The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring

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Sugar Ray Leonard's brutally honest and uplifting memoir reveals in intimate detail for the first time the complex man behind the boxer. The Olympic hero, multichampionship winner, and beloved athlete waged his own personal battle with depression, rage, addiction, and greed.

Coming from a tumultuous, impoverished household and a dangerous neighborhood on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., in the 1970s, Sugar Ray Leonard rose swiftly and skillfully through the ranks of amateur boxing-and eventually went on to win a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics. With an extremely ill father and no endorsement deals, Leonard decided to go pro.

The Big Fight takes readers behind the scenes of a notoriously corrupt sport and chronicles the evolution of a champion, as Leonard prepares for the greatest fights of his life-against Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns, and Wilfred Benitez. At the same time Leonard fearlessly reveals his own contradictions and compulsions, his infidelity, and alcohol and cocaine abuse.

With honesty, humor, and hard-won perspective, Leonard comes to terms with both triumph and struggle-and presents a gripping portrait of remarkable strength, courage, and resilience, both in and out of the ring.

Publishers Weekly
In this moving memoir, boxing legend Leonard tells his story of growing up as a ghetto kid whose athletic skills lifted him into a world of fame for which he was ill-prepared. Born in 1956, Ray Charles Leonard grew up near Washington, D.C., in an African-American suburb. A shy boy, Ray was goaded by an older brother to enter the ring, where he discovered a talent for the sport. Ray's meteoric rise through the amateur ranks led to a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics. With a flashy style and a media-ready persona, "Sugar Ray" became a big draw as a pro and fought in some of the most lucrative boxing matches of his era. Leonard frames his memoir around the most important event of his career—his middleweight title fight with Marvin Hagler in 1987. Leonard hadn't fought since 1984 yet he managed to win a split decision. The true focus of the book, however, is Leonard's struggles with celebrity. He writes honestly of the many affairs he had while married, as well as his addiction to alcohol and cocaine. Few of our cultural icons look at themselves so clearly, and it's a tribute to Leonard's insightfulness that he makes his story such a gripping one.

New York Journal of Books
A fascinating, illuminating, engaging story of what it takes to be successful at the highest levels. Simultaneously, The Big Fight is a most instructive study of competitive strategy.