December 9, 2007

Final exam with Sugar Ray Leonard

Boxer

Sugar Ray Leonard, 51, photographed in the gym at his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., on Nov. 1, 2007.

Sugar Ray Leonard, 51, photographed in the gym at his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., on Nov. 1, 2007.

Golf Digest / Which boxer told Golf Digest in 1998, "I'd rather be fighting in front of 100,000 people than teeing off in front of 10."? (Answer: Oscar De La Hoya.)

Sugar Ray Leonard / The only fighter I know who's a good golfer is Oscar De La Hoya. I took up golf when I came to Los Angeles in 1991. My friend [R&B singer] Johnny Gill said, "Ray, let's play golf." I said, "Golf? Brothers don't play golf." But from then on, it was, Holy cow, where have I been? I love it. If I had discovered golf when I was fighting Duran, Benitez and Hagler, I'd have been on the golf course all the time -- and I would've convinced Duran to come with me. [Laughs.] I've been trying to convince Tommy Hearns for years, but he still wants to fight.

GD / Your show, "The Contender," on ESPN, just concluded its third season. Tiger Woods contends in almost every major, but do you know how many times he has finished second in a major? (Answer: four.)

SRL / That's a tough one, because I never see Tiger being No. 2 in anything. Maybe three times? [Told four.] Tiger inspires me. After I watch him play, I head over to my home club, Riviera, and try to emulate him. Sometimes it doesn't translate that easily. I play to a 16, but there are times I can play to a 12 or a 14 if I use course management. If I try to emulate Tiger, I'm a 17. I've met him a couple of times, but we've never played golf.

GD / You won a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics. Do you know who won the Masters that year? Hint: He has something in common with you. (Answer: Ray Floyd.)

SRL / Hmm. Ray Floyd?...I got it? In 1976 I never would have watched the Masters. In my neighborhood, you didn't watch golf. You watched football and boxing. I know who Ray Floyd is now, but I wouldn't have known then. I grew up in northwest D.C. You didn't dare go on a golf course.

__GD /Which boxer told Golf Digest, "I've never prayed before a fight, not really. But at celebrity golf tournaments, in front of all those spectators, I say to myself, God, I don't ask for much..." ? __ (Answer: Leonard.)

SRL / That sounds like me. I said that little prayer when I played with President Clinton. A friend from Riviera called me one day and said, "Ray, do you want to play golf with the president?" I knew it was b.s., so I told him to have the president call me at the house. So then I get a phone call: Mr. Leonard, this is Sergeant So-and-So, and the president will see you at Riviera at 3 o'clock. I said, yeah, right. But because I live across the street, I had to go just in case it was him.

So I go there and putt around, and an hour passes, and I figure, Shoot, he got me on a prank. I'm walking back to my car and I see these guys touching their ears, and all of a sudden President Clinton walks up to me and says, "Ray, you're first off the tee." I hadn't played in months, but on the first hole I hit it about 250 down the middle. I shot a 41 on the front. We took a picture, he signed my scorecard and it's hanging in my basement.

GD / Which famous boxing promoter has hair that looks like U.S. Open rough? (Answer: Don King.)

SRL / Of course it's Don King. I've never heard Don even say the word golf. It's a quiet game, but if Don ever took it up, it wouldn't be quiet anymore.