Sugar Ray, retire. Walk away from boxing. It's time. You've proved your courage against as mean a man as ever stalked a ring. You lost the fight -- though I thought you won it -- but you're a winner in ways Roberto Duran never will understand. These four years have made you financially set for life. Enjoy it. Make that climb out of the Olympic Stadium ring near midnight Friday your last.
Listen to some of the people who know you the best and care for you the most. Dave Jacobs and Mike Trainer. They will not force their opinions on you; both want you to quit. Remember Juanita fainting before the ninth round. Probably she could adjust to this brutal business. Dont't make her.
"The good Lord's been good to him," said trainer Jacobs early this morning."I think he should give it up."
"I feel that when a man's wealthy, when he's made a lot of money, this is something he don't need. When a man's financially set, he don't have to continue boxing. If he said he'd never fight again, I'd say fine."
You never wanted to turn pro, Ray. You said that when it was clear an enormous amount of money was possible after you won the Olympic gold medal. Then family matters made that necessary -- and Janks Morton and Trainer, your closest advisers, allowed you to rise higher than any athletic comet in history.
Trainer said $10 million is possible from Friday's ordeal, and that most of it should be on hand by Wednesday.
"If he were to ask me (about his future)," Trainer said, "I'd tell him to go enjoy himself. You don't have to do this. It's not necessary. And he can do other things. I'm not crazy about this business. I don't want to watch him get hit. I don't enjoy watching him get the short end.
"But I think he's more popular across the country this morning than he was yesterday. He's a little human now. In a lot of minds, he's found out that sometimes you spill your guts and don't win. It happens to you and me all the time.
"What I wanted was for him to be the first black fighter to go undefeated."
That suggests retirement was on Leonard's mind before he entered the ring against Duran.
"I'd say to him: 'It's up to you.' And sometime soon we'll sit down and have an intelligent discussion about the future. But I didn't tell him to start (a pro career). Why should I tell him to stop? He didn't have to take this fight."
Yes he did, for reasons more important than money. Pride. Perhaps this is why he chose suddenly to abandon the style that had gotten him the World Boxing Council championship -- the wicked jabs and dazzling foot speed. He would defend his title on Duran's terms.
"He wanted to prove to Duran he could take a punch," Jacobs said. "He wanted to prove he was man enough to stay in the middle of the ring, that he could beat Duran at his own game."
Was that wise?
"I still think it was. I still believe he won. What we were telling him the last three rounds was to pick up the pace. We (Angelo Dundee and Jacobs) felt it was close, that he had to pick up the pace to win.
"But I thought he had it sewed up before the 15th round."
As the glamorous former Olympic champ, with a clean-cut image and remarkable sense for public relations, Leonard could command the sort of money that made promoters snap to attention when Trainer yelled.
That has changed. The title is Duran's -- and the man who jiggles his strings outside the ring, Don King, will not soon forget Trainer's audacity. sWith the roles reversed, King will not be pleasant. He will delight in making Leonard crawl.
Don't give him the satisfaction, Ray. For additional incentive, look and listen to The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. He earned millions in purses, but reportedly is in deep financial trouble. He is slurring his words now; his former doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, insists Ali already has suffered a dangerous amount of brain damage.
At a press conference Friday, Ali was a pitiful sight.
Leonard-Duran was a frightful sight. Leonard only realized how much when he returned to his dressing room. Juanita and his brother Kenny's finance were so limp they had to be carried inside.
"Nobody wants his wife passing out at ringside," Trainer said. "And she's not the standard boxing wife, the kind that says: 'Go get that $100,000.' She was with Ray when he didn't have a nickel. She really cares.
"Juanita never liked him to fight. So I'm not surprised (she fainted). And Roger (Leonard's brother who won his fight on the undercard) has this image of toughness. Well, he cried after the fight.
"Which makes this so neat, so all-American. There's nothing phony about it."
The reaction of Leonard and his camp to defeat exuded class. When Duran's baser instincts became even more evident in his postfight prance and gestures, Leonard vented his anger privately. His public face looked awful, marked by welts, but it included a smile.
"Duran's hits very, very hard with his head," one of Leonard's aides, Bobby Magruder, had said before the fight. "You ever see him hit the speed bag with his head? It goes" -- here he did his best imitation of a machine gun burst. "He has a powerful neck.
"We expect him to go inside, put his right hand over Ray's left and pin it to his side. Hard if he can. And smack him in the ribs, and with uppercuts. tBut Ray's loose -- and in the best shape you can imagine.
"Most guys stop running three days before a fight. Ray ran the day before this one, three miles -- and in less than 15 minutes. The world record for three miles is about 13 1/2 minutes. But Ray ran [Thursday] because it's traditional for him, going all the way back to the Olympics."
Scarcely anyone remembers the last Leonard defeat. There were two a year or so before the Olympics, but they were out of the country and bad decisions in the eyes of most neutral witnesses.
Now the pride that may have prompted Leonard to slug it out with Duran, that may have cost him victory, may also entice him back into the ring with Duran. He was asked today about a possible rematch. "If we can work things out, maybe there will be," he replied.
But Friday's loss was nothing less than dignified.And he should end his ring career in that fashion. There is nothing left to prove. He has all the money he needs. His manhood has been sufficiently established. To get Duran again might take too long and be too demeaning.
Ray, your style has so resembled Ali. You can do much better with your life.