Manny Pacquiao is in “the most important fight of his life, period,” said Sugar Ray Leonard of the former titleholder’s Nov. 23 clash with Brandon Rios.
Pacquiao has lost two straight, first giving up the WBO 147-pound belt following a split-decision loss to Tim Bradley, then losing by sixth-round knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez, which left him out cold on the canvas for about a minute. That was over 11 months ago.
“This is the most important fight of his life, period, for Manny Pacquiao coming off of a major loss. And you can put a capitol ‘M’ for major. These last two were fights that he was scheduled to win, and I can understand it, but it’s all psychological,” said Leonard, speaking to RingTV.com on Friday.
“Especially with that last one against Marquez, because when a fighter gets knocked out in that fashion, it can become an Achilles heel if he let’s it. So, more than anything, physically, I think that Manny will be okay. But the next question is his mental stability. How secure is that?”
Leonard can relate to the challenges Pacquiao might be facing.
In April of 1987, Leonard ended a more than three-year ring absence by defeating Marvin Hagler for the WBC’s middleweight title by 12-round split decision.
However, “five days before the fight, my sparring partner, Quincy Taylor, nearly knocked me out in training,” said Leonard, adding, “I mean, I was out, man — out on my feet.”
“How did I get over that? You know what? That’s a very good question in relationship to Pacquiao. What happened was that I nearly got knocked out by Quincy Taylor, and I knew that I was almost knocked out, and I knew that I got hit,” said Leonard.
“So I knew that Marvin Hagler was the total opposite, and that I was going to be facing an even greater destruction machine in that fight. What I knew was that I just couldn’t let anything close to that happen again against Hagler. I went into the ring against Hagler knowing that I had to be totally confident. I was actually more confident because I knew that I could fix that. I could fix that thing. That’s a very similar situation to the one that Pacquiao’s in.”
Can Pacquiao fix it?
“That’s a good question, but, yes. The mind can do a lot of things. The mind is very powerful,” said Leonard. “But that all depends on Manny Pacquiao. No one really knows where he is, mentally and psychologically, but Manny Pacquiao.”
Photo: THE RING-Getty Images
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org