How Hall-of-Fame Boxer Sugar Ray Leonard Stays in Fighting Shape at Age 65

A boxer since the age of 14, Leonard is still light and lean in his sixth decade

July 8, 2021 6:00 am
Sugar Ray Leonard
Hall-of-Fame boxer Sugar Ray Leonard is still in phenomenal shape.

Blessed with fast feet, high-speed hands and a million-dollar smile, Sugar Ray Leonard was one of the most popular boxers of his generation and became the first fighter to win world titles in five different weight classes (welterweight, middleweight, junior middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight) over the course of his 20-year professional career.

An Olympic champion and Hall of Famer who learned to box at the age of 14, Leonard is still light and lean at the age of 65, and tells us he keeps himself busy with his foundation as well as serving as a brand ambassador for Skechers, with whom he has two new commercials launching this fall.

“I wear them all the time for the arch support, especially on days I know I’ll be on my feet for a while,” Leonard tells InsideHook. “Skechers can make all the difference, especially to your walking routine.”

But even looking at him on a Zoom call, it’s easy to tell Leonard’s daily routine includes much more than walking. So how does Leonard maintain the fittest physique on a 60-something this side of Phil Collen? We asked him for his secrets.

InsideHook: How does your fitness routine now compare to what you did when you were fighting?

Sugar Ray Leonard: I’ve slowed down a little bit. I play tennis and run and sometimes I think I’m 20 or 30 years old, but times have changed. I listen to my body a lot more. I also listen to my doctor and my therapist. When I work out, it’s like heaven. It’s so incredible. I just want to stay in shape. Other guys who have trained all their lives to become world champions, when that’s gone, it’s over. They take a rest. They take a break. I don’t. When I work out, I feel productive. I feel excited. I’m just motivated.

How would you describe your overall philosophy about continuing to keep yourself in shape?

I’m 65 and I really don’t take numbers or ages to heart. I’m 65 man … so what? I don’t know what 65 feels like. I don’t base things upon numbers except for how many punches I’ve thrown. I’m still running around and doing what I want to do. I had nothing short of an illustrious boxing career, but I came out somewhat unscathed. That in and of itself tells me I can do what I want to do. I listened to my body then, but I listen to my body a lot more now.

How do you typically work out these days?

I do a lot of cardio. I use weights once every blue moon. I like running. I like walking. I’d rather walk or run or play tennis instead of using a treadmill. Machines are great, but I’m old school. I hit the bag every now and then. I’ve also incorporated kickboxing. I just do a variety of things. When I finish, I tend to procrastinate. I say, “Well, maybe I’ll do twice as much tomorrow.” I’ll work out in the morning and then I’ll feel good. I feel productive. I feel wonderful. My heart, my legs, my body, my mind. It pays off for me.

Is there any sort of gear you always wear when you work out?

I’m glad you asked that question. My wife always says, “It’s not wintertime. What are you doing with sweatpants and a hoodie and a T-shirt on?” I say, “I like putting that stuff on because I’m from back East.” I love the sweat. I love being outside when it’s hot and getting a good workout. When I work out, I also got to have proper shoes. That’s why the relationship with Skechers and their Arch Fit shoes has been enormous. I wear them every day. If we’re going to dinner or we’re going to a shopping mall, wherever. No pun intended, but they fit like a glove.

Has your diet changed since your fighting days?

You know what, man? I eat. I like fried chicken. I like corn on the cob, greens and stuff like that. I don’t have any particular diet per se, but now I do things in moderation. I think that’s what helps. When I’m drinking too much soda pop or whatever, I cut back. It works for me.

Sugar Ray Leonard Hitting the Heavy Bag
Sugar Ray Leonard can still work the bag in his mid-60s.

Why is it still so important to you to keep yourself in great shape?

First of all, I like staying healthy. But I’m also vain. If I look in the mirror and see my belly is hanging out, naturally, I’ll do a series of pushups and situps. I’m just that way. I’m self-motivated. I like to stay healthy. Why not? It gets harder every single year and every single month. I overcome that. It makes me feel productive. I used to run behind the school bus. People thought I was crazy, but I used to run to school that was two or three miles away. I just love that feeling after I finish.

Did you ever do anything to train like Rocky Balboa?

I did, I did. I’ll tell you about drinking about three of four raw eggs. It was the worst taste in the world. I did at that time because I watched Rocky all the time, but I’ve never done it again. We didn’t lift weights back in the day because it was a no-no. It made you too tight and too rigid. I ran five miles every day except Sunday. I never ran on Sundays because that was the day I would give my body a chance to rejuvenate and heal itself. I tell you, nothing’s changed.

What is it like now when you get in the ring?

You have to get used to getting hit again. One of the biggest hurdles you’ve got to overcome is being civilized. If you get hit for a year or so, you’ll just get used to it. The jarring. The impact. It’s a weird situation. The last time I sparred was probably with Johnny Gill, a friend of mine. I beat his butt all the time. I don’t hit him too hard, but I do punch him. Boxing will always be a part of my life, no matter what, no matter how old I am or become.

How’s the hand speed these days?

What do you think? I guarantee I’m faster than you.

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