Sugar Ray Leonard doesn't have many regrets in what's been an amazing life. But the former Olympic gold medalist and seven-time world champion boxer admits there is one thing he would change if he could.
He would have started playing golf a lot earlier.
"I wish I had found this game back in the day," the 55-year-old Leonard said Thursday after his round in the celebrity-amateur competition of the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational at Shadow Creek.
Leonard admits he is addicted to the sport. Of course, it helps to participate in an activity that doesn't involve getting punched in the face, though sometimes missing a 4-foot putt can hurt as much as an uppercut to the chin.
"Back when I was still fighting, it wasn't my cup of tea," Leonard said. "I used to train near golf courses all the time, but I never gave it a second thought about picking up a club and actually playing."
But when Leonard moved to Las Vegas in 1991, a friend introduced him to the game. At age 35, he was hooked.
"It's a lot like boxing," he said. "It's one on one, you against the course. You have to control your emotions and not let the course get the best of you."
Leonard, who plays to a 14 handicap, has played Shadow Creek numerous times with a low score of 90. He said the sheer beauty of the course in North Las Vegas, which opened just weeks before he and Roberto Duran met at The Mirage for a third and final time on Dec. 7, 1989, is incomparable.
"It's so serene and beautiful, yet it's so challenging," Leonard said. "It's like a second home to me."
Leonard recently got help for his game by appearing with teaching pro Hank Haney on The Golf Channel's "The Haney Project." Leonard said while he has been accustomed to performing in front of the public since he was a child, this was very different, baring his golfing soul to millions on TV.
"I had to trust someone else's instincts instead of my own, and that wasn't easy," he said of applying Haney's advice to his game. "But it was an awesome experience. I took three strokes off my game working with Hank."
Leonard said Haney's best advice was to not overanalyze things on the course.
"He said, 'Just let it go,' " Leonard said. "I tend to think too much when I'm out there. My mind gets cluttered with a lot of thoughts, things I read in magazines and then try to apply them instead of just going out and playing relaxed."
Leonard, a 1997 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, attended Muhammad Ali's 70th birthday celebration last month at the MGM Grand Garden. Like many, he was sad to see Ali's health affected by Parkinson's disease, which has slowed his mobility and severely limited his ability to speak.
"Subconsciously, it was tough to accept seeing him the way he was," Leonard said. "Without Muhammad, I wouldn't be me. He was my inspiration. He was boxing."
Additionally, like most boxing fans, Leonard said he is frustrated by the fact that Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, the sport's top pound-for-pound fighters, can't find a way to face each other inside the ring.
"I'm very disappointed it hasn't happened," Leonard said. "In my time, you wanted to fight the best. You would never think of ducking someone.
"I just want them to fight before they're 38, 39, and it's too late."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.