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Sugar Ray Leonard: ‘I can’t compare Golovkin to Hagler. That’s too much too soon’

Old rivals. Sugar Ray Leonard (right) with Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Photo by THE RING Archive
06
Dec

It’s been 20 years since Sugar Ray Leonard threw down in a professional prizefight, but the sport which gave him immortality still courses through his veins.

When something significant happens in boxing, Leonard knows about it and when a fighter has a new experience at elite level, chances are that the former five-weight world champion has been there and done it.

Leonard can therefore identify with unified middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin.

In the early 1980s, as undisputed welterweight champion, Leonard was arguably the finest pound-for-pound fighter in a boxing world full of fistic beasts. His desire to be the best was insatiable and he took on all comers.

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Meanwhile, the fighter known as “GGG” was recently anointed as THE RING’s pound-for-pound king. In March, Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 knockouts) floored Danny Jacobs on his way to securing a tight unanimous decision victory. Then, in September, the power punching Kazakhstani was held to a controversial draw by Mexican rival Canelo Alvarez.

“The Sugar Man” was watching.

“Golovkin reminds me of (Marvelous Marvin) Hagler,” said Leonard after some deliberation. “He has that ambidextrous quality of having power in both hands and just looks to dominate the opposition.

“I can’t compare him to Marvin (in terms of legacy) right now. That’s too much too soon, but I love what I see in GGG. He has a lot of heart, but it’s his natural power that you can’t teach. You can teach leverage, but you’re born with those heavy hands. (Roberto) Duran was heavy-handed. Hagler was heavy-handed. Earnie Shavers was heavy-handed. George Foreman was heavy-handed. They just have those fists.”

Having been involved in some of the greatest showdowns in boxing history, Leonard has huge expectations when something is billed as a superfight. Canelo-GGG provided plenty of high-quality action, but was it enough to satisfy a boxing legend who holds epic victories over Thomas Hearns, Duran and Hagler.

“It wasn’t completely what I anticipated, but most fights don’t live up to expectations,” said Leonard. “I just felt that they both respected each other a little too much. Canelo usually has great combinations and when GGG gets going, he’ll blow you away. I didn’t really see any of those things in that fight. It was a good fight, but it wasn’t what it could have been.

“In a rematch, I’d say it’s advantage GGG. I thought GGG deserved the decision in the first fight because in the early rounds, Canelo was just moving. You can move but you have to be active when you’re moving.”

Despite the fact that Golovkin was pushed close in his last two outings, Leonard believes that the 35-year-old veteran has earned his stripes. The legendary ex-champion pointed to the chilling 23-fight knockout streak and Golovkin’s remarkable consistency since bursting on to the world scene in 2010.

“He deserves his day in this era,” said Leonard as though stating the obvious. “That’s the thing that we have to make clear. In my era, I was one of the top guys, right? Muhammad Ali was the best in his era. Sugar Ray Robinson was the best in his era. Joe Louis was the best in his era. For this era, Golovkin is one of the best. But, you can’t tell people how great you are. You have to show them.

“But times have changed. There’s social media now and everyone is looking for instant gratification. That goes with my kids and your kids, but it also goes with the fighters. It’s not wrong to do that because it’s there. The downside is that fighters don’t fight the way they used to. They don’t continually look to up the caliber of the opposition. Sure, when you turn pro, you take fights that you should win but, at some point, you’ve got to raise the bar. At some point, you’ve got to take a chance.”

Leonard took chances and he will be hoping that THE RING’s latest pound-for-pound No. 1 continues to do so.

 

To read Part 1 of Tom Gray’s feature story on Sugar Ray Leonard just Click Here


Tom Gray is Associate Editor for THE RING. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

 

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  • TMT NYC-DA REAL GHOSTBUSTERS

    GGG stands for Great Great Great? You decide!

    • Julio

      GGG has certainly been a dominant champion all things considered, but doesn’t really have the proverbial “signature win” that define the true greats.

  • Gian Torres

    Tom Gray
    You have a lying heart for not specifying what you meant by “the power-puncher Kazakhstani was held to a controversial draw by Mexican rival Canelo Alvarez.” It was controversial because Adelaide Byrd scored too one sided for Canelo and not because it was a draw. I believe that your intent is to give the impression that the draw was controversial, which it wasn’t. That’s a scumbag move. Shame on you.

