STUDENTS from Crescent College Comprehensive have taken time out away from the curriculum to hear all about the sweet science from one of its finest exponents.
Multiple world champion Sugar Ray Leonard charmed students and staff alike and said that even while he was champ, he always took time out of his training schedule to visit local schools and inspire young people.
He hadn’t beaten ring warriors like Duran, Hagler and Hearns because he was tough or fast - “although I was very fast” - but because he was smart and he believed in himself, he said.
“I always tell young people that if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. And education is the best tool you can ever have. Even when I was boxing, I always picked up a book. I always tried to be a little bit more understanding. I always wanted to speak better and to gain respect from people, not just from my opponents but from people in general all over the world.”
He had taken up boxing relatively late, at 14, but was an Olympic champion within six years and a professional world champion at 23. This showed how far self-belief and application could take young people.
“What has happened in my life has been amazing. I have seen the world. I have been able to play golf with some of the presidents of the USA. I have had dinner with Nelson Mandela at his home.
“What I want to leave with you is for you to see yourself as a fighter. I don’t mean hit anybody - please don’t do that. But to be a fighter in your mind and in your heart and be the best you can and work hard. Whatever you want can become a reality if you believe.”
Sugar Ray - who had spoken to a paying audience for An Evening With Sugar Ray Leonard at Thomond Park the night before - was happy to take questions and pose for photographs with students before heading for his plane in Shannon. But he did take the time out to comment on Limerick’s own Andy Lee’s quest for a world title.
While many regard Sugar Ray’s era as the golden age of the middleweight division, he said he had a lot of respect for the current champion Gennady Golovkin, the thunder-fisted Kazakh who Andy Lee hopes to challenge.
“I haven’t seen Andy fight but I’ve heard he’s a very tough guy and if given a chance he can become a champion.
“Golovkin is like a brick, just so tough and a very strong and powerful puncher. Andy would just have to be ready for him and he’s got to be strategic. Andy has a lot of experience though; that would be an interesting match-up,” he said.