Welterweight boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard has been pronounced fully recovered from the eye injury that interrupted his career and still threatens to end it prematurely.
Ronald G. Michels, the Johns Hopkins Hospital specialist who surgically repaired Leonard's detached retina in May, said yesterday the fighter had his final office visit last week. Michels said recovery was full and complete and Leonard's vision in the damaged left eye is back to normal. "He is in a position now to decide whether he wants to continue his career," Michels said.
"There is no medical mandate either way. There is no medical reason that would totally rule out his return to fighting."
Leonard plans to announce his intentions at an elaborate public press conference and celebrity gathering at the Baltimore Civic Center on Nov. 9.
There has been extensive speculation over whether the wealthiest fighter in the history of the sport would return to the ring or retire at age 26, eschewing further competition, including a match with middleweight champion Marvin Hagler that would earn him an estimated $15 million.
Michels said he has no idea what the boxer's decision will be and said he intends to be in the crowd that will convene for the announcement at the Civic Center. He said the decision is entirely Leonard's, "but I don't mean to imply that we just left him high and dry and told him, 'Okay, it's up to you now.'
"I can't give you details of the specifics," said Michels, "but he has been advised of the relative risks of a return. The bottom line is that the risks are not so severe that they preclude a possibility of his returning to fighting.
"Obviously, if the risks were strong that he'd lose his eyesight by returning, we'd advise him against it.
"He can fight, if he chooses, with relative safety."
Leonard's vision grew blurry and he saw spots as he trained for a May 14 title defense in Buffalo, N.Y., against Roger Stafford. He flew to Baltimore for emergency surgery May 9. The recuperation period is normally six months, which puts him on schedule.
Michels said the eyesight in the damaged left eye is slightly better than 20-20, normal for Leonard.
Michels also operated several years ago on Earnie Shavers, a heavyweight who had a severely detached retina and recovered to continue his boxing career. In that case, said Michels, Shavers indicated before the operation that he wanted to continue fighting if the operation was a success.