Sugar Ray Leonard: It’s About History. It’s About Legacies; A Fight To Make Your Palms Sweat

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floyd-mayweather-manny-pacquiao-press-conference-3-11-15-25-photo-by-naoki-fukudaBoxing has had their fair share of surprises. Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, who was considered the baddest man on the planet, Muhammad Ali’s shocking knockout of Sonny Liston signaled the commencement of the greatest era in heavyweight boxing history, and Hasim Rahman caught Lennox Lewis with a haymaker that shocked the boxing world. In a sport established by humans, watched by humans, and run by humans, we get our fair share of surprises.

So far, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has yet to find himself in that peculiar position of being on the losing side, which will certainly be a surprise if he ever does. However, a well-known human, a legendary human, Ray Leonard – who is nicknamed ‘Sugar’ – is no stranger to the sport of boxing. Leonard, a Hall of Fame fighter, is a five-division world champion and knows a lot about undefeated American pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.

In the past, Leonard has been torn on who he thinks is going to come out on top when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao finally meet up in the ring on May 2nd at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Now, Leonard appears to be making his choice. Known for his ring craft, mental tenaciousness, and self-confidence – attributes that have led many to compare him with ‘Money’ Mayweather – Leonard appears to be leaning towards the American, but also adds that the highly-anticipated matchup – which has been in the making for close to six years – could be one of the greatest fights that the sport has ever seen. Speaking with The Guardian’s Kevin Mitchell, Leonard spoke about the historic standing this fight could bring.

“This is more than just a fight,” Leonard stated. “It’s about bragging rights. It’s about legacies. It’s about history. This is one of those mental, psychological, spiritual fights, a fight to make your palms sweat.”
Leonard went on to explain how both Mayweather and Pacquiao can win the fight with their respective talents.

“Mayweather has a couple of ways to win the fight: as a counter-puncher wait for Pacquiao to make mistakes and make him pay for those mistakes; or just box him, dance around, and move and do what he does best. He’s a little bit more versatile than Pacquiao.

“As for Pacquiao, if he can bring back the Manny that fought Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, and all the other guys, we’re then talking about a very interesting, physical fight.

“The edge for Pacquiao is that he goes to this fight totally committed, no thoughts of ‘I got knocked out by [Juan Manuel] Marquez.’ Normally when a fighter is knocked out in that fashion, nine times out of 10, he’s not the same. But, Pacquiao is an anomaly – he’s gifted – a blessed young man with incredible hand speed and power.

“I think there will be a couple of surprises for the fans, knockdowns – and I don’t think this will happen late. There could be dominance, mostly by Mayweather.

“It will take both fighters a few rounds to figure each other out, to know what they have after they’ve seen each other. When you’re in the ring, it’s totally different. I knew [Thomas] Hearns had long arms and was fast, but I didn’t know he was that fast. I knew he hit hard, but I didn’t know he hit that hard until I was in there.”

While Leonard has a tremendous amount of respect for Pacquiao, he admits that he feels he has more of a resemblance with Mayweather. He has history with the family after all. On September 9, 1978, Leonard faced Floyd’s father and trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., stopping him inside the 10th and final round. In addition, Leonard also noticed the genetic affinity between Mayweather Jr. and his father, noting that both are known for having very sensitive hands. Senior damaged his right hand in the first round of their fight and his son has injured his hand multiple times in the past several years, but Leonard revealed that there is one major difference that separates Senior from Junior.

“He reminds me so much of his father, but the difference is that Floyd Jr. can punch, Senior didn’t have that much of a punch,” Leonard said.
“Even Floyd Jr. has delicate hands, but he is able to get away with it.”
“Without question I enjoy watching him because I appreciate the artistry, I appreciate technique, strategy, tactics,” he added. “No matter who it is, he breaks down his opponents, whether it’s body shots, the jab, countering, making the guy stop punching.”

Although he sees Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a trash talker, he has no ill-feelings towards him because he can back up the trash talk, which some have attempted to emulate, but no one came out looking as unblemished as the money man himself.

“Mayweather from day one has marched to his own drum – and that’s okay,” Leonard said. “That’s who he is. I have no ill-feelings towards him because he may talk trash, but he backs it up. I respect that from a fighter. I respect that from a champion.”

In Pacquiao, he sees a humble humanitarian, who is more concerned about caring for his countrymen rather than bragging and being hubristic, which he has vowed he will bring down on May 2nd.

“Pacquiao has been around the block a bunch of times. He has a great trainer in Freddie [Roach], but everything has to be perfect for him, for both of them,” Leonard said. “You talk about nerves – we don’t say scared; for fighters, it’s not the right word to use. But, we’re concerned. They know they’re in the ring with one of the best guys, if not the best guy in the division or in boxing.”

“This is the fight I am looking forward to more than any other in recent years. What you don’t know – and me as a fighter who’s done this a thousand times – either guy, he looks in that mirror before he enters the ring and he may see Mayweather or he may see Pacquiao or he may see someone else.”

This is natural for a fight that has been anticipated and scrapped several times over the past half-decade. But, the time has finally come to lace on the gloves and leave it all in the ring. Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao is finally here. Let’s do it.