    • Tom Gray

      Mr. Gray. And behave yourself.

      • Gian Torres

        Tom Gray
        I’ll cool off and give you respect but we still have to fight either now or when my website comes up soon. Mexican fighters work hard all their lives to make a living
        in their profession just like you did. It’s not right that white writers
        want to undermine them so they can say that the *DEAD* white
        fighters from yesteryear are better than the Mexican fighters of
        today. Tom, yesteryear’s white fighters are freakin’ dead!!! Put your ego aside and let Mexican fighters make their money
        to feed their kids like you do. We’re not inanimate stage props in the theater of your lives. Otherwise you should be denied the ability to make money like you do to us. Lastly, Today’s Mexican fighters are better than yesteryear’s white fighters but that doesn’t mean that Mexicans are better fighters than whites it’s just that…
        1) Their aren’t too many white men that are in the flyweight to lightweight divisions in which Mexicans fight
        2) the talent pool of white fighters was depleted from 1900-1970 because of WWI, the great depression, WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars and P.T.S.D.

        3) the U.S. population was smaller than today’s and it was a lot more rural and less people had cars so a lot less people had access to a boxing gym.

        Be honorable. Be fair.

        • Tom Gray

          My . . . what an absolutely absurd response. You have a great imagination!

          • JV316

            i think we just found the perfect replacement for teddy atlas…

          • Tom Gray

            😂😂😂 Wish I’d thought of that! Genius! 👊😉

          • JV316

            LOL a serious void must be filled if espn really has given ol’ teddy the boot

          • Turner Wednesday

            I’ll now read every future post of this nutbar in Teddy’s voice. Do it! It makes them far more entertaining.

            By the way, WTF is he on about!?!?!

          • Gian Torres

            LOL! OK, Your vague statement that “the power-puncher Kazakhstani was held to a controversial draw” seems like suspicious weasel words. You may or may not be saying the draw was controversial and at the same time you’re giving yourself an out because you can weasel out and say you weren’t referring to the result as controversial but to Byrd’s score. I’m calling you out here.. were you referring to the result as controversial or were you referring to Byrd’s score?

          • Tom Gray

            You’re not reasonable enough to take seriously pal. You’re also hell bent on painting me as racist when all you’re really doing is reflecting your own racist tendencies. I’m Scottish and have no agenda whatsoever. Why should I care who wins? Oh, that’s right, I’m white. You’re stuck in a time warp with your head up your ass.

          • Keano

            I’ll engage with you. You’re talking absolute bollocks. Fuck off to Boxing news 24 or something

          • Keano

            PS GGG clearly beat Canyellow

          • Gian Torres

            Oh, the amateurss trying to assist you won’t engage me directly. They are trying to assist you with peer pressure but with no substance. That shows you that they know me and they know who’s the boss. LOL!

        • Stephen M

          Nearly everyone thought that GGG won. That would make a draw controversial.

          Is Canelo having a tough time feeding his kids? Maybe he should sell that stupid truck of his… Just a thought.

        • Charlie U.

          After writing that whole thing, you should at least like your own comment so you get one. No one else has any idea what you’re talking about.

          • Dee Money

            I dunno where this guy came from but I’d just stay away.

            He made some post the other day about how fast fighters have less stamina than others. I asked him about it and he went and edited the whole thing, then called me out about how I don’t understand the nuances of his post about illegal holding.

          • Gian Torres

            More cheap personal attacks and a lie. I left that dialogue because you lost because you failed to respond. LOL!

          • Gian Torres

            I forced Tom Gray to eat his weasle words and concede that he had the Canelo-GGG fight for GGG BY ONLY ONE POINT so I got what I want. LOL!

          • Tom Gray

            My score was “conceded” via podcast and via this website within hours of the fight taking place. However, I do not have the monopoly on the truth and neither do you. Consensus among fans (of varying ethnicity) is that GGG won the fight. If it makes you feel better to suggest all those fans were “white”, then that’s up to you. I was in the arena and Canelo was roundly booed after the decision. I take it the entire crowd was white too? There’s no shame in admitting you’re being stupid here. I hope you find peace. You need it!

            PS I “officially” picked Canelo to win.

          • Keano

            It’s almost like this guy doesn’t realise that Canelo is white….. if anything white UK fans would support Canelo (More traditionally white looking, ginger hair etc) than someone from Kazakhstan in the Middle East (For obvious reasons)

          • Keano

            Barley in disguise

          • Left Hook2

            Barley is far more intelligent than that guy.

