Thanks to its exhilarating nature and dramatic moments, boxing is one of the world’s most popular sports today, capturing audiences worldwide. This is evident in its high-stake matches, substantial media coverage and massive betting action. Throughout the sport’s history, a few names are the greatest of all time, having displayed sheer excellence and class inside the ring. One such boxer is Sugar Ray Leonard.
Born May 17, 1956, Leonard showed exceptional skill, speed, and charisma throughout his illustrious career. From his early days as an Olympic gold medalist to becoming a world champion in five weight classes, the boxing legend delivered countless memorable moments, top 5 from which we will explore in this blog post.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs Roberto Durán I (June 20, 1980)
The first fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán, which took place at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada, was an iconic clash of two boxing titans. WBC and The Ring Champion Leonard, known for his quick footwork and dazzling hand speed, faced off against undisputed lightweight Champion Durán, a ferocious fighter from Panama. The highly anticipated bout, dubbed the “Brawl in Montreal,” lived up to its hype, with both fighters displaying exceptional skills.
With Leonard’s perfect 27–0 with 18 KO pre-fight record and Duran’s 71–1 with 56 KOs, both were exceptional fighters going into the clash. However, Durán pressed forward aggressively throughout the fight, throwing and landing more punches to achieve a 35% success rate. This helped him build a considerable lead ahead of Leonard, who had switched from his regular slick fighting style to go toe-to-toe.
Duran won the match unanimously after a tough back-and-forth bout for 15 rounds, and Leonard lost his titles. But this would change in their second meeting.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns I (September 16, 1981)
Next on our list is the legendary clash between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns. Dubbed the “The Showdown,” this super welterweight unification bout remains unforgettable in boxing history. In a fierce fifteen-rounder, Leonard (30-1 with 21 KO) battled Hearns (32-0 with 30 KO) for glory at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The fight was also famous for its massive viewership, with a live crowd of 23,618 fans and a global TV viewership of about 300 million.
Hearns used his deadly right jab to gain an early advantage, scoring well and threatening to end the fight prematurely. However, thanks to his resilience, Leonard mounted a remarkable comeback in the latter rounds, dropping Hearns with a furious combo of hits in the 13th round. In the 14th round, he unleashed another series of devastating punches, culminating in a stunning technical knockout victory over Hearns.
This victory was an iconic highlight in Leonard’s career, solidifying him as the undisputed world welterweight champion.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs Marvellous Marvin Hagler (April 6, 1987)
This middleweight championship bout at Caesars Palace was aptly dubbed the “Super Fight” and lived up to its billing. After a three-year retirement, Leonard challenged the dominant middleweight champion, Marvin Hagler, in a 12-round contest. Leonard and Hagler had pre-match records of 34-1 (24 KOs) and 62-2-2 (52 KOs), respectively, making them both top fighters in the sport and easily the most bettable options for the time. This may as well be true now for every fan that loves the thrill of gambling adrenaline and enjoys sports betting as much as playing slots with free spins no deposit in Canada.
Despite Hagler’s aggressive pursuit, Leonard maintained composure and employed a hit-and-move strategy, delivering fast combinations with his trademark speed. Also, Leonard would unleash a barrage of punches in the last 30 seconds of each round. This strategy helped him land 49% of his thrown punches (306 of 629), higher than Hagler’s 37% (291 out of 792).
At the end of the 12th round, Leonard won the judges’ favour in a split-decision victory. The outcome of this fight sparked controversy among boxing enthusiasts due to the lopsided scorecard of one of the three referees. Nevertheless, Sugar Ray Leonard’s triumphant return to the ring solidified his status as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Durán II (November 25, 1980)
The first encounter between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán saw the former lose his Welterweight Championship and WBC. However, their rematch in the same year, which became one of Leonard’s most memorable fights, was a different story. Billed as the Super Fight, the showdown occurred at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. As expected, the stakes were high as the boxing world awaited a definitive conclusion to their rivalry.
Sugar Ray Leonard entered the ring with a new game plan, using his signature speed to outmaneuver Durán. He also demonstrated remarkable footwork and precise combinations throughout the bout, frustrating his opponent.
After receiving a barrage of punches from Leonard in the eighth round, Durán unexpectedly turned away from his opponent and uttered “No Más,” signalling his surrender. This resulted in Leonard winning by TKO and reclaiming his WBC Welterweight Championship. This event stunned fans and pundits due to Durán’s fierceness and tenacity record. The fight later became famous as the “No Más” fight.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Wilfred Benítez (November 30, 1979)
The clash between Sugar Ray Leonard vs Wilfred Benítez was a highly anticipated showdown between two undefeated champions. With Leonard and Benítez having pre-fight records of 25–0 (17 KO) and 38–0–1 (25 KO), the contest between both prodigies was a rare phenomenon and lived up to its hype.
Leonard was known for his lightning-fast combinations and exceptional footwork, whilst the talented Puerto Rican boxer, Wilfred Benítez, possessed remarkable defensive skills and counter-punching ability.
The fight was a tactical and close one. However, Leonard unleashed a flurry of punches that left his opponent unable to mount a sufficient defence in the 15th and final rounds, prompting the referee to step in and declare a TKO victory in his favour. This impressive performance earned Leonard his first world titles — WBC and The Ring welterweight.
Sugar Ray Leonard’s top five memorable fights epitomize the essence of a boxing legend. Leonard’s skill, resilience, and charisma have left an indelible mark on the sport, from his triumphs over Roberto Durán to the epic battles with Thomas Hearns and Marvellous Marvin Hagler. His legacy will forever inspire future generations of boxers and fans worldwide.