Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Kevin Howard

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1984-05-11 : Sugar Ray Leonard 149 lbs beat Kevin Howard 150½ lbs by TKO at 2:28 in round 9 of 10


Notes

  • This was Sugar Ray Leonard's first fight since February 15, 1982, when he knocked out Bruce Finch in three rounds to successfully defend the Undisputed World Welterweight Championship. After defeating Finch, Leonard was scheduled to fight Roger Stafford on May 14 in Buffalo, New York. While training for the fight, Leonard started to see spots and was diagnosed with a detached retina in his left eye. On May 9, Dr. Ron Michels of John Hopkins Hospital performed surgery to repair the retina. Although the surgery was successful and Dr. Michels cleared Leonard to fight again, Leonard decided to retire. He made the announcement on November 9 at a charity event in Baltimore.
  • On December 10, 1983, after boxing a six-round exhibition at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Leonard announced that he was returning to the ring.
  • On December 20, 1983, WDVM-TV in Washington, D.C., quoted unnamed sources as saying Leonard would fight Kevin Howard, The Ring magazine's eighth-ranked welterweight contender, on February 25, 1984.
  • Mike Trainer, Leonard's attorney, called John Condon, the president of Madison Square Garden's boxing department, and asked about holding Leonard's comeback fight at the Garden on February 25. Condon said the date was already taken for a concert by the rock band Yes. After illness forced Yes to cancel the concert, Condon called Trainer to inform him that the arena was now available. Trainer, who had already made plans to hold the fight in Atlantic City, turned it down. Trainer then decided against Atlantic City due to the city's nine percent luxury tax.
  • On January 26, 1984, a press conference was held to officially announce that Leonard would fight Kevin Howard on February 25 at the 13,866-seat Centrum (later the DCU Center) in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tickets were priced from $10 to $300.
  • At the press conference, Leonard said he planned to fight every three months and predicted he would regain his welterweight crown "by the fall." He also said that he looked forward to fighting Marvin Hagler "two or three years down the road. I am not going to rush anything."
  • The Massachusetts Boxing Commission required Leonard to be examined by Dr. Edward Ryan, a retinal specialist at the Eye and Ear Infirmary of Massachusetts General Hospital, before it would grant him a license. Leonard's left eye was okay, but Dr. Ryan discovered that the retina in his right eye was loose. As a result, the fight was indefinitely postponed. "There could have been further damage," Dr. Ryan said. "We decided right away that he should not fight." Dr. Ron Michels, Leonard's personal ophthalmologist, knew of the right eye's condition for two years. He said the "abnormal areas were not thought to be a threat." He added, "When seen by Dr. Ryan, it was felt these areas had deteriorated." Dr. Ryan performed a five-minute corrective treatment called cryotherapy, in which a small freezing probe is used to create adhesion around weak areas of the retina.
  • After examining Leonard on February 24, Dr. Ryan said his right retina had "responded properly to the treatment and is well healed." He added, "I have contacted the Massachusetts State Boxing Commission and stated that the eyes appear stable." The commission granted Leonard a boxing license, and the fight with Howard was rescheduled for May 11.
  • Both fighters wore thumbless gloves, which Leonard insisted on as a precaution against eye injuries.
  • Leonard's purse was $3 million, and Howard's was $125,000.
  • The fight was televised live on HBO.
  • The crowd of 10,461 at the Centrum included World Middleweight Champion Marvin Hagler. "I purchased a ringside seat for him," Leonard said. "I talked to him a few days ago, and he said he would be there."
  • The New York Times reported that Mike Trainer said if Leonard "says afterwards that he's back where he was when he beat Thomas Hearns," there was a "possibility" of challenging Hagler for the middleweight title in the fall.
  • The Associated Press reported:
Sugar Ray Leonard climbed up from the first knockdown of his pro career in the fourth round Friday night and then stopped Kevin Howard with a furious barrage of head blows in the ninth round of his comeback fight. Leonard, fighting for the first time in 27 months, landed a crashing left hook that almost put Howard down in the ninth. But Howard grabbed Leonard and kept from falling. Then, after the two fighters were separated, Leonard landed several more shots to the head before referee Richard Flaherty stopped the fight with 32 seconds to go in the round. Howard's corner protested vehemently and many in the crowd of 10,461 at the Centrum booed. But it did appear that Howard was all but out on his feet. Howard came to fight and although Leonard, who relinquished his undisputed welterweight title after undergoing surgery to repair a detached retina, was in control all the way, he was never dominant. In the fourth round, Leonard landed a four or five punch series to the head and then mugged at Howard, his chin sticking forward. Suddenly, the 23-year-old from Philadelphia did something that Roberto Duran hadn't been able to do in 23 rounds, something that Thomas Hearns couldn't do in his 14-round brawl with Leonard. Kevin Howard knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard with a right to the jaw that followed a pawing left. Leonard hit the seat of his pants, then got up at three to take a mandatory eight count. Howard resumed the attack and landed two good left hooks to the jaw but Leonard was able to withstand them. In the fifth round, Howard motioned Leonard to come to him. Leonard won the round with several hard body shots in the last minute. Leonard also held the edge in the sixth, seventh and eighth and then the former champion won the fight on the force of that tremendous hook in the ninth.
  • Leonard was so disappointed in his performance that he announced his retirement at the post-fight press conference. "As of this moment, I am retired," he said. "There's no sense in fooling myself or anyone else. It's just not there. I just can't go on and humiliate myself. I fought with apprehension. I had fear for my eyes. I had fear for my whole body. But now I am content. I did try."

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