The former home of retired boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard in Mitchellville, Md., has not been sold, as reported incorrectly Monday, according to a spokesman for Leonard. CAPTION: Picture 1, This $600,000 home in rural Mitchellville was recently sold by Sugar Ray Leonard, Palmer Park's hometown hero. By Fred Sweets--The Washington Post; Picture 2, This six bedroom, $750,000 Tudor-style house on Stapleford Hall Drive in Potomac is the Leonard family's new home. By James M. Thresher--The Washington Post; Picture 3, Bandele Hinton, 15, getting his glove taped by trainer Junious Hinton, supports Leonard's move. By Fred Sweets--The Washington Post
"Awh, he forgot about the community, man. He don't come back through here much anymore. All he left is his name," 12-year-old Bernard Griel said one gray, drizzly night recently in Palmer Park.
His shoulders were crouched against the wind and his hands tucked in the pockets of his beige windbreaker as he stood near the sign that says "Welcome to the Palmer Park Community Center--Home of the Champ."
"Now wait a minute, man. You can't say nothin' about him. If he didn't care nothing about us, he wouldn't have left behind that gym," interrupted Sam Bailey, a tall, muscular boy in a blue running suit, glancing toward the shopping center across the street that houses the Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing Center.
"He's got his life to live just like us. He got a child. Maybe he just ain't got time to come around here anymore," Bailey continued.
"He came in the rec center one time and said, 'Hi li'l brother,' to me," chimed in Sam's younger brother, Melvin, who had just ridden up on his bike.
Such was the talk as word spread through Palmer Park that its hometown hero, the personable young man who put the depressed, working-class community in Prince George's County on the map--boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard--had sold his $600,000 home in rural Mitchelville, and moved, like many a rich person before him, to a mansion in the Potomac area of Montgomery County, a place known for sprawling estates, horse farms and famous residents.
Leonard, in Winthrop, Mass., filming a children's show for Home Box Office, said through a spokeswoman that he plans to stay "as actively involved in Prince George's County as ever."
He said he decided to move from his house on Glenn Dale Road, which is about three miles northeast of Palmer Park, for "a change of scenery."
He added that he looked at houses in other parts of Prince George's and in nearby Anne Arundel County, before selecting a six-bedroom, $750,000 Tudor-style home on Stapleford Hall Drive in Potomac, about 20 miles northwest of his home town.
The new home, Leonard's spokeswoman said, features a cathedral ceiling and a turret containing 200-year-old English glass.
If some youngsters who hang out at the community center were of divided opinion about the move, the would-be fighters who work out every day at the boxing center hoping to follow in the champ's footsteps, were solidly in Leonard's corner. In fact, most of them said they would do the same if they were in his shoes.
"I'd move away too, if I were him," Bandele Hinton, 15, said as he finished a four-minute round on one of the gym's four punching bags, all of which bear Sugar Ray Leonard's autograph.
An Olympic gold medal winner and former world welterweight champion, Leonard donated much of the boxing equipment at the center, which the county opened in 1980.
"I'd move to a rich city, maybe California or Las Vegas . . . . Rich people don't live in this part of Maryland. They go to places where there's bigger houses and nicer communities," said Hinton, who has lived four years in Palmer Park, a community of 7,900 where most people live in aging duplex or triplex homes with small patches of lawn.
"I'm glad to see him move up," said Kirk Megginson, 20, another of the regulars at the boxing center where pictures and posters of the champ are tacked on every wall. "That's not to say I'm not sad to see him go," Megginson continued, bouncing up and down on his toes.
"But he's paid the price to be where he is. He's a well-known boxer. Maybe he's saying, 'Let people see I've made it and they can make it too,' " he added.
Megginson said he goes to welding school during the day just in case he doesn't make it as big as Sugar Ray.
"Some people might be upset about the move, but I tell my fighters this is what boxing is all about. It's a way to better your condition," said Junious Hinton, the boxing center's short, muscular trainer.
Hinton boxed professionally for 11 years and bears thin purple scars above each eye to show it.
"Boxing is the poor man's sport," Hinton continued. "It's the way a poor man can earn big money. Look, if you're going to earn the kind of money Ray Leonard has earned just to live in the same environment, why fight?"
Andre Alexander, assistant director of the community center, said Leonard has been extremely generous to the center's programs for children.
"He comes in to the center a lot and asks us what do we need. He contributes to the Halloween and Christmas parties. Like at Christmastime, he and Juanita (Leonard's wife) will come in and he'll say, 'Let's go shopping' and we'll go around to toy stores and get some gifts for the kids. We never have to call him or wake him up out of bed," Alexander said.
Leonard was also membership drive chairman one year for the county chapter of United Way. He has also done public service announcements for the county, including one in which he encouraged youngsters to use the public libraries and another, an anti-litter message for which he coined the motto: "Smash Trash."