‘Sugar Ray Leonard is the most exciting fighter I’ve seen – he had it all’

If you are looking for a superstar from history to showcase what boxing is all about, Sugar Ray Leonard would be the one for me.

He believes he is the best there has ever been. He has an argument. Certainly no one since him has demonstrated the same all-round capabilities at world level.

Blinding speed, exceptional balance, power, chin, heart, ­intelligence, ego – Leonard had it all.

Light-welterweight gold at the Montreal Olympics trailed his exceptional talent. Cuban ­Andres Aldama KO’d his way to the final.

But Leonard outboxed him, dropped him, and was on the point of stopping it, when the fight ended with Aldama receiving a standing count and Leonard the Olympic title.

Afterwards he announced his immediate retirement to “go to school” as he put it, ­accepting a place at the University of Maryland. ­Retirement would become a feature of his career.

In this case, life intervened. With two parents in poor health and a baby to support, Leonard turned pro in 1977.

In 1979, he won the North American welterweight title, battering Pete Ranzany in four. Three months later, he fought ­Wilfred ­Benitez for the WBC welterweight crown.

Benitez was special, the youngest world champion at 17, and undefeated. Leonard made it look easy in the ­opening rounds, dropping ­Benitez in the third.

Then ‘El Radar’ went to work making Leonard miss like never before.

It was even thereafter until the 15th when Leonard landed with an uppercut and ­eventually forced the referee to step in.

In his first defence, he whacked Dave Boy Green with a show-reel KO, jab, and two rapid shots to create space, then a left hook that would have knocked out a horse.

Leonard’s hands went up like Muhammad Ali’s over Sonny ­Liston. Incredibly, within seven months, he would lose the title to Roberto Duran. Sugar Ray wanted to beat Duran at his own game, close up and dangerous.

Leonard was badly wobbled in the second, but refused to change tack. Afterwards, Duran ­acknowledged ­Leonard was the best he had fought. “He does have a heart,” Duran said. “That’s why he is living.”

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