The last training session, an hour shorter than usual, was over. Sugar Ray Leonard, who gained fame fighting for a gold medal and is now ready to fight for green paper, has promised to pose for some photographs. Then he was on his way to see the movie "Rocky."
"The closer the fight is, the harder the training gets," he said in a voice more weary from answering thousands of questions than from roadwork at 7 a.m., sparring and work on the bags from noon to 1 p.m.
"I'm glad it's over. It has been a long week. But I'm definitely ready," said the 20-year-old junior welterweight, whosa professional debut Saturday has turned into a celebrated event.
Leonard, from Palmer Park, pulled on his jacket, the yellow one with black sleeves and red-embroidered lettering. Over the right breast, his name, Over the left, "138 lbs., 132 lbs., champion." On the back, in big letters: "NATIONAL CHAMPION, 73-74 Golden Gloves, 74 AAU."
Then he put on his white stocking cap and walked out of the Baltimore Civic Center, where he is scheduled to fight his first professional bout Saturday at 4:53 p.m. The precise time is dictated by CBS-TV., which is televising the fight nationally.
Golden Gloves and AAU championships are important milestones for any amateur boxer, but they are not important enough in themselves to interest "CBS Sports Spectacular."
Leonard's six-round bout against an undistinguished Pennsylvanian named Luis (The Bull) Vega has attracted national attention because Sugar Ray is perhaps the most charismatic fighter to come along since another Olympic gold medalist named Cassius Marcellus Clay in 1960.
Leonard turned on millions who watched the Montreal Games last summer with a smile that as quick and dazzling as his hands and feet. He is entirely believable when he says he wants to be a model for kids, an inspiration to self-improvement.
Even the paternity suit that was unwittingly filed against him, a by-product of bureaucratic red tape that unraveled when his girl friend and mother of his 2-year-old son applied for welfare assistance, could not tarnish the wholesome image he projects.
That adds up to marketability, and so there has been no shortae of people telling Leonard that they have offers he can't afford to refuse. He has rejected many of them, but not all, and so despite earlier denials and reluctance, he has turned pro.
The city of Baltimore is promoting his first bout and has guaranteed a (purse that is stratospheric for a young nonheavyweight. For startes, Leonard is getting $10,000 from the city and $10,000 from CBS. He also receives the next $5,000 after $35,000 is in the till, and 50 per cent of any gross over $40,000.
Since $41,000 is already in - breaking the record established when Muhammed Ali fought an exhibition here - Leonard will be earning more than $25,000, plus half of whatever revenues are generated on fight day. Vega's purse is a flat $650.
"The Bull" seems incidental to the whole promotion. The marquees at the Civic Center don't mention him. They advertise merely "Pro Debut, Sugar Ray Leonard, Saturday, Fed. 5, 4 p.m." and then go on to coming attractions.
Comparisons of Sugar Ray to Ali are inevitable. They have been encouraged by Angelo Dundee, the knowledgeable, woridly wise 55-year-pold Miamian, who has handled Ali since his second professional fight and has now added Sugar Ray to the stable of 25 fighters he manages.
"I wasn't at Muhammad's first pro fight in Louisville, but I hear there wasn't much fuss," Dundee said today of the 1960 bout that earned approximately $2,000 for the man who would be king of boxing. "But I'll tell you, I've never seen anything like the reaction this kid has gotten."
Downtown Baltimore is awash in Sugar Ray posters, billboards and banners. That is why a Sports Illustrated photographer wanted to get him outside, for some distinctive shots to commemorate the occasion.
First he had Leonard smiling in front of the billboard on the facing of the Civic Center. It proclaimed "Sugar Ray's Big Day . . ."
Then the cameraman took him a couple of blocks down the street and had him pose with Dundee on a foot bridge draped with a huge yellow banner: "Olympic God Medalist Sugar Ray Leonard's first Pro Fight . . ." Leonard raised his arms in a triumphant gesture as the photographer snapped away from the middle of the street, risking life and lens.
The photo session finished, Leonard and his girl friends, Juanita Wilkinson, joined their son, Ray Jr., and then went to the movies, while Dundee returned to the Civic Center to review myriad details of logistics and timing.
It is unlikely that Vega will be able to spoil Sugar Ray's big day.
"I know nothin' about him 'cept he's never been knocked down or knocked out," Leonard said of Vega.
Dundee has not seen him fight, either, but is too smart a manager to match Leonard against anybody capable of embarrassing him on national TV.
"They offered me four names, and I checked the four. I put down three guys I would accept. They came up with this guy. The other three, I don't remember."
Who was the one who was not acceptable?
"I don't remember him either," but he was too experienced," Dundee said. "You can give away experience or strength, but not both. You don't give away too many edges. I don't want my guy to get tagged.
"I'm depending on the kid's speed of foot and of hand, but in a first fight there are too many question marks. You don't know how he's going to react, especially fighting in his home area. But I don't think pressure will bother him, not after the Olympics. He appear to be a very level-headed kid who doesn't get flustered."
Dundee arrived here last Monday and was pleased with the week's buildup, which was overseen by trainer Dave Jacobs. "I'm very happy with this kid's mental outlook," said Dundee of Leonard, who expects to come into Saturday's 10 a.m. weigh-in at 141 or 142, then put away a big steak-and-eggs breakfast.
"The kid is relaxed.You can talk to him, common sense. He's very teachable, quick to grasp, you can see it in a kid's face. We're going to get along fine."
Leonard was encouraged by news that his father, Cicero Leonard, will be here to see the bout. He has been hospitalized with meningitis and spinal pneumonia but has improved rapidly enough to get a one-day pass from the hospital.
It was to give some financial support to his parents that Leonard went against an earlier inclination to by-pass pro boxing. His mother suffered a mild heart attack just before the Olympics, which placed a burden on his father.
Leonard had vowed to hand up his gloves after Montreal. He had invested five years training for the gold. His hands ached from 150 amateurs fights, 145 of which he won, 75 on knockouts.
But the offers were too lucrative to pass up. He still wants an education, but saw a short cut to his goal of respect, financial stability, a position of influence. He saw a way to help his folks, Juanita and Little Ray.
"I don't have any second thoughts about my decision," said today.It is unlikely that luis Vega will give him any, either.