Sometimes in the evening, when it's quiet, Sugar Ray Leonard will put on the tape. The tape of The Fight: himself and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Leonard has a perfect place to watch it; on the top floor of his Potomac home is his own theater. He watches it "all the time."

"It's like a cup of coffee," he said. "It's energizing. For me, it's like a shot of caffeine. Kind of gets me pumped up.

"I mean, I look at that fight and it's almost beyond the odds." The odds had said he would lose, but to Leonard, "I was doing something that I believed in."

Like Hagler, Leonard can't get last April's fight off his mind. But Leonard's mood is the flip side of Hagler's. The split-decision defeat turned Hagler morose; no victory was sweeter for Leonard. As Hagler still broods, Leonard, in retirement again, savors the night he stole away with Hagler's middleweight crown.

Leonard keeps busy these days. He runs and plays tennis. He advises three boxers, and sometimes works in the ring with them. He travels, promoting various products. He does boxing commentary for HBO. But during lulls, he looks back to April 6 -- and the whole year leading up to it. It's understandable, given the preparation Leonard put into that fight.

He described it recently as an ordeal marked by doubts that he would ever be ready for Hagler, by his often unraveled nerves that caused him to lash out at close associates and by punishment from sparring partners that surprised him and fueled the doubts, but which ultimately made victory possible.

There was the time when his lawyer and wife told him he wasn't training hard enough, that he'd have to do more to beat Hagler. He didn't want to hear that.

Another time, his closest friend told him the same thing. For a while, Leonard stopped speaking to him.

There were days when Leonard thought the routine of his isolated training camp in Hilton Head, S.C., would drive him crazy.

When he got to Las Vegas, believing he was ready to fight, he was "rocked -- really rocked good" by a sparring partner just days before the fight. Talk about a stunned fighter. And a stunned fighter's camp.

Leonard winced as he recalled the moment. He was passing a slow, rainy day at the Bethesda office of his lawyer, Michael Trainer.

It was Quincy Taylor, a southpaw imitating Hagler, who hammered Leonard with an overhand left. Leonard "wobbled," his "knees buckled." Shocked, Taylor fell into a clinch with Leonard to give Leonard a chance to recover.

"I was upset with myself," said Leonard. "So I went back to my house in Vegas and watched the tape. When I saw what happened, I was more pleased." But that punch "kind of hit home with some of my people, too. 'Hey, man, you okay?' It looked like all of a sudden my guys who were so confident that I could win were thinking, 'Geez, it's over.' "

Who could blame them? It was one of the few times Leonard had ever been "rocked" in the ring.

"I tell the truth when it comes to being punched," said Leonard, relaxed in red sweater and jeans. "I've been hurt a number of times -- I mean hurt -- by certain people. {Roberto} Duran was one of the few guys who really rocked me, Marcos Geraldo rocked me, Hagler rocked me, Fireball Rodriguez rocked me." That's Willie (Fireball) Rodriguez of Allentown, Pa., from whom Leonard won a six-round decision in his second pro fight in 1977. Fireball Rodriguez might have put Leonard's career on a different course.

Hagler "rocked" Leonard in their fifth round.

"After he hit me, it was just a matter of me waiting to see how it felt. When I regrouped real fast, I said, 'I punch just as hard as he does.' I rocked him, too, but it was not as visible, I guess, because he's a much bigger man and he doesn't get knocked off balance as easily. His weight would knock me back. Keep in mind, I was losing a pound a round."

Sometimes when Leonard watches the tape, he sees an opening he wishes he had taken advantage of. It's like when he looks at the big photograph on the wall of Trainer's office: Leonard is landing a left hook to Hagler's right temple. Perspiration is flying off Hagler's bald head from the force of the punch. Both of Hagler's hands are on the right side of his face, as he covers up. The left side of his face is wide open. "A right cross," said Leonard's friend, Ollie Dunlap, "and it's over."

"I guess that's where 'ring rust' comes into play," said Dunlap. "Four years ago, Marvin wouldn't have lasted five rounds with Ray.

"When you look at the tape, you see the difference in foot speed. Marvin is so much slower."

In the ninth round, Leonard -- for one last time, he believes -- played with Hagler's mind. Having felt uneasy around the glib Leonard, Hagler had eschewed the prefight hype, had bolted from the two fighters' publicity tour. "The ninth round," said Leonard, "was a very significant round because I backed him up a few times. He thought it was doomsday. He thought he had me in the late rounds and all of a sudden I came back. I retaliated.

"That's me. That's my heart. That's my resiliency. I was into the fight to win."

That was more than eight months ago, but for Leonard it was like last night. 'A Different Person'

"I knew it would require me to really psych myself and become a whole new person," Leonard said of his approach to the fight of his life. "A different person, almost like being reincarnated, coming back as a younger self. That was so tough. I kept saying, 'I can do it, I can do it.' But sometimes in the gym it wasn't going my way. I wasn't reaching that level of competition. It's frightening. God, it was scary, really scary.

"There were times when I felt that, God, there's just no way I can make it. You know, I just want to give it up. Let's call the fight off.

"Because young guys, kids, were hitting me in the gym and I'm saying, 'Dammit, man, this is not the way it's supposed to be.' When I was in the gym one day, I boxed three or four guys. They didn't beat me up, but they got the best of me. I got out of the ring and some of my guys said, 'You look good.' "

He knew he didn't. "My body told me that."

