Tennis Prose



Boxing Champion Intrigued By Tennis

Former WBC Light Heavyweight champion Donny Lalonde reached the pinnacle in the prizefighting business but the tennis court has always held a special place in his heart also.

Born in Kitchener, Ontario Lalonde turned pro in 1980 after an 11-4 amateur record. He won his world championship in 1987 on national TV (CBS) with a second round knockout of Eddie Davis in Trinidad & Tobago. “The Golden Boy” made one successful defense against former champ Leslie Stewart, a fifth round TKO, and then competed in the biggest match of his career, against a challenger named “Sugar” Ray Leonard in 1988 in Las Vegas. It was a major boxing event and Lalonde, though the underdog, rose to the occasion and knocked Leonard down in the fourth round with a right hand – just the second time Leonard ever touched the canvas in his career. Leonard would adapt his style though and eventually win by TKO in the 9th round.

Lalonde finished his career in 2003 with a record of 45-3-1 (33 KOs).

I recently had the chance to discuss with Lalonde his interest and intrigue for the one-on-one court sport…

Question: How and when did you become a tennis enthusiast?

Donny Lalonde: It’s my favorite sport. I always enjoyed watching tennis back in the days of Borg, McEnroe, Connors, etc. My mom played tennis which is probably why it had my attention. I love the finesse of the game.

Question: How often do you play?

Donny Lalonde: Up until about five years ago we played a couple times a week at least but have not played for about five years. My wife is better than me so we can start again anytime.

Donny Lalonde with another boxing champion James Toney.

Question: Boxing and tennis are considered very similar. Former U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin even said once while commentating on TV that “tennis is a fist fight without the fists.”

Donny Lalonde: “Yes, Tracy nailed it. There are so many similarities. I had better footwork in boxing. I was more lazy in tennis so my footwork needs to improve. Like boxing I liked to go for a knock out – in tennis a winner – but like boxing I enjoy the intricacies and moving an opponent around the court to set them up for the winner.

Question: Did you ever see pro tennis live? When and where?

Donny Lalonde: “I went to the 1987 U.S. Open to see Ivan Lendl hit his big 110 mph serve against the Swede….trying to remember his name… Mats Wilander. IMG got me courtside seats for that semi or final…also Molson Cup In Toronto when Federer, Nadal and that group were playing about ten years ago.

Question: Are there any tennis pros who you think could be good pro boxers, present or past?

Donny Lalonde: I think Nadal could have been a fighter, Connors was scrappy enough. Most are too clean cut to consider as fighters but you never can tell.

Question: Do you remember the first famous tennis player you ever met?

Donny Lalonde: John McEnroe at a bar with some New York Rangers players/friends (Steve Patrick, Mark Pavelich, John Vanbeisbrouck).

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