Juanita Wilkinson Was Sugar Ray Leonard's First Wife before She Moved on to Other Relationships
Juanita Leonard was the first wife of the former boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, but their marriage ultimately ended in divorce. Fast forward to today, the whereabouts of Sugar Ray's ex-wife have sparked public curiosity.
Sugar Ray Leonard's boxing success was overshadowed by his troubled relationship with his high school sweetheart and former wife, Juanita Wilkinson. While boxing fans viewed Sugar Ray as a hero, Juanita saw him in a different light.
Juanita has since moved on from their relationship, dating other men and forging a new path in her life. Even though they parted ways many years ago, the public remains captivated by Juanita's past connection with her ex-husband.
Juanita Wilkinson wears Sugar Ray Leonard's championship belt during a press conference after the fight against Marvin Haglerat at Caesars Palace, on April 6, 1987, in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Source: Getty Images
The Pair's Love Story
Juanita was only a teenager when she met Sugar Ray in Prince George's County, where they lived in a lower-middle-class suburb. Both found themselves deeply in love upon their first meeting.
However, their happiness was soon tinged with unexpected news as Juanita, at only 16 years old, became pregnant with their first child. While she was left to take care of their child, Juanita's teenage sweetheart became a famous and wealthy boxer.
The boxer returned and proposed to Juanita and they tied the knot in 1980. However, Juanita later experienced a great awakening.
Sugar Ray Leonard and Juanita Wilkinson pose outside their house in Palmer Park, Maryland in 1980. | Source: Getty Images
Juanita's Marriage Realizations
"We got married more so for his image and career than for anything else…It looked good. The headlines could say, 'Sugar Ray Leonard marries his childhood sweetheart.' It makes him look like a nice, clean guy."
Juanita added that most people would say Leonard made the right choice by marrying her. She commented that her husband's image benefited from the treatment, but their marriage didn't.
Juanita Wilkinson stands behind Sugar Ray Leonard Superdome on November 25, 1980, in New Orleans. | Source: Getty Images
Juanita's Divorce from Her Ex-husband & Their Settlement
The couple divorced in 1990. As part of the divorce process, Juanita testified that her husband physically abused her while under the influence of alcohol. She also claimed he used drugs occasionally.
However, in the days following her testimony, she and the boxing superstar stepped out of a Montgomery County courtroom with their arms around one another. The former couple also shared a kiss and parted ways.
A divorce settlement out of court reportedly involved the division of multimillion-dollar estates. Their goal with the settlement was to avoid negative media coverage and protect their two sons, Ray Charles Jr. and Jerrel Leonard.
The Former Pair Still Love One Other
The renowned boxer noted that neither he nor Juanita were unhappy, adding that the last three years after their separation had been unbearable and painful. Despite this, the star athlete admitted they both still loved each other.
Sugar Ray was late to learn about Juanita's marriage to Otis.
Meanwhile, in an interview, Juanita also mentioned that she loved her ex-husband as much as she did before they called it quits. According to her, people didn't realize that her relationship with her ex-husband didn't stop after the divorce.
They Both Moved On: Juanita's Life after Her Marriage to the Boxing Star
Juanita has moved on with her life and even entered the world of dating. In 1991, Juanita was reportedly in a relationship with singer-songwriter Peabo Bryson.
The musician once mentioned in a past "The Joan Rivers Show" hosted by Joan Rivers that he and Juanita would marry soon. However, their wedding plans came to an unexpected halt.
In December 1992, Juanita suddenly called off their engagement. In an interview, the musician shared that maintaining silence about their breakup was the most challenging aspect of the aftermath.
Peabo Bryson visits SiriusXM Studios on September 10, 2019, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images
He also emphasized the importance of upholding his Southern values, asserting that in a relationship, it is the man's responsibility to shoulder the burden when a situation might cast a negative light on someone. He said:
"I won't say anything bad about the women who have been in my life, and that includes Juanita. I won't refute anything that a woman says if it will cast her in a bad light."
When Juanita called off their engagement, she secretly married Atlanta Braves outfielder Otis Nixon in Jamaica. Peobo, for his part, never shared his thoughts about the matter.
Otis Nixon takes a swing at batting practice for the NLCS opener against the New York Mets in 1999 in Atlanta. | Source: Getty Images
Sugar Ray was late to learn about Juanita's marriage to Otis. The boxing icon, who continues to excel as a broadcaster, pitchman, and entrepreneur, is now married to Bernadette Robi, the ex-wife of Lynn Swann of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Nowadays, Juanita appears to have a relatively private life. Her most prominent public mentions include a Facebook post from her ex-husband in 2016 and a Mother's Day greeting from her son Ray on Instagram in 2020.
Like Sugar Ray, late boxing legend Muhammad Ali was also known for his fascinating marriage and family. He had four wives, including Sonji Roi. He had nine children, including an adopted son, Asaad Amin Ali.
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