Leonard had to be prodded.

"You know, people hate criticism. I hate criticism. Sometimes even constructive criticism. Now Ollie, he told me one time when I had a sparring session, the kid punched me around, a little kid, a welterweight, and Ollie said, 'Champ, you've got to be stronger than that to beat Hagler. This kid can push you around; what do you think a middleweight, Hagler, can do?'

"He angered me. I knew that, but I guess to be told that is different. Some people in my position only have 'yes men' who tell you what you want to hear."

They were in Florida, Leonard working for HBO. He had gone to a gym to spar. "It was good for Ray from one standpoint," said Dunlap, seated at the other end of a long conference table in the otherwise empty office. "The two of them were banging each other. Ray's body hadn't been banged in 2 1/2 years as it was being banged there. But when he would go with his flurry -- the old Ray Leonard, if you will -- it didn't do anything.

"I simply said, 'Your guns look good, but they're not loaded.'

"His body looked good, but he just didn't have the power.

"So he didn't talk to me for two days. Made me ride in another limo."

"When you look back on it," said Leonard, "it made me more aware of what I had to do. Because the thing was, I did what I wanted to do at the gym here at Palmer Park. Then Mike {Trainer} would ask Ollie, 'How'd Ray look?' 'Well, he worked a little in the ring, four rounds.' 'Did he hit the bags?' 'No.' So now Mike says, 'Ray, you doing situps or anything?' I said, 'Mike, what do you do? You're an attorney, right? I'm a boxer.'

"So I get home and Mike apparently had called Juanita. She said, 'You got to start hitting the big bag. You got to start doing situps.' I said, 'You don't understand boxing.' She said, 'I understand you.'

"We had a big argument. Next day, I'm doing the bag, I'm doing situps.

"Really, it took that."

Then to training camp, in Hilton Head. First, Leonard had the flu. Then he was overcome by a sense of tedium.

Dunlap: "It was almost like the barracks, in boot camp."

"Let me tell you how frustrating it became for me," said Leonard. "Every day, 6 o'clock in the morning, run, and then the guys would come back to the room and check my weight. E-v-e-r-y morning."

Dunlap: "I was recording in and out weights every day. One morning, he said, 'I don't want anybody in my room. I finished running and that's it. I don't need you in my room. I'll check my own weight.' I go to my room and I sit down and say, 'Now what's bothering him?' "

"Every day, man, every day the same thing," said Leonard. "Get up, run, come back to my room, then everybody would come up to my room. And I'm kind of on edge. And no one would say anything to me. That bothered me, too. No one saying anything, just watching me.

"Or they'd always ask me how I am doing? I said, 'The next person who says, how are you doing, I swear to God I'm going to send them home.' Every morning, 'How ya' doing?' " His voice rose. " 'How am I doing? I'm living.' It just got to me. Don't ask me how I'm doing."

His blowup "alleviated some of the pressure."

Dunlap: "He was extremely . . ."

Leonard: "Tense, man."

A week before he left Hilton Head, "It all came together. I don't know, it just clicked." Maybe it was getting out of Hilton Head.

Then came the Quincy Taylor shot in Vegas.

"You know, I sit back, I think about all this sometimes. That's a long time to train. A long time to think about something. It was a long time for me to think about Marvin."'I Don't Like Hagler'

So will he fight again?

Promoters and would-be opponents keep mentioning his name. Writers, too.

"It upsets me. It bothers me. What happened to what I said before -- one fight?

"I said I was going to fight Hagler. There were big articles. Everyone was opposed to me fighting, saying I couldn't win, you're going to get your eye knocked out, next thing you'll be blind. Then all of a sudden, 'Well, Ray, who's next?' Who's next! I say, 'What about my eyes?' 'Oh, the hell with your eyes.' "

So he doesn't envision a second Hagler fight?


His track record shows he doesn't give rematches.

"That's true. But I also don't like Hagler now. He disturbs me, because of the way he acts. He has a selfish, rude way of accepting defeat. He's not as gracious a loser as he is a winner. And to me that's awful."

The two ran into each other at the Tommy Hearns-Juan Roldan fight in October in Las Vegas. "I saw him in a bathroom. I said, 'Marvin, so what do you think about Tommy Hearns fighting?' Just trying to be sociable. He threw water on his face, looked at me and walked away.

"I said, 'I don't need you. I'm not trying to be your friend. It doesn't matter to me.' "

That wasn't the first time Leonard had seen Hagler since the fight. He interviewed Hagler for "Entertainment Tonight."

How had it gone?

"Awful, I thought," said Leonard. "He said, 'Ray, don't ask me anything personal.' I said, 'I won't.' So first question, I said, 'Marvin, I understand you're pursuing a movie career. Could you talk to me about that?' He said, 'I thought I beat you.'

"I feel this way, here I am trying to be gracious enough and compassionate enough to say, Hey, man, the world doesn't end there. You're still okay. You're still recognized as a great champion. And it's just like he slapped me and said, back off. I don't need that. Hell with him."

This being Leonard's fourth retirement (counting as his first the time after he won his Olympic gold medal), he seems more comfortable with the role, less restless.

"I am. I really am. I think the Hagler fight gave me a different light. I now have better control of what I want to do and how I want to do it. I don't see anything else that could give me the same electricity that Hagler gave me.

"I'm trying to be more realistic with myself. 'Ray, dammit, you can't top that. You can't top that fight against Hagler.' "