RingTV.com asked former world champion Sugar Ray Leonard his thoughts on December’s sixth-round knockout victory by Juan Manuel Marquez over Manny Pacquiao in their fourth bout, which Leonard compared favorably to his second grudge match with Thomas Hearns.
Leonard was 25 years old when he dropped 22-year-old Hearns during his 14th-round knockout triumph in September of 1981, only to be floored twice during an equally brutal rematch eight years later that ended in a draw.
“For you to bring up Tommy Hearns, I got a smile on my face, because I was at home last night, and I was channel-changing on my television, and I had recorded my first fight with Tommy Hearns,” Leonard.
“So I was just watching it last night before dinner. When I saw the fight again, I relived those moments, like, ‘holy s–t,’ because there was so much friction in the air about Tommy knocking me out and such fear.”
Pacquiao, meanwhile, scored a combined four knockdowns and emerged with two controversial wins and a draw from his trilogy with Marquez. But it was the 39-year-old Marquez winning the fourth meeting via sixth-round knockout over then-33-year-old Pacquiao.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum has informed RingTV.com that he would like to match Marquez and Pacquiao a fifth time perhaps in September.
“I saw a fight that was exciting from the very first round, and the only real shock to me was when Pacquiao was the first guy to do down, Then, all of a sudden it became a movie, because, then, all of a sudden, Marquez went down in the fifth round,” said Leonard, referring to Pacquiao’s being dropped for the first time in their series in the third round by Marquez.
“That wasn’t the way that the writers had written the script, because Pacquiao was coming back and had Marquez hurt and he was beginning to dominate. So when Pacquiao put Marquez down, and then he kind of hurt Marquez again in the sixth round, Pacquiao started to do what he does best, and he just threw a barrage of punches that causes most fighters for the most part to cover up.”
Among the differences for Marquez, said Leonard, were his familiarity with Pacquiao’s style and his determination to avenge himself against an arch rival as he neared the twilight of his career.
“When a fighter gets to that point of his career, that great fighter always has that one more fight left in him. But he’s ready. Just like Tommy Hearns had that one fight in him, because he was that close to a victory the first time, Marquez was determined also,” said Leonard.
“At that point in your life, it’s more about your heart and your mind-set, because you’re not as fast as you used to be, or as quick as you used to be, but you still have that drive, man, and I think that’s what won it for Marquez.”
Not to mention Marquez’s superior counterpunching prowess.
“Pacquiao was facing one of the most perfect counterpunchers who ever lived. Marquez is a consummate counterpuncher, and he was determined to make that work for him this time against Pacquiao. Marquez would cover up and cover up and then was laid back before coming back with his own stuff, namely, that right hand,” said Leonard.
“Pacquiao, at the same time, was coming in, trying to take advantage of an opportunity, because he had hurt him. But then — Pow! — that counter-right hand got him. That kind of knockout, that’s rare. It doesn’t happen. When someone goes down, face-first like that…let me tell you, I was very, very concerned about Pacquiao, because I like Pacquiao and I like Marquez.”
Leonard said that he interviewed each of the fighters prior to their historic fourth clash.
“I spoke with both guys for my website the day before the fight, and I asked each of them to look into the camera and to tell their fans what each of them needed to do to be victorious,” said Leonard.
“Pacquiao said, ‘I need to knock him out, no questions asked. Don’t leave it to the judges.’ Marquez said, ‘I must be intelligent.’ So what happened was big.”
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org