Sports legend Sugar Ray Leonard was widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, becoming the first professional boxer to earn over $100 million in purses, as well as being named "Boxer of the Decade" for his accomplishments during the 1980s. Born Ray Charles Leonard on May, 15, 1956 in Rocky Mount, NC to parents Cicero and Gertha Leonard, he grew up in the areas of Washington, D.C. and Maryland, and, at the urging of his older brother, Roger, began boxing at the age of 14 at a local recreation center. Leonard excelled as a fighter. Soon after fighting in the 1972 Olympic trials - after lying about his age to qualify and despite early loses to more seasoned fighters - gained a reputation as a contender and the nickname "Sugar Ray" after the man many considered the greatest boxer of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson. In 1976, he won a gold medal in the light welterweight division, immediately announcing his retirement and plans to attend college after the bout. However, his father's illness and mounting medical bills, along with a newborn child, soon altered Leonard's plans. In 1977, he fought, and won, his first professional showdown, setting the stage for an astounding series of title belts and victories over the likes of Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, and Marvin Hagler. Over the course of his professional career Robinson went on to become the first boxer to win title belts in five different weight classes, a long-standing world record.
After many retirements and subsequent comebacks, Leonard finally retired for good after a bitter loss to Hector "Macho" Camacho in 1997. From there, he went on to a lucrative career as a commentator for NBC, ABC, HBO, and ESPN, as well as landing endorsement deals with companies such as EA Sports, Ford, Nabisco, and Coca-Cola. Leonard also became a successful motivational speaker and for many years served as the International Chairman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's "Walk for the Cure." In addition to his many television appearances, for four years he hosted the boxing reality series "The Contender" (NBC, 2005-09), sharing co-hosting duties for the first season with actor Sylvester Stallone, who also executive produced the show. He made a cameo appearance in the highly-lauded boxing biopic "The Fighter" (2010), a project that brought back memories of his real-life fight with one of the film's subjects, troubled boxer Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale, in an Oscar-winning performance). In March of 2011, Leonard took a step outside his comfort zone and into an all-new arena when he was announced as a celebrity contestant on the 12th season of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ).