July 19, 2012

By Kam Williams

 

LAWT Contributing Writer 

 

One of the most prodigious pugilists of all time, Sugar Ray Leonard was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on May 17, 1956 to Cicero and Getha Leonard. The fifth of seven kids, his family moved to Washington, DC in 1959 before settling down seven years later in Palmer Park, Maryland where his father was employed as a supermarket night manager and his mother as a nurse.

 

Though shy as a young child, Ray followed his brother Roger’s footsteps into boxing, ultimately eclipsing his elder sibling in terms of potential and finding fame by capturing the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He went on to become the first fighter to earn over $100 million over the course of an enviable career, winning world championship titles in five different weight classes while squaring-off in classic showdowns with such formidable opponents as Roberto “No Mas” Duran, Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Wilfred Benitez.

 

Ray retired from the ring in 1997 with a record 36-3-1, with 25 of those wins coming by knockout. Today, he lives in California with his wife, Bernadette, and their children, Camille and Daniel. Here, he discusses his moving memoir, “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring.” 

 

LAWT: It is widely known that it is very difficult for men to talk about sexual abuse. What made you decide to go public with your story, and was it a cathartic and healing experience to write about it?

 

SRL: It was cathartic. I only wish that I had had the courage and the knowledge to have gotten that out of my system, out of my mind or my heart years earlier. But there is no book, there is no manual to tell you how to deal with sexual abuse. I saw Todd Bridges talk about being abused on Oprah. Something that he said, or an expression that he made that gave me that little boost I needed to be open about it and to talk about it as transparently as I did. When I told my wife, she couldn’t believe it. She was petrified, because it’s such a no-no, taboo, a hands-off subject. But I’d have to say hearing Todd Bridges on Oprah was my watershed moment.  

 

LAWT: Kate Newell says: I saw you on Stephen Colbert and loved it. She was wondering why a movie hasn’t been made about your life?

 

SRL: Being on Colbert was a real treat for me, too. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but it turned out to be pretty cool. In terms of a movie, we’re talking about it. It’s on the table but, as you know, Kam, that type of thing doesn’t just happen overnight, unfortunately. But I do look forward to seeing the story of my life onscreen someday. 

 

LAWT: Boxing fan Mike Ehrenberg asks: Was Wilfred Benitez the best pure boxer you ever faced?

 

SRL: Yes, without question. He was a mirror image of what I considered myself as a boxer. That was one of my toughest fights, by far. It’s sad that he’s not mentioned in the same breath as Hearns, Hagler and Duran. It always bothered me that he wasn’t considered in our league, the reason being that he never beat any of us. But he should be right up there.  

 

LAWT: Mike also asks: Was the Dicky Eklund knockdown, highlighted in the movie “The Fighter,” legit?

 

SRL: It was legit that I was knocked down, or pushed down. [Chuckles] But I remember that fight like it was yesterday because that guy, Dick Eglund, was so unorthodox. And it was the first time in my life I really experienced racial hatred from the fans. We’re talking about Boston back in ’78. 

 

LAWT: I lived in Boston from ’75 to ’78. It’s the most racist city I ever experienced before or since. You couldn’t step foot in white neighborhoods… they wouldn’t serve you in some restaurants… and you couldn’t go to Fenway Park or the Boston Garden.  

 

SRL: I can believe it. When I arrived at the airport, I had a priest or a pastor greet me with, “Hey boy, welcome.”

 

LAWT: I could go on and on about Boston.

 

SRL: I could, too. That’s what it was like back then.

 

LAWT: When I interviewed Governor Deval Patrick last year, I told him I never would’ve believed that Massachusetts would ever elect a black governor after my experiences in his state. Mike has one more question: Do you regret coming out of retirement past your prime to fight Terry Norris and Hector Camacho? 

 

SRL: Do I regret it? Yeah, I do, but it took that to wake up to the fact that my time was over, my time was gone. Sometimes it just takes that kind of beating, if you will, to wake up. It does. I didn’t want to take it. I took it in intervals. The first time was in ’91. I retired and came back in ’97. Woo! I mean, come on! I don’t know, man. A six-year layoff? That was crazy! My career was relatively short, whether you look at either its length in years or the number of fights I had. But it was brutal.

