If WFAA-CH.8’s Pete Delkus ever tires of weather guessing, he could easily be the first male Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. That man in his natty attire and slicked back hair can get a crowd rallied up like the best of the Aggie Yell leaders.
For most it would have been enough just to have had Olympian Sugar Ray Leonard as the guest speaker. Time and time again, Sugar Ray posed for photos in the VIP reception with a perfect smile and charming personality. When some of the folks asked to strike a boxer’s stance with him, he accommodated without delay.
There was even a brief session where he had a one-on-one with youngsters from the Barney and Me Boxing Gym. The kids had been provided with tickets to the VIP reception and luncheon thanks to one of the luncheon sponsors, Independent Bank and Executive VP Rob Temple.
Across the hall, the ballroom was filling with tables of guests. Unlike most luncheons that tend to skew toward the female gender, this one had an equal number of gents.
In keeping with the theme and the headliner, the CACCC staff had built a faux ring with red ropes on the stage.
First in the ring was Pete with a ring girl holding a card to announce him. He started rallying the troops by thanking the sponsors like presenting sponsor JC Penney. Never have luncheon sponsors received such cheers. These Collin County folks know how to show their appreciation. In recognizing the local officials, he said he felt safe because Collin County Sheriff Terry Box was present. Yup, and he was packing.
The final intro was Carolyn Speese, who in addition to co-chairing the event with her husband, Mark Speese, have been major supporters of CACCC over the years. She proudly announced that for the fourth year in a row CACCC had earned the Charity Navigator 4-star rating, Navigator’s highest rating.
In promoting the sale the Rusty Glenn centerpieces, she reminded guests that Valentine’s Day was just two days away and they “save themselves a trip to CVS.” Needless to say, the centerpieces sold.
After lunch, Carolyn returned to the podium to tell guests why “this luncheon was so important and necessary. We are fortunate…beyond fortunate to not only live in the United States but the greatest county in America.” Then she shifted directions reminding them that even in this remarkable setting, child abuse still existed. In 2014 more than 4,800 cases were reported in Collin County.
Carolyn then surprised the audience by having her friend WFAA-CH. 8 anchor Shelly Slater join her at the podium, who described Sugar Ray as a “really cool cat.” In announcing the winners of the raffle, she revealed that the sheriff had been one of the winners. And, no, it wasn’t fixed.
Pete in returning to the stage told the guests that “Shelly’s the sister I never wanted…just kidding Shelly.” He once again returned to cheerleading asking the audience to give a round of applause for the servers.
Now, it was time for Sugar Ray, whom Pete revealed that at one point in Sugar Ray’s childhood, he was a victim of abuse.
Sugar Ray started off telling the group that before the lunch he had had lots of pictures taken with guests and he noticed that as the guys walked away and “then they would look back. And I know what they were thinking. I know exactly what they were thinking. They were saying, ‘Sugar Ray. Wow! The champ! He’s not that big. [Laughter] I bet I could take him. [More laughter]”
He then settled into the topic of the day — despite having beaten “the best of the very best,” the power was not just limited to physicality but to that of the mind and spirit.
Sugar Ray has based his professional and personal life around POWER (Prepare Overcome Win Every Round). He went to say that “dreams are your GPS for success.”
He applauded the guests for their efforts in ending child abuse admitting that he was indeed a statistic.
When he decided to come out of retirement in 1986 to fight Marvelous Marvin Hagler, he discussed it with his father-in-law, who told him there was no way he could do and he was crazy to try. When asked why he would take on such a challenge, Sugar Ray replied, “They’re going to pay me $10M.” The father-in-law said, “So, when does training camp start? And how can I help you?”
Despite being a total underdog, he proved the critics wrong in Caesar’s Palace in 1987.
He then described his fight in 1981 against Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, whom Sugar Ray described as a freak of nature at 147 pounds and with arms the length of a football field. By the 13th round, it was looking bleak and his trainer Angelo Dundee wanted him to come out stronger and more aggressive. Thanks to Sugar Ray’s building up a reserve of energy, he came back to win “The Showdown”.
Returning to his bout with Marvin, he said that very few knew that just days before the fight, he received a severe blow from his sparring partner. His team realized it was a possible game changer and the mood back in the hotel room was “deathly quiet.” The original fight plan was to “stand toe-to-toe with Marvin…and with creative prayer.” He took the negative and turned it into a positive winning the fight by out boxing him. He believe in himself.
Her recalled his loss in 1980 against Roberto Durán and admitted that the former Undisputed World Lightweight Champion/#1 weltereight contender had gotten in Sugar Ray’s head, especially after Durán cursed Sugar Ray’s wife. He had “gotten the best of me.”He admitted that “that fight actually made me a better fighter.”
Six months later a rematch was held and he saw to it that Durán would lose his composure. During that time, Durán had gained weight and Sugar Ray used it to get in his head. Durán didn’t even finish the eighth round. He quit claiming stomach cramps and retired from boxing.
Sugar Ray’s biggest challenge was when at the age of 32, he moved up to weight classes and faced 28-year-old Don Lalonde — “It was a weird fight and I was close to retiring.” This one taught him not to take anyone for granted. It was one of the first times that Sugar Ray thought, “I shouldn’t be in this ring.” Still he won the fight.
He finished his talk saying that for nearly 40 years, despite the wins in the ring, he had remained silent about being sexually abused because “there’s such a shame, such embarrassment, such a stigma attached to being abused.” He explained, “What happened to me…this is going to be with me the rest of my life, but it’s not going to run my life.”
He didn’t delve into the incidents that took place in his youth, but the accounts are described in his book, “The Big Fight: My Life In And Out Of The Ring.”