For Sugar Ray Leonard, the memories like his punches - came in flurries. Gobs of food but none of it eat . . . young athletes being escorted by men with bayonets . . . a Swede and a Soviet, a Britain, an East German, a Pole, a Cuban and finally, the gold medal. It has been exactly a year since Leonard became Olympic champion, a feat he thought would end his life as a boxer but that in fact, served as a beginning.
"I had never dreamed of turning pro," the young pro said. He had dreamed of the Olympics for more than five years, however, and, like Adrian Dantley, Bruce Jenner and most other Olympians, once seriously doubted if the extreordinary effort was worthwhile.
"That was three years ago, when I was 18." Leonard said. "When all my friends were partying, I was training. Also, we didn't have sufficient training facilities at the time. I was disgusted as far as my coaches were concerned. It was a big ball of confusion - and I was going to pull out."
But Janks Morton, his most trusted friend, said no.
"He'd already laid the foundation," Morton said. "He had all the potential in the world. It look a little while for that to dwell on him, that he had too much talent to throw everything away."
At Nontreal, Leonard was one of the most charismatic of the nearly 6,500 athletes, with a made-for-television face and personality that television milked every time it could. With the exception of the peerless Cuban, heavyweight Teofilo Stevenson, Leonard was the most gifted boxer, although his right hand hurt just enough to create the proper amount of suspense.
"It was only as bad as I made it," Leonard said. "It became a complex. I though it would hurt because it always swelled in training, but it didn't the first five fights. It did after the final, though.
"Fact is, both my hands were swollen after I beat the Cuban I tried to duck away from people for awhile. What I did, though, was run smack into a whole crowd, and everyone started grabbing my hands, congratulating me. I couldn't stand it."
Most vivid of his Montreal memories are watching other athletes filling themselves at the well-stocked caferia and having to "bite my tongue, cause I had to make weight (139 pound) each day."
Also, Leonard was uneasy with the strict security at the Olympic Village and the competitions, and often uncomfortable with the 15-to-room living arrangement. He followed a strict routine of phoning home after each bout, and after his semifinal victory over Kazimier Szczerba.
"Next day I was going to train," he said, "and all of a sudden I took up and there's my parents and most of the rest of my family, fifteen of 'em piled into a van that usually holds six, and drove up. I ended up riding back with them."
When he whipped a Cuban no one else at Montreal had lasted two rounds with, Leonard said: "I've reached my goal, my journey has ended and my dream has been fulfilled. "When he got home, there was a nightmare waiting.
First, his mother had seen seriously ill even before the Olympics. Then came a paternity suit involving the son he had never denied fathering, whom he supports, and for whom he has set up a trust fund. The suit wiped out a fe possibly licrative endorsements and then.Within a month, his father lost more than 40 pounds and nearly died.
"Those were the little pumps that made a made out of Ray," said Morton. "He saw what could happen, what had happened, what life was all about. He'd always been carefree. Then, boom."
And after much deliberation, the young man who had vowed to attend the University of Maryland in the fall of '76 was saying on Oct. 12: "I was did want to set an example for kids. I hope the kids will understand why I'm turning pro. I hope their parents will tell them."
Fotunately for Leonard, a Silver Spring attorney. Michael Trainer, devised a financial arrangement that allowed the fighter to be debt-free after his first pro fight . And negotiated a $320,000 contract with ABC that allows the network to televised a maximum of six fighters.
"In three three years," said Trainer. "Ray Leonard will be a millionaire."
These days, the Ray Leonard who had no notion what direction his life would take 11 months ago carries a large appointment book with most of the dates filled. A pro constantly given professional guidance, he is unbeaten in three fights as a junior welterweight and remains as athletic rarity - a boxer who enjoys training.
"At Montreal," he said, "we'd run morning and evening for double confidence. We ran so much we actually got lost in the town. Sometimes people would say: 'You guys run track?' You can fool your coach sometimes, tell him you've run when you haven't but you can't fool yourself in the ring, when the gas tank all of a sudden moves over the E."
What would the alternatives to turning pro have been, given the responsibility of a son?
"I honestly don't know," he said. "I do know I was in a daze for an awful long time. I had to see something really clean and convincing before I went pro. And the right people as far as money was concerned. And the right benefits as far as the future was concerned.
"I'm pretty much settled now. I'd better be."