    • Left Hook2

      And Don Trella scored the best round of GGG’s for Canelo. No controversy here…

      • Tom Gray

        I scored 115-114 GGG from inside the arena. Personally, I had no issue with the draw, but consensus ruled that the result was controversial. I was just stating facts and I’m a scumbag lol. You gotta love it!

        • ozzy

          I couldn’t understand how Canelo won rounds where he barely threw a connecting punch, he did well to avoid GGG’s shots, but how did he win the rounds by barely connecting?
          Vegas judges have embarrassed themselves in this fight & in Kovalev – Ward I and yet Bob Bennett denies there’s a problem – imho he should be sacked if he really thinks that.

          • James Anastasia

            I had no problem with the decision in the Kovalov-Ward fight. .It was that close. Could’ve went either way!

        • Left Hook2

          And I had it 8-4 from inside the arena. GGG couldn’t miss that big noggin’ with his jab. And….I hope you notice how soundly Canelo was booed when he was shown on the overhead screen. Booed by the 20K fans who cheered like fangirls before the bout. That is all the proof anyone should need as to who one that bout.

          • Tom Gray

            Yes. I’ve heard 8-4 and 9-3 for GGG and I mentioned the booing in a prior post. This has all kicked off because I mentioned that the fight/ result was controversial in the article. Despite the fact that I had it closer, I fully acknowledge that it was controversial.

      • ceylon mooney

        the fix is STILL in. byrds joka was a distraction.

    • ceylon mooney

      the result was a robbery. the 114-114 was an atrocity, and that judge should be suspended. byrds score was a joke.

  • Dee Money

    Its funny that people won’t compare GGG to Hagler yet. By the time Hagler was GGG’s current age Hagler had been retired for over a year.

    I think you can compare the two, and Hagler comes out better. I am a huge GGG fan, he is a surefire HOFer, and ranks as an all time MW; just not quite up to Hagler-unless of course he has a late career resurgence, but then again we can always re-evaluate him after that.

    • Pit bull

      Age has nothing to it. Look how many fights each had . Hagler many hard fights before he won the title . Also , back then they trained for 15 rds , they burned out earlier in most cases .!

      • Dee Money

        Doesnt mean you can’t compare them “YET”, as if there is something left for GGG to do to be able to make the comparison. You can easily make a comparison now, GGG is who he is compare away.

        • Pit bull

          Talking about age .!

          • Dee Money

            I get that, but I think we can agree that at his current age GGG is no longer at his peak. I utilized the comparison to Hagler at this age to show that. Now clearly Hagler had more miles on him at that age because the sport was different back then.

            Still, seeing as how old GGG is (and that at his age it would be silly to assume some sort of renaissance or new and improved GGG), then we could make a comparison to Hagler.

            Making a comparison doesnt mean that we say he is better, but rather pointing out similarities (two MW champs, HOF careers, etc)

          • Julio

            Hagler certainly had the better career and fought much better opposition. But in a head to head, both at their peak, I can’t really pick a winner.

          • James Anastasia

            I’ll go with the Marvelous one!!

          • george lee

            Me too but it would have been a hell of a battle with Marvin winning a close decision

          • Julio

            Yes, I can’t fault you for believing that. Hagler was an all time great and one of my favorite fighters ever. But they are so equally matched up. And as great of a shot Hagler could take, GGG can take and even better one. A fight BOTH guys would have relished.

          • James Anastasia

            Don’t believe ggg has been in the ring with anything like “the beast” Magube!!

          • Julio

            Mugabi was a tough customer indeed, and gave Hagler the toughest fight of his career. But again, if you can’t hurt GGG, what do you do?

          • James Anastasia

            Everyone can be hurt my man! !There’s no such thing as superman!!

          • Julio

            My friend. I am talking about facts. Dude has never been even remotely hurt in a fight so far. Everyone can be hurt, that is a given, but the reality is that GGG has never been in that position.

          • Pietey Trenton

            The GGG that fought Murray… That guy had the feet of a waltzer, and the hands of a murderer, that was the best he ever proformed imo, that g destroys Jacobs, that g has canelo totally pinned to the ropes, that g gives hagler one hell of a fight….but unfortunately, I don’t think he exists anymore.

