To retire or not to retire? Will he or won't he? Sugar Ray Leonard has managed to make it the most celebrated question since Hamlet's of some 400 years ago.
Except that Leonard's has not been a soliloquy. No unspoken reflections. He has gone public with it so often, and for so long it has been a raucous, repetitive bore, that it evokes the pleading of enough already.
It has been perpetuated by Leonard himself with his coy games-playing statements and interviews and suggestive winks that could mean either he will retire publicly tonight or he will unretire publicly tonight, when he says he will make his decision known.
Rarely has there been such an orchestration of suspense as that conducted by the young master himself. One day last week he appeared on all four Washington VHF television stations simultaneously (on tape) to make perfectly unclear what his decision would be. But it was not the same tape. Leonard easily made himself available for the four different interviews.
And what did Sugar Ray tell all the people out there? Just you wait until Tuesday. Maybe I will retire, maybe I won't. And maybe by this time there are some folks wearied by these charades who don't care at all what Leonard decides, or what he doesn't.
Earlier that day at a Baltimore press conference, Leonard invited everybody to listen for tonight's pronouncement. He said, "It will be very special, and a shocking surprise," sounding like any circus barker: Move up closer, folks, and let me tell you what you're going to hear . . . show starts in five minutes and you're gonna like what you see inside.
Leonard has chosen the Baltimore Civic Center as the site of his solemn pronouncement of his future intentions. It will be the centerpiece of the mayor's kickoff of a reemployment program titled "A Night with Sugar Ray." Both Leonard, a native Marylander, and the mayor say Leonard has a great affection for Baltimore.
Most speculation centers on the belief that Leonard will unretire, imminently. This self-respected analyst suggests that Leonard did not take pains to get 20-20 clearance from the surgeon who repaired his detached retina for the purpose of announcing his retirement. It would seem to be a positive clue.
If Leonard makes the expected announcement that he will unretire, it will be a metaphor for saying he will fight Marvin Hagler, the world middleweight champion. A fight with Hagler could produce a $10 million to $15 million payday for Leonard.
Leonard also has been pointing out that "a detached retina didn't stop Earnie Shavers." If his intention is, indeed, to quit fighting, Leonard finds joy in misleading his friends of the press. But it also can be pointed out that Shavers just lost his home by foreclosure, is hard put to support his big family and is continuing to fight from stark necessity because, unlike Leonard, he is not the wealthiest fighter in the world.
Leonard has picked up a couple $10 million paychecks, among others, in the last two years, and is solidly invested, with his accountants providing monthly printouts of his cash flow, rollover dividends and impressive net worth.
He also has that former detached retina, which first moved him to think of retirement. Time may be the great physician, with his 20-20 vision restored since the training accident of last April. But there are some doctors who say the wisdom of Leonard reentering the prize ring still is open to serious question.