I’ve had been on a Sugar Ray Leonard kick lately, going to YouTube.com and watching some of the old footage. The other day I was watching ESPN late night and I caught a typical ESPN boxing show. RingSide: Sugar Ray Leonard. It was midnight. I was ready to go to sleep, but, I was just caught in a web. I had to watch it. It was the RINGSIDE: Sugar Ray Leonard. It started at midnight and ended at three a.m.
Okay, I know you die hards know that this was taped backed in 2007. My response is-who cares? I had never seen it. I just saw it and it revealed so much to me. ESPN Classic always shows the same fights and the same fighters. Ali, Tyson, Joe Louis, etc. I love all of those fights, but I’ve seen them so many times. How many times have you seen Mike Tyson’s Greatest Hits I and II? It gets a little redundant after a while.
As a life long fan of Sugar Ray Leonard, it was fantastic, this a great episode of ringside. It showed video of so much good footage of Ray in his early fights. These are fights that you usually don’t see. A first round knockout of the Daniel Gonzalez, who had never been stopped and came into the fight with a 52-2 record. Fight footage of Ray vs. Willie Rodriguez in his second professional bout. It was a six rounder and it showed that Ray had to battle to beat these guy for the full six rounds. These guys weren’t just tomato cans. The next footage they showed was Ray vs. Adolfo Viruet in April of 1979, and then Ray vs. Pete Ranzany for the NABF welterweight title in August of 1979. It was pretty amazing to see how great Ray handled these guys. Keep in mind that Ray, although an Olympic champion, was challenging fighters who were veterans and a handful of them had over forty fights. Ray had seen international competition. He was prepared for these guys and handled them accordingly. This was all due to Angelo Dundee. Although Dave Jacobs and Janks Morton were in Rays corner from the beginning, it was Angelo Dundee’s duty to select Rays opponents.
Did you know that Ray fought a guy named Bernardo Prada on November 3rd, 1978 at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine? Ray came in at 146 lbs and won a unanimous decision.
Don’t get me wrong, not all of Ray’s fights were memorable. However, in today’s standards, any Sugar Ray Leonard fight would be televised by some big network.
The interesting thing about the special on ESPN was that Ray was there, interviewed in person. Bert Randolph Sugar was there, and they also brought in Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini. I love Boom Boom.
Nonetheless, it was a great show. Brian Kenny was the host. They literally walked through all of Rays career. They watched footage of each fight, then asked questions to Ray in regard to how he was feeling and what his thoughts were going into each fight. It was a total luxury for me, a long life Ray Leonard fan, to see and hear about footage of Ray Leonard fights. To me, Leonard is why I love boxing. Look at his fights. What a fighter. He was so great to watch.
Ultimately, Ringside focused on Ray’s first WBC Welterweight Championship fight with Wilfred Benitez. This fight was a fast paced fight, almost always characterized as ‘high speed chess’. Wilfred was a master boxer who was only twenty-one years old at the time and had won his first world title at the age of seventeen. The fight between Ray and Wilfred was pretty great. It was Ray’s first 15 round fight and he won it on pure skill and heart. Ray stated that after he won the fight, but he had to be taken to the hospital after the fight due to dehydration.
The remaining part of Ray’s career is pretty well publicized. The Duran fights in 1980. The first Hearns fight in 1981 which was the pinnacle of Ray’s career. The retirements, the Hagler fight in 1987, and the endless comebacks which finally ended in 1997 against Hector Camacho.
If you ever get a chance and see this episode of Ringside, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.