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Sugar Ray Leonard’s Greatest Hits

IS Sugar Ray Leonarad the best fighter since the late 1970s? Dougie thinks so. Photo: THE RING Archive

“I’m sitting in my gym now and up on my wall there are photos in chronological order: from the Olympics to my fight with Hagler. I’m like, man, that’s pretty damn cool.” – Sugar Ray Leonard

Former five-weight world champion Sugar Ray Leonard reflects on five victories which helped solidify him as one of the greatest fighters of all time.


Date: November 30, 1979

Location: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Titles: THE RING and WBC welterweight

Result: Won TKO15

“I was a determined young man and I fought at a higher level than what my experience suggested I could. Benitez was such an incredible fighter. He was a smart boxer, a counter-puncher, a defensive fighter — he had it all. I just had a bit more inner strength. There are certain things you can’t teach a fighter. You can’t teach heart and you can’t teach speed. There are so many mental, psychological and spiritual things. I found out that I had those things in the Benitez fight, and what I had to do was control them.”


Date: November 25, 1980

Location: Superdome, New Orleans

Titles: THE RING and WBC welterweight

Result: Won RTD8

“The fight bothered me for a long time. People would just say Duran quit but they should be asking why he quit. The truth still hasn’t been put out there by Roberto. I understand it, because as fighters, as champions, we have this machismo, this image, that we don’t quit. (Duran) threw his arms up in frustration without realizing the ramifications. It’s like a person who’s unhappy with their life jumping off a bridge and half way down they say to themselves, ‘I should have gone to a therapist’. How can a man like Duran, a champion, a legend, turn around and say he quit because he was frustrated?”


Date: September 16, 1981

Location: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Titles: THE RING, WBA and WBC welterweight

Result: Won TKO14

“I was able to make things happen. I was behind on points but there were three more rounds to go and I still had a chance. I never gave up. Did I think about giving up? It was a 15-round fight, my left eye was closed and it was over 100 degrees in the ring. I remember, vividly, Angelo saying, ‘You’re blowing it’ and that was the perfect soundbite. You tell me to up the pace, to throw more punches, and I will do it.”


Date: April 6, 1987

Location: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Titles: THE RING and WBC middleweight

Result: Won SD12

“I got my mental strength back when I finally stepped in the ring with Hagler. You have to convince yourself… no… you have to believe that you can win. All of a sudden, I’m in that ring and I’m asking myself, ‘Can I do this?’ Talking is one thing. Training hard is another thing. Being great is another thing. In the ring, you have to perform. It wasn’t until I threw my first punch that I knew, for sure, that I could win. When we announced the fight, I didn’t say anything that would piss him off. People would refer to Hagler as a puncher and I told them that was an insult. I’d tell them that he’s a much better boxer than you give him credit for. That was planting a seed and then at the final press conference, Hagler said, ‘I might surprise all of you and outbox Ray.’ That was a mistake.”


Date: November 7, 1988

Location: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Titles: WBC super middleweight and WBC light heavyweight

Result: Won TKO9

“He hurt me so many times but this is where experience comes into play. Donny hadn’t been in with the same level of competition. When he knocked me down (in the fourth round) I wasn’t hurt at all. I was more surprised. I got up, looked in his eyes and I could see that he wanted to get me out of there. But he missed shots and if you go back, it’s probably in the ninth round, where I hit him with a body punch and I knew I had him. (After the stoppage) one of my corner men, Juice, came over and grabbed me and I was so revved up that I pushed him out the way. Someone said to me afterwards, “Ray, you pushed Juice away like you hated him”. That’s the kind of fighter I was. The killer instinct was still inside me at that moment. When I hurt someone, I’m on them with a vengeance. I’m not the same guy when you meet me. I’m totally opposite from that but (in a fight) I go for it.”

Sugar Ray Leonard will be the subject of our “Best I Faced” feature in the August issue of RING magazine. The Hall-of-Famer will separate his stellar competition into 10 key categories.



Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for and a member of THE RING ratings panel.  Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

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