          • Julio

            That is what I am talking about. The best version of GGG I think gives Hagler more than a run for his money.

          • James Anastasia

            Plus I think Jacobs beat g in that bout!!

          • Getting knocked down, fighting in retreat and getting out landed equals winning boxing?

        • James Anastasia

          Well Hagler took on ALL challengers! !Triple G left one out there in pound for pound king Andre Ward!!!

          • Andy T

            I dont remember Hagler moving up to fight anyone fought all comers from the Welterweight division.

          • James Anastasia

            Andre Ward was at middleweight not too long ago when GGG handlers said he’d(bluffing) take on all comers!!Plus Hagler’s era had better comp back than!

          • Andy T

            Hagler left Michael Spinks to name 1

          • James Anastasia

            Well Spinks was never near middleweight fighting in the light heavyweight division! !So I seriously doubt that match could’ve been made back than! (don’t believe catch weights were being used)Now I misspoke on Ward. (Super middleweight )But Triple G didn’t want no problems with Ward! !Thats not what I read, that’s what g said out of his mouth! Look it up!

          • Keano

            You’re talking shite

          • James Anastasia

            Just look it up !!It’s on YouTube fanboy!!

          • Keano

            Can you please name me one time when they were in the same weight division or the fight was even close to being viable? Ward was out for about 3 years and then moved up to LHW to fight warm ups and then Kovalev. Firstly why would Golovkin wait to allow Ward 3 tune ups before fighting him, and why would Golovkin abandon his (repeatedly stated) ambition to unify the division to fight Ward? In a fight where he would most likely not even make any extra money as Ward couldn’t sell an ice cream in the Sahara desert, to then also be most likely cheated by Wards “style” (I use that term very losely, feel free to swap out for holding, headbutts, and low blows) and the judges.

          • Left Hook2

            Ward groupies/GGG haters do not like logic thrown at their imaginary ducking comments.

          • Keano

            I notice he hasn’t replied to me yet 😂

          • Left Hook2

            Do yourself a favor and educate yourself on the GGG-Ward timeline. You sound totally ignorant here, as the majority of these posters are educated and know what happened when, and why the fight did not happen.

          • James Anastasia

            I’ve noticed this over the years. .The masses(whiteboys) are so desperate to have someone to cheer for they look to the communist (russians)!!lol..They hate to see guys like mayweather(American)succeed and dominate the sport! !

          • Keano

            You have made so many incorrect assumptions in that comment that it’s quite frankly hilarious. Get back in your box shit cunt

          • Matthew Pearson

            When was he at Middleweight?

    • James Anastasia

      Even though Marvelous Marvin had long retired from the sport by triple g”s age,he had close to 3× the fights!!Not including 15round matches! !Can’t compare! !

  • Gian Torres

    Tom Gray, those yappy weirdos that amateurishly came to your defense are not your friends. They’ve always played the part of the hyenas and I the part of the lion. They are always in my periphery yapping and being sneaky and occasionally even take a snip at me but they know better than to confront me head on. LOL! I love that description of my relationship to them. I’m outa here!

    • Tom Gray

      Mr. Gray!!! It seems kind of strange that I have to ask you TWICE.

  • Pit bull

    The way GG was coughing his lungs up in the Jacobs n Canelo fights , no way on gods green earth GG lasts 15 rds with hagler ..!

    • Teddy Reynoso

      I dare say GGG could hit Hagler with everything excluding his corner stool and Marvin would not be in trouble of being knocked out. But Hagler would be a knockout threat to him from the opening till the final bell. Could Gennady outbox him? I doubt that too because Hagler like Liston had underrated boxing skills. Hagler will definitely take the fight to Gennady and for the first time Gennady will be forced to take the defensive and fight on back pedal in which he will be ineffective.

      • Pit bull

        Couldn’t agree more . Good points . I’m not convinced with GGs standing yet . We have to wait a bit longer to see what GG finishs with . Jacobs n Canelo have taken away that myth that GG is a killer .

        • Teddy Reynoso

          I have yet to see in Gennady the one punch quitter that Hagler and the likes of Jackson and even Sugar Ray Robinson possessed in their arsenal.

          • Julio

            Nobuhiro Ishida… Macklin.

