Sugar Ray Leonard called Bernard Hopkins "an anomaly," wondered "what Manny Pacquiao has left," and said "you can never go against Floyd Mayweather" during a brief assessment of each of their upcoming fights with RingTV.com.
During a recent interview with Tom Gray of RingTV.com, Leonard also assessed THE RING's welterweight division.
Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 knockouts), who turned 35 in December, has an April 12 rematch with WBO welterweight beltholder Tim Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs), who dethroned Pacquiao by disputed split-decision in June 2012.
Since beating Pacquiao, Bradley had to rise from a 12th-round knockdown to secure a unanimous decision over Ruslan Provodnikov in March 2013 and earned a split decision victory over Juan Manuel Marquez last October.
After facing Bradley, Pacquiao was knocked out in the sixth round — the third stoppage loss of his career — in December 2012 by Marquez, against whom Pacquiao is 2-1-1.
Although Pacquiao rebounded from the two losses with November's unanimous decision over rising 140-pounder Brandon Rios, Bradley believes the eight-division titlewinner looked tentative in doing so.
"To be honest with you, I don't know who is going to win because I don't know what Manny Pacquiao has left," said Leonard of Pacquiao, who rode a 15-bout winning streak that included eight knockouts into his loss to Bradley.
"So that's what I'm waiting to see. But at the same time, I've heard and I've seen that Bradley is getting better, but it's great for boxing, put it that way."
On April 19, the 49-year-old Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs) put his IBF light heavyweight title up against that of 30-year-old WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs). Hopkins' goal is to get beyond Shumenov for further bouts against either RING and WBC 175-pound champion or perhaps WBO beltholder Sergey Kovalev.
In October, Hopkins unanimously decisioned Karo Murat in defense of the IBF belt he won from Tavoris Cloud in March, extending his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown.
Hopkins first set the record at the age of 46 by outpointing Jean Pascal for the WBC’s title in May 2011 before being dethroned in a majority-decision loss to Chad Dawson in April 2012.
Hopkins has already been an undisputed middleweight champion, having made a record 20 defenses of that belt. Hopkins reigned at 160 pounds from April 29, 1995, when he stopped Segundo Mercado in the seventh round to win the IBF's vacant title, to July 2005, when he was dethroned by Jermain Taylor following a split-decision.
"All that I can say about Hopkins is, 'Wow," said Leonard. "If there is anyone who can do that, then Bernard Hopkins can do that. He's an anomaly. He's special."
Mayweather (45-0, 26 KOs) ranks as THE RING's No. 1 fighter, pound-for-pound, and holds THE RING's junior middleweight championships as well as the WBC and WBA 154-pound belts.
Mayweather, who turned 37 in February, will defend his RING and WBC welterweight titles against WBA counterpart Marcos Maidana (35-3, 31 KOs) on May 3.
Mayweather was last in the ring in September, when he dethroned Canelo Alvarez for the RING and WBC 154-pound championships by majority decision. Fought on Showtime Pay Per View, Mayweather-Alvarez became the highest-grossing boxing event of all time with $150 million in revenue reported, eclipsing the $136 million earned by Mayweather’s 2007 victory over Oscar De La Hoya.
In May 2013, Mayweather unanimously decisioned Robert Guerrero in defense of the WBC 147-pound title he had earned by dethroning Victor Ortiz via fourth-round stoppage in September of 2011, cementing his status as RING welterweight champion as well. He scored a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto in May 2012, winning the WBA 154-pound title.
In his last fight in December, Maidana scored knockdowns in the second and eighth rounds of a unanimous decision that dethroned Adrien Broner for the WBA title.
"You can't go against Floyd. You just can never go against Floyd Mayweather," said Leonard. "But I want to see what a factor Maidana's power might be. There is always that puncher's chance, so these are the kinds of fights that the fans really anticipate."