Sugar Ray Leonard Reveals His Secret to an Inquisitive (and Daring) Cuban

Times Staff Writer

All eyes were on the familiar face at the interview room table at the Indiana Convention Center Tuesday night. In the back of the room, an unseen athlete, a Cuban, gawked at one of his heroes.

The man at the table was Sugar Ray Leonard, who was saying to 50-or-so reporters that he hopes to play a role with the 1988 U.S. Olympic boxing team.

He also talked about his new firm, SRL Management, which he said will be a New York-based management/promotional firm that will handle pro boxers.

"But I'm not here to recruit amateur boxers," he said, "I'm just here to watch."

At that point, a startling sight: The Cuban boxer, flyweight Adalberto Regalado, alone, appeared at the microphone to ask a question. That in itself was one of the surprises of the tournament. Cuba's boxers, particularly since Friday night's wild brawl in the bleachers with anti-Castro demonstrators, stick close to each other here.

"I would like to ask you a question," Regalado said, through the translator.

"First of all, your boxing style is similar to the way we box in Cuba, and we admire you very much. How is it possible that you were able, after not boxing for a period of years, give such a fantastic performance in your victory over (Marvin) Hagler?"

The question was another surprise. Professional boxing, Cubans never fail to point out, is a savage, bloody spectacle. To Cubans and other Eastern Bloc boxers, the party line is that any boxer who would leave the amateur ranks for the pros has sacrificed his honor and his country's.

Responded Leonard: "Because I wouldn't believe what these guys (gesturing toward sportswriters) were writing about me. When you really want to win, it's all here (tapping his heart) and here (tapping his head)."

At the conclusion of the Leonard session, Regalado approached Leonard again, and obtained an autograph. He and his Cuban teammates, he explained, had watched the April 6 Hagler-Leonard fight on Venezuelan television, where they were competing.

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