 

LAWT: That’s because it was the Golden Age in terms of welterweights and middleweights.

 

SRL: Exactly! You couldn’t mess around in that era there.

 

LAWT: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: With mounting medical evidence that contact sports aren’t providing ample equipment to mitigate against cerebral concussions, how would you feel about boxing associations mandating protective headgear for fighters, not just for sparring, but also during bouts?

 

SRL: I’m not in favor of that because we learn as amateurs how to protect ourselves. And that’s why there’s a third man in the ring, the referee. And that’s why there has to be a very strong boxing commission that doesn’t allow guys in the ring who don’t belong there. Look at football, where you still have injuries no matter how much they improve the helmets and other equipment. Boxing’s a poor man’s sport. We can’t afford to play golf or tennis. It is what it is. It’s kept so many kids off the street. It kept me off the street. What’re my options?

 

LAWT: Yale grad Tommy Russell says: I really respect your admission about battling drug abuse during the tough times of your professional life. What is the most important thing you have learned from that experience?

 

SRL: I learned that I had character defects, that I was allergic to alcohol and drugs, and that I had an obsession with all the bad stuff. But thank God that I woke and that I had good people around me to support me. There’s not much more I can say about it. You have to want to be a better person.

 

LAWT: Larry Greenberg says: On Celebrity Ghost Stories, you appeared with one of my favorite young ancestresses, Leila Jean Davis, and you shared some very personal experiences. How did you like being on the show? 

 

SRL: I enjoyed it. I never thought in a million years that I would tell people that I saw a ghost. And I’ve seen a lot of ghosts. [Laughs]

 

LAWT: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

 

SRL: Yeah, how’s your day? [Chuckles]

 

LAWT: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

 

SRL: Yes, we all are afraid of something. We might not admit it, but we are.

 

LAWT: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

 

SRL: Extremely!

 

LAWT: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

 

SRL: Just now. [Chuckles]

 

LAWT: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

 

SRL: It used to be a pint of ice cream in bed.

 

LAWT: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

 

SRL: “The Big Fight.”

 

LAWT: What inspired you to write the book?

 

SRL: To be honest, I don’t know. I started one back in 1982 or ’83 when I first retired. But I was only 25 or 26 and not ready to write my memoirs. 

 

LAWT: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music have you been listening to? 

 

SRL: “Dance with My Father” by Luther Vandross.

 

LAWT: What is your favorite dish to cook?

 

SRL: I’m pretty good with oatmeal.

 

LAWT: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

 

SRL: Success. But not necessarily monetary success.

 

LAWT: Judyth Piazza asks: How do you define success? 

 

SRL: Success is attaining your dream while helping others to benefit from that dream materializing. 

 

LAWT: Dante Lee, author of “Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made?

 

SRL: Remaining conservative.

 

LAWT: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

 

SRL: At about 6, seeing my mom and dad kissing and understanding it. 

 

LAWT: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

 

SRL: It made me realize how much I loved that person.

 

LAWT: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

 

SRL: You don’t play boxing. [LOL] You really don’t. You play golf, you play tennis, but you don’t play boxing. 

 

LAWT: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

 

SRL: As someone who had an impact outside the ring.

 

LAWT: Thanks again for the interview, Ray, and best of luck with the book.

 

SRL: Thank you, Kam.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

July 12, 2012

By TIM REYNOLDS |

Associated Press

 

MIAMI (AP) — Rashard Lewis has decided to join the Miami Heat, becoming yet another shooting option for the reigning NBA champions.

Agent Tony Dutt said the free agent forward and the Heat agreed to terms on Tuesday, and Lewis is expected to sign his contract Wednesday in Miami. Lewis’ decision comes just four days after Ray Allen agreed to accept an offer from Miami.

Allen and Lewis were Seattle teammates for five seasons, from 2003 through 2007 — and both figure to fit perfectly into Miami’s plan to surround LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with even more shooters who can stretch defenses.

Allen’s 2,718 made 3-pointers are the most in NBA history, and Lewis ranks fifth among active players with 1,690 makes from beyond the arc.

