Sugar Ray Leonard, the world welterweight champion, went to the National Aquarium today to become the honorary parent of a stingray. An aquarium employe in an underwater suit fed the stingray. Leonard fed speculation.
"I have defeated so many monsters, I feel like David and Goliath," he said. "I killed all the giants but Marvelous Marvin (Hagler). He would be a great triumph."
Leonard, who finally will announce his intentions Tuesday -- will he or won't he fight again -- bobbed and weaved and avoided saying anything definitive. He remained coy and conditional.
In July, he said the decision had been made and sounded weary with the world of boxing. Today, he said he had changed his mind since then. "I would say it's changed drastically," he said. "I had made a decision then. It's been changed since the visit to the doctor."
Leonard visited Dr. Ronald Michels two weeks ago. Michels performed surgery on his detached left retina in May. "My vision has been restored to 20/20 and that helps, thank God," Leonard said.
Leonard said Michels was encouraged by his progress and told him that a retina "never tears in the same place but that there are cases that recur. That's just a chance I have to take."
More and more, it sounds like a chance he intends to take. The announcement Tuesday night will be made in the Baltimore Civic Center, where Leonard fought his first professional fight, on Feb. 5, 1977. "It will be quite shocking," Leonard said. "It won't be a thing like, 'I told you so.' The smart people know where I'm going."
The smart set will be there: Wilfred Benitez, Thomas Hearns, Ken Norton, Muhammad Ali and Wayne Newton. "The icing on the cake is that Marvin Hagler will be there," Leonard said with a wink. "Now don't jump the gun."
He may not be in training but his timing is sharp, his moves cute.
Leonard denied recent published reports that had quoted him as saying, " 'Marvin is too big for me.' I don't feel any fighter is too big for me," he said. "I'll fight Larry Holmes."
Instinctively, he covered his eyes and winced.
Louis Grasmick, commissioner of the board of Recreation and Parks for Baltimore, asked Leonard if he would consider fighting in Memorial Stadium. Leonard offered his hand and said, "Yes. It doesn't have to be considered."
Grasmick said he has discussed the possibility with Mike Trainer, Leonard's attorney, as recently as a month ago, but that they had not discussed any particular fight.
At the time of the surgery, Leonard said, "I had five or six fights scheduled. The operation stopped things. Now things have changed in a sense, as far as the number of fights I envision."
In July, with his vision still impaired, he seemed not to envision fighting again. "The pistons don't budge," he said then. Now, he says, "They never really stopped. They were just a little slow. They started picking up again in the last two or three months."
Around the same time all the hoopla picked up. Clearly, he enjoys it. "Why would you say a thing like that?" he said, barely suppressing a giggle. "I'm just answering questions."
So he was asked a final one: "Would it be fair to call you a tease?"
"Yeah," he said, and left them laughing.