Historical Boxing Tale of the Four Sugar Rays

By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent

 Boxing is called “The Sweet Science” by many. While many boxers have used the nickname “Sugar” From Sugar Shane Mosley to Ultimo Sugar Ramos Zaquiera, and that is a story written and rewritten by many boxing historians before, the specific detailed moniker “Sugar Ray” has been used as the nickname handle by principally only four known boxers.

Those boxers are Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Seales, and Sugar Ray Hammond.

A look back at the four nicknames, and their applicability to the boxers involved, is historically significant. It should be qualified this retrospective looks at Sugar Ray as a title, so the boxer’s name really has to be Ray. The term “Sugar” by itself has been shopworn and overused at times in professional boxing, though not much in recent years. Boxing writer Bert Sugar (1936-2012) most certainly made “Sugar” a well-known boxing title, but he was best known as Bert Sugar, it should be noted.

Two-time 135 pounds open New York City Golden Gloves 135 pound amateur championSugar Ray Hammond, 17-9-1 with eight knockouts in the super welterweight division between 1973 and 1981, was 0-4-1 in his last five bouts. Hammond won 12 of his first 14 bouts, including an eighth-round stoppage of future WBC World Cruiserweight champion Carlos  De Leon, a 10 round decision loss to future WBA World Welterweight champion Angel Espada, and a technical draw with former regional NABF Welterweightchampion and contender Pete Ranzany, but lost the rematch. Hammond lost key bouts to Adolfo Viruet, Charlie Weir, Clint Jackson, future WBA World Super Welterweight champion Ayub Kalule, Pedro Rojas, Eddie Marcelle, and Eddie Parks, and never fought in a title bout of any kind.

Born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, southpaw middleweight Sugar Ray Seales, 57-8-3 with 34knockouts, Tacoma, Washington, fought between 1973 and 1983, and was the Munich 1972Olympic Light Welterweight Gold Medalist. Seales went 31-2-1 in his first 34 pro bouts, losing and drawing with future world middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler,and lost a decision to Cyclone Hart. He subsequently lost to future world middleweight champion Alan Minter, number one contender Ronnie Harris, lost to Ayub Kalule, Dwight Davidson, and a third match with Hagler. Seales won the NABF Middleweight title against Sammy Nesmith, but lost it to the late James Shuler. Vision problems due to both retinas Being detached contributed to his downfall. He later regained the sight in his right eye, and worked as a teacher of autistic students at the high school level. Currently, Seales works as a boxing trainer. His eye troubles began when an opponent thumbed him in an eye, now past.

Sugar Ray Leonard, between 1977 and 1997, went 36-3-1 with 15 knockouts. The 1976 Olympic Light Welterweight Gold medalist in Montreal, Canada, according to BoxRec after winning the Olympics Leonard announced he was retiring from boxing. He planned to go to the University of Maryland at College Park, and major in business administration and communications. However, when his mother suffered a heart attack, and his father was stricken by meningitis and tuberculosis, Leonard decided to turn professional to make money for his family out of no choice necessity. His pro boxing career began at that point.

 From November 1979 to September 1981, Leonard fought Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran twice (eventually a third time), Ayub Kalule, and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns. They had an extraordinary combined record of 177-1-1. Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated wrote, “Did any boxer ever have five fights against such diverse and accomplished opponents in such a short period? Damn few.” A detached left retina forced Leonard into retirement in 1983. It was repaired. Starting in 1984 had seven more bouts overall, winning the World Middleweight title from Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but winning only one his final four pro bouts. Inactivity and weight shifts, as Leonard won world titles between welterweight and light heavyweight during his career, contributed to his later losses.

Sugar Ray Robinson (Walter Smith Jr.), 174-19-6 109 knockouts, Harlem, New York City, fought between 1940 and 1965. Considered the greatest all-around boxer of all time, Robinson won world titles at welterweight and middleweight. Robinson fought 42 bouts against former, present and future world champions (30-11-1 with 11 knockouts). Sportswriter Jack Case called him “a sweet fighter” and “Sugar Ray” thus nicknaming him early. Robinson fought his last exhibition in 1972 to benefit his Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation. His last opponent, Joey Archer, then fought in three world title bouts.