Sugar Ray Leonard is Featured Speaker at Annual Luncheon

March 28, 2024. Louisville, KY. – The Derby Festival’s annual kick-off luncheon will be a knockout! Legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard will be the featured speaker at the Kentucky Derby Festival’s annual They’re Off! Luncheon Presented By BAE Systems on Friday, April 19. The renowned sports icon, Olympic Gold Medalist and Hall of Famer is known for his charismatic personality and his excellence outside the ring. He founded the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation, which is committed to funding life-changing research for pediatric type 1 and type 2 diabetes and helping children build early healthy habits.

“We’re excited to welcome Sugar Ray Leonard back to Louisville to help us kick off this year’s Kentucky Derby Festival,” said Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival President & CEO. “He is a champion both inside and outside the ring and we know he’ll have some inspiring stories to share.”

Leonard’s celebrated career includes three National Golden Gloves titles, two Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championships, the 1975 Pan-American Games crown, and a Gold Medal in boxing at the 1976 Olympic Games. He’s the first boxer to win world titles in five different weight classes. His blinding speed, tremendous power, and palpable charm led to Leonard being a media favorite and dubbed the “new Muhammad Ali,” by the late Howard Cosell.

In addition to his boxing career, Leonard is a philanthropist, best-selling author, television personality and ringside analyst. He has always been devoted to his community and helping those in need and fulfills that passion through the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation. Since its inception 14 years ago, the Foundation has funded countless research projects and offered life-changing patient care for children living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, the Foundation is also committed to helping children lead healthier lives through diet and exercise and equipping them with the tools to be successful later on in life.

The They’re Off! Luncheon, first held in 1957, serves as the time-honored kick-off to each year’s Kentucky Derby Festival. It’s the second-oldest event on the Festival schedule. The luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. on April 19 in the Grand Ballroom of the Galt House Hotel – site of the festive event since 1974. This year’s event will also feature the presentation of the Volunteer of the Year Award and the Silver Horseshoe Award for service to the community. Tickets are $130 each or $1,040 for a table of eight. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (502) 584-FEST or visit KDF.org.

Leonard joins Magic Johnson, Terry Bradshaw, Dr. “J” Julius Erving, Boomer Esiason, Erin Andrews, Dick Vitale, Robin Roberts, Lary King, Bob Costas and James Earl Jones in a long list of luminaries who have entertained They’re Off! Luncheon audiences for more than 60 years.

BAE Systems is the Presenting Sponsor of the Luncheon. Contributing Sponsors: Fifth Third Bank, The Galt House Hotel and Kentucky Proud. Official Luxury Vehicle: Cadillac/Courtesy Cadillac. Media Sponsor: Louisville Business First. Supporting Sponsor: Jeff’s Donuts.