Monday, November 28, 2022  |


Leonard vs. Pacquiao? Roach picks Ray


HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — One thing boxing writers love about Freddie Roach is that he’s a straight shooter, even at the expense of his own fighters.

Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard said recently that he would’ve beaten the current king of boxing, Manny Pacquiao, who is Roach’s prize pupil. Roach agrees with Leonard even if he was somewhat critical of him.

“It’s hard for me to pick my own guy,” he said standing next to the ring in his gym as Pacquiao loosened before a workout for the media on Wednesday. “Sometimes when people ask me who was the greatest fighter ever, I say Sugar Ray Leonard. He could’ve been. But he stayed around too long. You gotta count that as part of his career. He got beat by some ordinary guys at the end.”

But if they fought when both were at their best?

“I pick Leonard,” Roach said. “They’re equal in the speed factor. Leonard was maybe a little better counter puncher, though. That’s the key, because Manny would have to attack him. Manny couldn’t lay back and counter him. I think (Leonard) was a little more intelligent in that factor.”

And the difference in size?

“That’s a big factor, too,” Roach said. “Ray is, what, 5-10?”

Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, walked up at that moment and Roach asked him the same question: “Who would win, Leonard or Manny?”

Arum: “Manny. Why I know that pretty much for a fact is that I was around Ray. The one guy he and his people wouldn’t want to fight was who?”

Roach: “Aaron Pryor.”

Arum: “And who does Manny most resemble?”

Roach: “Aaron Pryor.”

Arum: “I rest my case.”

Arum also thinks that Leonard would’ve beaten Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“I don’t think he lets Mayweather bullsÔÇöt him,” he said. “Ray was an extremely smart fighter. And he had the firepower and speed to handle Mayweather. I don’t even make it a contest. ÔǪ Floyd would have nothing to hurt Ray with. Ray was smart, he knew how to move.

“Ray would’ve destroyed Mayweather.”

Pacquiao is scheduled to fight Joshua Clottey on March 13 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on pay per view.

Extra effort: Some boxers are content to win fights, which obviously is the principal objective in the sport. Pacquiao is different, which is one reason he has become so popular.

“For me, being a fighter, I have a big responsibility ÔǪ to give a good fight, more action for the people” he said. “I always worry about my performance in every fight. I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, that was a boring fight.’ I want them to be satisfied.

“Like us, if we’re watching a boxing match, of course we want a good fight.”

Roach feels the same way.

He was asked whether Pacquiao must be spectacular against Clottey because that's what people now expect from him.

“Manny has to be spectacular,” he said. “He’s definitely set the bar high for himself. My fighters, if they’re ahead, I don’t tell them to take it easy. I say do your job and finish this guy. We’re gonna finish with a splash, that’s for sure.”

Is the idea to build a fighter’s reputation?

“Right,” he said. “When Manny fought (Marco Antonio) Barrera the second time, I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you knock this guy out?’ He says, ‘I didn’t want to embarrass the guy.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but it will affect your next payday. You’re job is to knock these guys out.’

“With Oscar (De La Hoya), I said to him in the corner, ‘Manny, you pulled up that last round. Your job is to knock him out so do it.’ And he did.”

Pacquiao defeated Barrera by a one-sided decision in 2007 but stopped De La Hoya after eight rounds the following year.