LAS VEGAS — RingTV.com sat down with boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard for a conversation about his own career and those of six-time, five-division titlewinner Floyd Mayweather Jr. and eight-division belt-winner Manny Pacquiao.
The 55-year-old Leonard (36-3-1, 25 KOs) won five major titles in as many different weight classes in a career that peaked in the early 1980’s.
Leonard is in town for Saturday night’s clash between the 34-year-old Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs) and the 24-year-old WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs).
The 32-year-old Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs) will defend his WBO welterweight belt against 38-year-old WBO and WBA beltholder Juan Manuel Marquez (53-5-1, 39 KOs), their third meeting after battling to a draw and a split-decision victory for Pacquiao.
Sugar Ray Leonard on whether Mayweather Jr. could fight with a Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Wilfred Benitez or Robert Duran of his era:
“Because, from my point of view, yeah, he could fight with us. Would he win? You know, it almost looks as though we were bigger than him. And we were. In our prime?…”
On how Mayweather would do against Hearns:
On how it would go between himself and Mayweather:
“Yeah, because he’s like his dad, and his father gave me trouble too, but because his father couldn’t punch, I didn’t have as much to worry about. Now Floyd can punch harder than his father.
“But it would be kind of a cat and mouse game. But you know, when I was fighting, I would go to the body. I would hurt guys to the body. And I threw combinations, so I threw a lot of punches.”
“When Manny Pacquiao fights, you know, his offense is his defense. And guys can’t recover and won’t expose themselves to him.
“What’s the guy’s name that fought him, and I thought that he was going to give Pacquiao a tough fight?
“Yeah, what did he say? He said, ‘I didn’t want to get knocked out.’ He covered up like this the whole time. It’s just a different time.”
On whether or not Mayweather has had a boxing match where he had to dig in and knock a guy out to win like he did against Hearns:
“But he had to compose himself and that was a huge factor in that fight. But that fight there, that displayed that Mayweather was special.”
On Pacquiao’s intestinal fortitude:
“And when he hurt Pacquiao to the body, did you see that shot? He hurt him bad. But that was all Margarito had. And then, when Pacquiao composed himself, he came back and just beat the crap out of Margarito.”
On both Mayweather and Pacquiao:
On the versatility of Mayweather and Pacquiao:
“Pacquiao has shown that he can box and that he can be elusive and that he can turn into a little monster, like, a Tasmanian devil. I’ve always seen Mayweather as a defensive, ‘Bop, bop, bop, bop’ type of counter puncher.
“You never really see him box, but you can’t stand there and wait for him. Because if you do, he will dominate you because he’s slick.
“I can’t recall a fight where I saw him have to change his game plan, have you? I’ve never really seen him have to be too versatile. I’ve never seen him have to change up.”
On whether Mayweather history should penalize Mayweather for his relative lack of competition:
“But when he became champion, and when I saw James Toney go up and compete, I mean, any decent heavyweight beats those guys.”
On his taking nearly three years off and defeating Hagler compared to Mayweather’s nearly two years off before defeating Marquez:
“It’s this — the heart and the balls — that’s what it took to do that. Each round, between rounds, during the Hagler fight, as I walked back to the corner, I would look down at press row and just stare at them and say, ‘I’m still here.’
“Because everyone thought that I had no prayer, you know? And, rightfully so, you know, after virtually five years out of the ring.
“But it’s having the ability to reach down because there is nothing else that you can do but to fight, and I had to do that.”
On whether Mayweather will ever face competition against which he will truly be able to measure himself and define himself as a great fighter:
“That’s a plus for him, because in my day, I was partying, boy. I was celebrating when I wasn’t in the ring. But you know, we’ll see.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com