RICHMOND, Va. -- While carving up opponents, few boxers carved out a legacy like Sugar Ray Leonard.
For years, Leonard dazzled crowds with fancy footwork and fists of fury.
“I wanted to be champion. I wanted to be special. I think the challenges were always there. It was me against you," Leonard said.
His duels with the likes of Roberto Durán, Thomas Hearns, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler are the stuff of legend.
“I worked so hard and I trained so hard. I’ve always been optimistic. Always," he said.
The boxer always embraced the role of the underdog.
Doubters and naysayers provided the fuel.
"Without question. When they told me I can’t win. They told me what I can’t do. That revved me up. I don’t have to think about it. When they say you can’t do it and don’t have a chance I’ll show you," Leonard said.
The man voted 1980s boxer of the decade possesses a personality that transcends sport.
“You know it's quite humbling at times," Leonard said. “It is wonderful but I feel there is a responsibility I feel.”
A champion in five different weight classes, Leonard said one championship trumps them all.
“Words can’t describe what it feels like to win a gold medal," he said.
In 1976, the North Carolina native represented the USA at the Olympics in Montreal.
“Quite a few people can say I was a boxing champion, I was this, I was that, but very few people can say I was an Olympic Gold Medalist. It is just incredible," he said.
With gold in hand, the amateur entered the professional ranks. His career spanned 20 years.
“It is that intestinal fortitude. It’s the how bad do you want this? How bad do you want this," Leonard said.
In his retirement, Leonard said he stays active fighting juvenile Diabetes with his Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation.
“I made a big impact inside the boxing ring. But I want to make an even bigger impact outside the ring by giving a kid a sense of hope," he said.
Earlier this month, Sugar Ray met with donors and members of the Boy Scouts at the Heart of Virginia Council fundraiser.
The 65-year-old champion looks like he could still go a few rounds, demonstrating the finer points of a body blow Sugar Ray asked this reporter to go toe to toe.
It was a one-sided affair. He landed a left hook in my ribs. It is clear Leonard leaves an imprint wherever he goes.
He walked out of the spotlight as a professional 24 years ago, but the sweet science has never really left the man known as Sugar Ray.
“I lived for that. I wanted people to see me and cheer for me and scream for me," he said. "Words can’t describe what it feels like. I’m almost like a little kid when I talk about it because I loved it."
The body blow that Sugar Ray delivered left me sore for nearly four days. I can say that I went toe to toe with the champ and didn't drop to the mat.
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email email@example.com.
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