : Donny Lalonde 167 lbs lost to Sugar Ray Leonard 165 lbs by TKO at 2:30 in round 9 of 12

  • WBC Light Heavyweight Championship (2nd defense by Lalonde)
  • WBC Super Middleweight Championship (Vacant inaugural title)
  • Photo 1, Photo 2


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  • On August 4, 1988, a press conference was held in Washington, D.C., to announce that Leonard and Lalonde had signed to fight for Lalonde's WBC Light Heavyweight Championship and the newly created WBC Super Middleweight Championship. Another press conference was held in New York City on August 18 to announce the date, site and other details of the fight.
  • This was Leonard's third return from retirement and his first fight since defeating Marvelous Marvin Hagler by a 12-round split decision to win the WBC Middleweight Championship on April 6, 1987.
  • This was Lalonde's first fight at super middleweight since defeating Benito Fernandez by a ninth-round TKO on November 6, 1986.
  • Mike Trainer, Leonard's attorney, promoted the fight under the banner of Victory Promotions.
  • Trainer said Leonard would earn at least $15 million, and Lalonde would earn about $5 million.
  • Leonard's purse was the largest ever for a light heavyweight title fight. The previous largest was $1.2 million, which was paid to both Michael Spinks and Dwight Muhammad Qawi when they fought to unify the World Light Heavyweight Championship on March 18, 1983.
  • Titan Entertainment reportedly paid $9.5 million to be the closed circuit and pay-per-view distributor. Titan, which previously had success with pay-per-view wrestling events such as Wrestlemania and Summer Slam, was making its first foray into boxing. The fight was distributed to some 800 cable systems with a pay-per-view price of $29.95. "We did gross revenues of $19.5 million and a net just a little under $10 million. Out of 9.5 million homes, we had a buy rate of 6.8 percent," said Jim Troy of Titan. "There was approximately another $1 million from closed circuit television and about another $2 million from foreign rights."
  • The fight was held in a 15,388-seat outdoor stadium at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tickets were priced from $200 and $1,000. Caesars Palace, which reportedly paid a site fee of $7.5 million, announced a crowd 13,246 and a gate of $7.5 million. However, the Nevada State Athletic Commission claimed there was a paid crowd of 5,590 and a gate of $2,789,800. It was reported that more than 5,000 free tickets were given away to increase the crowd.
  • Coors contributed $1 million to the boxers' purses and an additional $2 million into advertising the bout. The day after the fight, Mike Trainer threatened to withhold a portion of Lalonde's purse because his cornermen had not worn the Coors beer insignia on their clothes the night of the bout. Dave Wolf, Lalonde's manager, said Lalonde didn't want to be associated with a brewery because of his advocacy against child abuse. (Lalonde wore a patch on his trunks that read "No Excuse For Child Abuse.") Trainer said, "Their money is going to go to a charity of Donny`s choice. He`s not getting it." A week after the fight, Lalonde's attorney, Norm Kaplan, said he had heard no further on the subject from Trainer. "I spoke to the Coors people and they indicated there was no problem," said Kaplan.
  • This was Leonard's first professional fight without trainer Angelo Dundee in his corner. They parted ways due to a dispute over money. Dundee was unhappy with the amount of money he received for Leonard's fight against Hagler. "They paid me off in the fabulous sum of one percent of Ray's purse, plus something else," Dundee said. "I thought it was a little low, and I resented it." Mike Trainer disputed Dundee's story. "What Angie told you he got paid from Ray is absolutely false," Trainer said. "He made more for the last fight than for any other fight up to that time." Dundee demanded that his payment for the Lalonde fight be negotiated by his attorney, but Leonard refused. Janks Morton, Dave Jacobs and Pepe Correa worked Leonard's corner for the Lalonde fight.
  • After Leonard weighed a career-high 165 pounds at the official weigh-in, Lalonde took the microphone and said, "I'm not only fighting an old welterweight, I'm fighting an old, fat welterweight." Leonard got on the scale wearing a warmup suit and later revealed that he had silver dollars in his pockets. "I had about 40-50 in each pocket," Leonard said. "What I actually weighed this morning was 159½."
  • Leonard was a 3½ to 1 favorite.
  • Pat Putnam of the Sports Illustrated reported:
The end came like a savage storm. Leonard, who had been knocked down by a right hand to the left side of his head when caught off balance in the fourth round, faced a furious assault in the ninth. His chances for world titles four and five -- the WBC super middleweight championship and Lalonde's WBC light heavyweight crown -- suddenly appeared dim as Lalonde threw 31 straight punches, although most lacked power or precision. When Lalonde paused, Leonard attacked. As he came out of the corner, he launched three hooks to Lalonde's head and a hard jab to his nose. A right snapped Lalonde's head back, driving him into his own corner, where he took a savage battering. Leonard slammed fist after fist against Lalonde's head before dropping him with a hard left hook.
His expression grim, Lalonde struggled to his feet. He nodded at Leonard, as if to say, "O.K., you win." When referee Richard Steele waved Leonard forward, Lalonde grimaced and exhaled sharply, sending a bright red spray into the night air. His eyes widened as Leonard moved swiftly to resume his assault. He hammered a right against Lalonde's head, and Lalonde, who had held his title for not quite a year, tried to clinch, but his strength was gone, and he backed away against the ropes. Leonard set himself and fired a right from the floor that narrowly missed Lalonde. Then, tapping Lalonde's chest gently, almost contemptuously, with a measuring left hand, Leonard cracked him with another right and sent Lalonde to the floor with a hook. It was over.
  • Leonard landed 205 of 382 punches (54 percent), and Lalonde connected on 122 of 508 (24 percent).
  • Leonard became the second fighter in history to win world championships in five weight divisions. Three days earlier, Thomas Hearns became the first to accomplish the feat when he defeated James Kinchen to win the inaugural WBO Super Middleweight Championship.
  • The fight was rebroadcast several times by HBO, starting on November 12, 1988.
  • Leonard vacated the light heavyweight title and defended the super middleweight title against Thomas Hearns on June 12, 1989.
  • Lalonde was scheduled to fight Dennis Andries for the vacant WBC Light Heavyweight Championship on June 24, 1989, but retired a month before the fight, saying, "I can no longer justify hurting people for my own gain." He returned to the ring in 1991.