Lewis will make the veteran minimum from Miami for this coming season, worth about $1.3 million. He’s picking up another $13.7 million because the final year of his most recent contract — a $118 million, six-year pact — was bought out earlier this offseason by New Orleans, who acquired the 6-foot-10 forward in a trade with Washington and then waived him.

Allen and Lewis are both likely to be introduced by the Heat on Wednesday, once procedural matters like physicals and paperwork are completed. Teams may start signing their free agents when the league's moratorium officially ends at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

Slowed by left knee problems this past season, Lewis averaged 7.8 points in 28 games for Washington. For his career, he’s averaged 16.1 points per game with Seattle, Orlando and Washington.

Lewis’ numbers in field-goal percentage (.385), 3-point percentage (.239) and scoring this past season all were the second-lowest of his career. Only his rookie season of 1998-99, when he appeared in 20 games, was less productive.

Still, he was someone the Heat targeted early in free agency. Lewis met with the team this past weekend, had interest from several other clubs — New York and Atlanta included — before eventually deciding that Miami would be the best fit.

Lewis did not play after the All-Star break this past season, sitting out Washington’s final 33 games.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

July 12, 2012

By BRIAN MAHONEY | Associated Press

 

LAS VEGAS (AP) — LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and three other Olympic gold medalists were already back.

Add a defensive stopper, a potent scorer off the bench, and one of the NBA’s most explosive athletes, and the U.S. is certain it has a powerful Olympic basketball team.

Better even than the one that won gold four years ago.

“We feel like we’re definitely a great team. We have all the pieces that we need,” forward Carmelo Anthony said. “We’ve got to put it together, but we feel like we’re the best team out there.”

The Americans rounded out their roster Saturday, adding Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala and James Harden to the nine players who already seemed secure long before training camp began.

They earned the final three spots that opened after a rash of injuries knocked out at least four players who would have been on the team. They beat out Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay and No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis of New Orleans, who couldn’t scrimmage this week because of a sprained ankle.

Also heading to London for the defending gold medalists are: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love.

The Americans never had a close game four years ago until the championship game, when they pulled away in the final two minutes to beat Spain 118-107. Even with Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh unable to return from that team, the Americans think this one can be even stronger.

“When I think about ’08, we were really good then. But like me, LeBron and D-Will, all of us talk about, you’ve got to think about how much better all of us are now than we were in ’08,” Paul said. “All of us as players, we shoot the ball better. Guys are more athletic, guys are more confident. One through 12, no question we’re deeper than we were in ’08.”

USA Basketball Jerry Colangelo acknowledged the adversity the team faced with all the injuries in his remarks before the players were introduced during a press conference, all wearing their white USA jerseys — James and Anthony even looking game-ready in white headbands.

“But as the dust settles, I’m proud to say that we’ve put together in my opinion a terrific team with great athleticism and great versatility and we believe we’re going to be successful,” Colangelo said.

Griffin showed he was healthy again after being slowed by a knee injury during the playoffs, putting on an impressive dunking display following practice Saturday. Harden, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year with Oklahoma City, gives the Americans more scoring punch off the bench, and Iguodala is a defensive specialist who can guard multiple positions.

The Americans lost Howard, Derrick Rose, Wade and Bosh to injuries in recent months, forcing them to scrap plans to name their 12-man roster on June 18. They asked the US Olympic Committee for a roster extension and added Harden and Davis to their original pool of finalists chosen in January.

Harden seemed a long shot, joining Griffin as the only player who didn’t play on either of the last two U.S. teams. But the Americans felt they needed someone comfortable with coming off the bench more than they did Gay, who was behind too many other forwards on the depth chart, and the result was three players from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Great characters, workaholics, just humble guys, humble guys and blessed to be in this position,” Harden said of himself, Durant and Westbrook. “(Guys) who work hard and just set ourselves up for greatness and to achieve, and just to be on the same team with these guys means a lot.”

Colangelo was intrigued by Davis’ skills, but the national player of the year at Kentucky sprained his ankle last week and was not able to take part this week, robbing him of a chance to show he was ready to handle international competition now.

Iguodala was frequently assigned the role of shutting down the opponent's best player two years ago in the world basketball championship, and he previously had scrimmaged against the U.S. on the select team of young players, so Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski knew what he could do.

