"I look back at 10 years," Sugar Ray Leonard was saying, "and I guess there's probably a total of three months when I wasn't either training hard for a fight or fighting. Running, four or five miles at a time, and all the rest -- and then in the ring, hitting and getting hit."
Just the thought seemed wearisome.
"You add all the days and weeks," he continued, "and it'd be about three months in all, except for the time off after the Olympics. Crazy, huh? But I've been fortunate that I haven't been seriously injured. I've been able to see life as it is. Either you do it or you don't.
"Time don't wait."
He would be a junior at Maryland if his own good fortune in the Montreal Games and a stretch of unimaginably bad fortune to his family shortly thereafter had not conspired to make Leonard seek the fortune he already has realize as a pro, at age 23.
Except for the rain, which usually eliminates the 5 a.m. run, Leonard's daily routine varies only in detail, never in intensity. In the ring, on the heavy bag, skipping rope, he wants to end faster and toughter than he began.
"I have visions of the last round while jabbing the bag or straining for that extra sit-up," he said, "of giving it all I've got. When it hurts, you know you're doing something right.
"But I only see him (Wilfredo Benitez, whose World Boxing Council welterweight title he will try for in 16 days in Las Vegas) when I'm in the ring. Up there, I'm concerned about balance, about being perfect.
"When I become tired, fatigued, that's when I see him. And I compare us. I envision Benitez and myself in the last round."
He sees a new champion.
"I really feel hyper for this. In 10 years, this is only fight I ever look forward to. Professionally speaking, of course. I wanted the Olympics."
His closest and longest confidant, Janks Morton, and trainer Dave Jacobs make the routine tolerable, if not pleasant, and his usual sparring partners, being kin, keep him sharp without being mean.
"What licks most fighters," and Angelo Dundee, who hones what Jacobs forges, "is drudgery. And he's the kind of kid who can actually make a gym enjoyable. You don't have to wake him at 5 a.m. He's already up."
Those who see Leonard infrequently immediately notice the harder-looking face and sharper definition of his arms. The muscles are obvious now, the hair shorter, the features less childlike, though he still looks 10 pounds under his weight.
With slight variations, Leonard's predawn runs have been through the same public park for years, the one Muhammad Ali also used for his training for two tepid shows here.
The 90-minute workouts at noon each day are in pleasant, if not lavish, surroundings, a Prince George's County recreation center off Marlboro Pike in which he dances among the legends of sport.
And has top billing.
Two of the cement-block walls in the tidy gym are decorated with murals. During his 50 or so sit-ups, he bobs up and, if sweat fails to blind him, sees enormous paintings of Julius Erving and Walter Payton.
When he turns and skips rope, changing direction as an aide mops away the sweat droplets that could cause a fall, Leonard can gather inspiration from a larger-than-life Pele. And himself.
The Sugar Ray Leonard mural is the largest and most handsome -- and the only one autographed. And the usual 100 or so fans who drop by almost daily offer affectionate applause for Leonard's artistry against his cousin, Odell Leonard, and brother, Roger (Dale) Leonard.
"He had a move the other day I haven't seen in I don't know how long," Dundee said. "He feints a guy, and slides inside. The guy's lookin' at him. He slides over, the guy's still looking at him. He's jukin' the guy. He feints him out of position.
"Sometimes I say: "Hey, where'd he go.'
"I come here, instead of him coming to me, because he's happy here. Hey, a gym is a gym, an arena is an arena. And he's so close to everyone here. You change something and maybe some little things become big things."
"The thing right now is not to overtrain," said Jacobs. "Especially going into a title match. You don't want to leave it in the ring. If the body's in condition -- and he's been fighting enough for that -- you don't want to overdo it."
One a wrinkled notebook paper, Dundee offers shorthand strategy for Leonard against Benitez:
"R/foot in bucket.
"Lots of hand waving.
"Throws slip jab.
"Straight R/H best punch to nail with.
"Slips good -- laughs when you nail him.
"Left jab always works.
"Benitez leads w R/H lede always.
"Speed will win.
"Motion -- must slide over in clinches.
"Can outpunch him -- uppercut will work."
And so on.
"But off of this, all this scheming," said Dundee, "still boils down to the guy on the stool. One on one."