Hall of Fame former champion Sugar Ray Leonard shared his thoughts with RingTV.com concerning Saturday night’s fourth bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez that will happen on HBO Pay Per View on Dec. 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
A five-division titlewinner and 1976 Olympic Gold medalist, Leonard marvels at the age and durability of Marquez (54-6-2, 39 knockouts, who turned 39 in August, while also praising Pacquiao’s speed and aggression.
In November, Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KO) won a highly disputed majority decision over Marquez with whom he has also battled to a draw and won a previous split decision.
Pacquiao floored Marquez three times in the first round of their initial meeting as featherweights in May of 2004, and dropped him once in the third round of their second as junior lightweights in March of 2008.
Pacquiao, who turns 34 on Dec. 17, chose to face Marquez over a return bout with Tim Bradley, whose controversial split decision in June dethroned Pacquiao as the WBO’s 147-pound titleholder and ended his 15-bout winning streak that included eight stoppages.
Marquez rebounded with April’s unanimous decision over Sergei Fedchenko for the WBO’s junior welterweight belt.
Leonard spoke to RingTV.com in this Q&A.
RingTV.com: Can you pick a winner in Pacquiao-Marquez IV?
Sugar Ray Leonard: I really can’t, man. For people who don’t want to see these guys fight again, it’s all going to boil down to that last round again.
These guys know each other that well. They’e been through wars with each other, and it depends on which of them you ask as to who has won their fights.
It really doesn’t make a difference, though, because this fight here is the most defining moment for these two guys and these two fighters.
RingTV.com: So if Marquez wins, do you believe, as he seems to, that he should be given credit for having won all four?
SRL: No, because it’s still going to be subjective, the fact that they may say that at least Pacquiao won two of the first three.
This one here, though, is more significant, I think. Even though they’re older, I mean, no question about it, it’s the most definitive.
RingTV.com: What are Pacquiao’s advantages?
SRL: I mean, Pacquiao has, without question, the fastest hands, but this guy is just so great at countering. It’s a fight that fight fans have to love because you really can’t call it.
It’s just the styles between Pacquiao and Marquez, so you can’t call it. You just can’t. Based on how these three fights have turned out, it was never a blow out.
I mean, think about that. It was never a blowout, and there was always a deciding factor of who won the last round, or whatever the case may be.
RingTV.com: Will Marquez’s age be a factor?
SRL: Besides Bernard Hopkins, George Foreman and maybe Jersey Joe Walcott, Marquez is the best-looking old fighter that I’ve ever seen.
I’m serious, I mean he has been able to find the Fountain of Youth at that age. He still has great hand speed, accuracy and resilience, and gets up when he gets knocked down.
The knockdowns, it reminds me of a jab, because it doesn’t do damage to him. He’s not that hurt. He gets rocked sometimes, but you know what?
He comes back and he knows that he has to reach down and throw more combinations. The general consensus from Day One was that Marquez was too old for their last fight.
I even felt the same way when that last fight was announced as happening. I said, “s–t,” this is bad. But I’m like, “Wow, what is this guy taking, Marquez?” You know?
Wasn’t he the one who was drinking his own pee? Well, maybe because he stopped drinking his own pee, that made a difference. You can write that.
The skinny on Sugar Ray Leonard:
A 1976 Olympic Gold medalist, Leonard earned his first major title belt by vanquishing previously unbeaten Wilfred Benitez for the WBC welterweight crown via 15th-round stoppage in November of 1979.
He lost the title in his second defense against legendary former lightweight champ Roberto Duran, who out-pointed him over 15 ferocious rounds in June of 1980.
Leonard then regained the title with an eighth-round TKO of Duran in the famous “No Mas” return bout in November of 1980, avenging the loss from five months earlier.
Next, Leonard rose to the junior middleweight class for a ninth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Ayub Kalule, dethroning the WBA beltholder in June of 1981.
Just three months later, Leonard overcame Thomas Hearns by 14th-round knockout, dethroning the WBA titleholder in a clash of pound-for-pound titans in September.
Leonard’s next major victory would not come until almost five years later, when he ended a nearly three-year layoff by vanquishing Marvin Hagler as WBC middleweight beltholder by split-decision in April of 1987.
In November of 1988, Leonard accomplished a coup by getting WBC light heavyweight titleholder Donny Lalonde to put his belt on the line at a catchweight of 168 pounds, with the WBC’s vacant super middleweight belt also on the line.
Leonard stopped Lalonde by ninth-round stoppage, taking both belts in the process, before closing out his career with a draw and a unanimous decision opposite Hearns and Duran, respectively, before losing his last two comeback bouts against Terry Norris and Hector Camacho.
Photos courtesy of HBO
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photos by Rafael Soto, Top Rank
Photo by Chris Cozzone, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org