“I think they’ve just seen that I can pretty much play alongside pretty much anybody and still make an impact on the game. I don’t necessarily have to have the ball to make an impact on either end,” the 76ers swingman and first-time All-Star said. “I’ve been playing with Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, pure scorers, and when I get in, it won’t be a problem for me to fit in with those guys. I’ll jell right along with them right away.”

James, Bryant, Anthony, Paul and Williams were all part of the 2008 Olympic gold medalists. Durant, Westbrook, Chandler and Love also played on the world championship team two years ago.

Colangelo said he believed this team was deeper and better than the ’08 squad, but added that “only time will tell.”

The injuries leave the Americans short-handed at center, where Howard started four years ago in Beijing and Bosh backed him up. Chandler is the only natural center left, so the Americans will be forced to use some players out of their normal NBA positions.

But what remains is still the most athletic team in the world, with potent scorers at nearly every spot, and the Americans will look to overcome any size disadvantage by punishing teams in transition. Griffin said expects to be strictly at the center spot.

The Americans opened training camp Friday and will practice here through next Wednesday, then play an exhibition game against the Dominican Republic on Thursday.

The players who were not selected will be alternates who could be replacements in case of further injuries up until 48 hours before the July 27 start of the Olympics. Davis will stick around just in case, playing on the select team.

James and Anthony will be playing in their third Olympics for a U.S. team with an average age is 26.1 years. The young guys, combined with the veteran returnees, could make for a golden mixture.

“I think we have guys on the team that’s definitely hungry at this point, especially young guys that want to go out and prove themselves,” Anthony said. “They’ve been showing that over the last couple of days in practice. What we put together in ’08, we will never duplicate that again. But this is a new team, this is a new situation and this team wants to form their own identity.”

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

July 07, 2012

By MAE ANDERSON | Associated Press

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is launching a sports clothing line called V7 that will be sold exclusively at East Coast sporting goods chain Modell’s.

The line is the latest image-restoration move for Vick, who spent 18 months in federal prison after being convicted of bankrolling a dogfighting ring and was released in 2009. He is now among the highest-paid players in the NFL, and recently married longtime fiancée Kijafa Frink. Vick has re-signed with Nike and added other endorsements for companies such as MusclePharm Corp.

He has also since spoken out about animal cruelty.

The line includes technical athletic clothing such as T-shirts, shorts and tank tops. Prices are $12.99 for children’s clothes and $19.99 for adult clothes. Part of the proceeds will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia.

It was developed in a licensing partnership with celebrity clothing-line mogul Ruby Azrak and former ICM talent agent Brian Sher, Modell’s confirmed.

Vick led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 10-6 record and an NFC East title in 2010, and was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He faced injuries and inconsistent performance in the 2011 season. The 2012 NFL season begins Sept. 5.

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Category: Sports

July 12, 2012

By MATTIAS KAREN | Associated Press

 

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — One Wimbledon title wasn't enough for Serena Williams.

About five hours after Williams won her fifth singles title by beating Agnieszka Radwanska, she and sister Venus were back on Centre Court to beat Czech duo Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-5, 6-4 Saturday in the doubles final.

It was their fifth Wimbledon doubles title together, and came shortly after Venus watched her little sister win the singles final.

"I was definitely inspired by Serena's singles performance," Venus said. "Obviously it's wonderful to play on the court with her. I couldn't have done it without her, so it's great."

Both sisters have battled health issues over the last two years, with Venus having been diagnosed with an energy-sapping illness and Serena overcoming blood clots in her lungs and two operations after cutting her feet on glass in 2010.

This was their first doubles tournament together in two years, and they looked as if they hadn't missed a beat.

"She's such a fighter, you never say die," Venus said about her sister. "I don't think either of us believe that we can be defeated by anything. Nothing has defeated us yet, so we're going to keep that track record."

Serena was the last woman to win both the singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon, in 2009.

Playing under the closed roof, Venus Williams served out the match less than 15 minutes before the 11 p.m. deadline for the end of play on Centre Court.

Had the match gone to a third set, they probably would have had to come back and finish it off on Sunday.

"I told Venus on the court, it doesn't matter," Serena said. "We weren't really racing the clock, we were just playing our opponents who were playing really tough and really good."

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