In addition to whether to fight again, Sugar Ray Leonard faces another tough question: what to say to the Puerto Rican cancer patient who offered him his eyes.

From the letter, written in Spanish and translated to him at Johns Hopkins Hospital shortly after May 9 surgery for a detatched left retina, Leonard imagines a teen-ager deep into chemotherapy, undoubtedly coming to terms with death.

"He thought my problem was the cornea," Leonard said yesterday. "He wanted to give those to me. He said: 'If you need 'em, you can have 'em.' You just don't know how to respond to something like that, although I will. What can you say?"

Of his boxing future, Leonard, during nearly three nonstop hours of interviews, including an audience with Howard Cosell for the appropriately titled "20/20" program, essentially said: see me in six months. By that time, the eye should be mended enough for a career decision to be both possible and necessary.

A detached observer who followed Leonard from camera to camera and later joined him in a more relaxed setting, left with his mind both dazzled and punchy. One moment you were certain he'd eventually accede to the wishes of his wife--and most of his public--and quit.

That's after he said: "I think I've missed out a great deal as far as my life is concerned outside of my profession. Just me and my family. I don't think I've fully taken advantage of what I can do. And what I should have.

"And that's happiness.

"Just buy a yacht. Or a ship. Just do something. Have fun, 'cause I've yet to enjoy what I've accomplished. I've always been on the go, always been moving, always been committed."

Whoopee! He's gonna walk away, mind and dignity flourishing, having humiliated Roberto Duran and been heroic in victory against Thomas Hearns. Then, just when he talks of being "content" and having "a clean slate," damned if the little guy doesn't blurt out:

"But (Marvin) Hagler looks kinda good."

If Hagler weren't lurking, would the retirement decision be easier?

"It would be someone else," Leonard admitted.

Inside and outside the ring, he's a remarkable dancer.

And so appealing. Tough and cuddly. He was surprised at the number of elderly people who took the time to write, that President Reagan took time to wish him well. Bob Hope called. So did Richard Pryor, Aretha Franklin and lots of other celebrity peers.

Duran tried to call, then sent him a note (it did not end "no mas for now"). Somebody sent a four-leaf clover and said it had been plucked in 1887; everybody in every nook in the land seemed to send a prayer.

The formal press conference was typically Leonard. Efficient ("No more than two minutes each for individual TV interviews," publicist Charlie Brotman announced). Stiff at first and then delightful. Leonard was unnerved a bit by the attention (seven television crews and perhaps 75 reporters), thinking as he walked to the microphones that perhaps he really had retired.

He was retiring only briefly.

"After I was in the recovery room," he said, "I was moved upstairs into my room and my wife and some other family members came up. And a strange thing happened, as I was there on the bed, still a little groggy from the anesthesia . . . I had to see whether or not I would be able to see out of my left eye.

"I forced it open, just a little. And what I saw was something absolutely beautiful. It had to symbolize something. Again, I was a little apprehensive as far as telling people because they'd probably think I should be admitted to the (psychiatric) institute.

"What I saw--and it's no joke--was like a split-level screen. The bottom half I saw some of the people; the top half was like paradise. Like green pasture. Like little birds chirping and animals . . . " His voice drifted away for a moment.

"I just felt I shouldn't say anything about it. And it took a lot for me to say it now, in front of all you guys."

As though any of us would suddenly think less of him.

"But it must symbolize something, I don't know. And again, I learned how to pray . . . "

Why would he even consider fighting again?

"It's me," he said. There was more, but it added nothing.

That's as reflective as Leonard got. When somebody asked about that bow tie he was sporting, Leonard said he'd spilled egg on the straight and narrow one he was going to wear.

"If it came to the point where I had to get into acting," he said, and sort of whispered, "and it don't pay as much, I would adjust. I wouldn't want to play myself. I like a challenge once again. Maybe a doctor. Or lawyer."

To the surgeon just before the operation, Leonard later related, he joked: "I'll be seeing you."

"Don't think he got the humor," he added.

These next several months will be involved with entertainment-related ventures "pretty much on a full-time basis," his lawyer, Mike Trainer, said. "The key is whether he misses it or not. The element of danger's always there."

"Time will tell," Leonard said.

If he fights again, a major reason will be "the challenge." Showing people who say he can't do something that he can. Like beating Duran. Or Hearns. So those of us who would like to see him strut proudly away from a mean business pose this dare:

Betcha can't find contentment in six months. say anything about it. And it took a lot for me to say it now, in front of all you guys."

As though any of us would suddenly think less of him.

"But it must symbolize something, I don't know. And again, I learned how to pray . . . "

Why would he even consider fighting again?

"It's me," he said. There was more, but it added nothing.

That's as reflective as Leonard got. When somebody asked about that bow tie he was sporting, Leonard said he'd spilled egg on the straight and narrow one he was going to wear.

"If it came to the point where I had to get into acting," he said, and sort of whispered, "and it don't pay as much, I would adjust. I wouldn't want to play myself. I like a challenge once again. Maybe a doctor. Or lawyer."

To the surgeon just before the operation, Leonard later related, he joked: "I'll be seeing you."

"Don't think he got the humor," he added.

These next several months will be involved with entertainment-related ventures "pretty much on a full-time basis," his lawyer, Mike Trainer, said. "The key is whether he misses it or not. The element of danger's always there."

"Time will tell," Leonard said.

If he fights again, a major reason will be "the challenge." Showing people who say he can't do something that he can. Like beating Duran. Or Hearns. So those of us who would like to see him strut proudly away from a mean business pose this dare:

Betcha can't find contentment in six months.