      • Left Hook2

        The great thing for us fans is that it would be a FIGHT, not a box on the backfoot posefest like Jacobs or a combo and flee like Canelo. GGG has some serious skills and power, but if I had to bet with my money, it would be on the Marvelous one.

        • Teddy Reynoso

          Gennady would be at backfoot against Hagler.

          • Left Hook2

            Perhaps. I see a shoulder-to-shoulder battle of attrition.

          • Dee Money

            If by “be on his back foot” you mean Hagler would be the dominant force and dictate where Golovkin went, then I think that could be possible.

            If you mean that Golovkin would be tentative and Hagler the aggressor I’d disagree. Hagler was one of the most diverse fighters ever, and outside of a couple big name fights he tended to let his opponents go first and then he would counter.

            I think Hagler would welcome GGG coming forward and then counter him, but he’d allow GGG to be on the front foot.

          • Julio

            No. GGG would be right in front of him as it is his custom, but would make it a tactical fight both matching wits seeking to employ their own strengths. Hagler would try to make it a war of attrition, while GGG would press the action with his footwork to create openings. GGG is not really an inside fighter. He gets in close to pick the offense from the opponent to mount his own offense. Hagler would seek to trade in close, GGG would jockey for position inside and let Hagler go to work. GGG would work in between Hagler’s shots. In the end would be more of a matter of stamina, conditioning, and guts.

        • Julio

          Of course Hagler is the safe bet. If my life depended on it, I would go with the more proven, battle tested Hagler. But I also realize that GGG has enough tools to make the night very miserable for Hagler too.

      • Julio

        We can’t make those assumptions. Hagler is certainly one of the greatest ever, but he was officially off his feet once, and was stunned by Hearns. GGG has never been even wobbled in a fight, pro bout or otherwise, let alone knockdown. I could see Hagler barely outworking GGG ala Mugabi, but I doubt neither guy would be the same after that.

        • Teddy Reynoso

          That’s not an assumption. You think Gennady could have survived those bombs thrown by Hearn at Hagler?

          • Julio

            Yes I do. Dude has never been hurt in his entire career. He has been hit flushed several times by power hitters and guy don’t even blink.

        • Matthew Pearson

          He has been wobbled as a pro

    • Julio

      Still, if that was the case, they didn’t do go for it, and failed to grab the fight by the throat. I wonder why.

  • Teddy Reynoso

    Can’t compare GGG to Hagler given the type of competition they have prior to and during their championship reign. In fact, I
    am hard pressed to find the closest comparison among the top fighters Gennady has fought to those Hagler had met in his time as Briscoe, Monroe, Antoufermo, Hearn, Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard himself. Hagler simply has had better to superior competition.

  • Mark Schoeman

    The “boxing world” would be a much more enjoyable place to reside if people listened to Ray and stopped ranking fighters across different eras…of course the silly pound-for-pound debates would remain, with folks using phony objectivity in a 100% subjective argument…but if folks stopped arguing cross-generation, where old is invariably favored versus new, boxing fans would be way more enjoyable to be around.

    • Teddy Reynoso

      Hagler’s era is not that distant. The edge that older fans like me is that we have seen Hagler and his competition hence we are in the position to say if he is better than GGG. I believe Hagler is indeed superior to Gennady. In fact, Sugar Ray said as much and he is right for he has seen and fought the man.

  • Dee Money

    For some reason many people think that “not being able to compare” GGG to Hagler means that GGG is nowhere near Hagler’s level. It doesn’t mean that, heck there are about 20 comparisons and contrasts below. Most compare Hagler favorably, but they still compare.

  • Dee Money

    I would pay money just to watch the footwork in a fight between prime GGG and prime Hagler. Despite the beliefs of some that Hagler was just a brawler with a granite chin, he was very smart at moving, countering, and controlling distance. Compare that with GGG who is a master of cutting off the ring.

    • Ерлан Табылдиев

      Agreed. I would also love to watch prime Hagler vs prime GGG battle. Even if GGG had been defeated, there would be no shame in that loss cause Hagler is one of the truly greats and also one of GGG’s idols. )

    • Julio

      Hagler was craftier than he was given credit for, just like Duran was. But his natural tendency was to brawl. GGG obviously has the footwork, but also a good sense of distance. In this fight, I think GGG’s footwork would be key, but more about positioning and establishing the right separation between the two. Hagler would be right in front of him dying to trade, that would make this one hell of a fight.