Boxing Legend “Sugar” Ray Leonard Talks About His Fight With Dick Eklund - “I Slipped,” Leonard Says

By James Slater: In the quite fantastic movie, “The Fighter,” there is a memorable scene in which Dick Eklund (played by Christian Bale), recalls his 1978 non-title fight with the already-world famous “Sugar” Ray Leonard. Proud of the way he went the full ten-rounds with the man who two years previously had captured an Olympic gold medal, Eklund’s character is even prouder of the fact that he “knocked down” Leonard.

In the must-see movie, a piece of footage that captured the “knockdown” runs in slow-mo, and it really does look as though Leonard was put down as opposed to merely slipping. Real-life commentator Don Dumphy can be heard yelling “ this is incredible!” To a whole new era of fans, The Fighter portrays the brother of “Irish” Mickey Ward as a fighter who became the first man to deck the great Leonard.

The real footage shows how Leonard went down on his back, long enough for Eklund to audaciously step right over him! Throughout the gripping movie - a modern masterpiece that focuses mostly on the strained relationship Eklund the trainer had with Ward the fighter - Eklund’s character harps on about the Leonard incident at every possible opportunity. In one excellent scene, “Sugar Ray” appears as himself, and he instantly remembers Eklund, speaking to him and smiling.

And in real life, Leonard, now aged 54 and rightfully basking in the eternal glory his boxing achievements earned him, claims he remembers the 1978 fight clearly. Since the release of the movie, fans have been asking if the alleged knockdown was legit, or if Leonard merely slipped or was pushed down. Even in the movie, various characters argue over whether “The pride of Lowell” really knocked down the future legend who out-pointed him (and scored three official knockdowns of his own according to

And, in speaking with Access Hollywood Live, the former five-weight champion insists he did indeed “slip.”

“I slipped and I remember that fight like it was yesterday,” Leonard said. “It was a tough fight. No-one thought much of Dick Eklund but he was tough. He was unorthodox, and in the mix of things I threw a right hand and I slipped back and, boom, he walks over me.”

“Sugar” went on to say that whenever anybody asks him about the “knockdown” (and, due to the success of the movie, many more people are likely to ask him!), he “Just smiles.”

Officially, of course, another largely unknown fighter, in Kevin Howard, became the first man to put Leonard on the canvas - in Ray’s 1984 comeback fight after having had retinal surgery. But should this distinction have gone to Dicky Eklund? Had referee Tommy Rawson called a knockdown that night at the time of Leonard’s fall to the mat, no-one would have been able to call his decision a truly awful one. However, thanks today to You Tube, anyone with a computer can check for themselves if Eklund’s claim to fame (in The Fighter, anyway) is a legit one.

It’s strange, but in the movie, it really is hard to tell whether or not Leonard was hit and hurt. While watching the incident at real time on You Tube, it’s clear Eklund pushed an off-balance Leonard.

“Sugar Ray” does indeed remember the July 1978 fight “Like it was yesterday!”

Article posted on 09.03.2011

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