The Big Fight by Sugar Ray Leonard

It seems like the focus of modern day sports biographies has less to do with an athlete’s accomplishments within their chosen sport, and more to do with salacious details that prove sports idols are not really heroes.  Such is the case with “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring” by boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard.

Despite the reputation during his career as a silver-spoon manufactured TV fighter, Leonard’s background reveals a very rough upbringing.  The stormy relationship his parents endured certainly left a mark.  Leonard persevered, finding solace in the boxing ring, becoming one of the best amateurs in the country and an Olympic gold medalist.  He planned to end his boxing career after the Olympics, but personal circumstances guaranteed that Leonard would turn professional.  Having second thoughts on leaving the ring would become a theme throughout Leonard’s career, as he made numerous retirements and comebacks.

While Leonard gives excellent accounts of his fights with Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and Wilfred Benitez (telling a real touching story on sitting side-by-side with Benitez and watching their fight years later), the rest of his fights are glossed over.  The book focuses on personal revelations (the publicized one being the sexual abuse he suffered from a coach) and the pitfalls that came with his fame (drug abuse, alcoholism, infidelity).

The appropriateness of these tell-all biographies is coming into focus with today’s release of the already-controversial Walter Payton biography.  With this book, at least you can say Leonard is putting it out there himself.

If tell-alls are your cup of tea, then you’ll enjoy the Leonard autobiography.  While the boxing parts are highly enjoyable, I just wish there would have been more of it.

Mildly recommended.

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