History

On this Day: Sugar Ray Leonard and Wilfred Benitez engage in intense staredown before enthralling fight

Sugar Ray Leonard
Holly Stein/Allsport
Sugar Ray Leonard wins his first world title against legendary Puerto Rican

SUGAR RAY LEONARD w rsf 15 WILFRED BENITEZ
Nov 30, 1979; Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV
IN the first world title fight of his career, Leonard challenged two-weight titlist Benitez for the WBC welterweight crown. The champion got off to a bad start when he was knocked down by a rapier jab in the third round. This setback seemed to spark him into life, as from the fourth onwards he began to make Leonard miss. However, a nasty cut brought about by a clash of heads in round six did not aid Benitez’s cause. The two supreme stylists cancelled each other out for much of the contest, but Leonard landed the better shots overall. The 15th and final frame was the most action-packed of the fight, with a Leonard left dropping Benitez to one knee. Upon the resumption, a follow-up attack from Leonard led the referee to halt the bout with just six seconds left.  

DID YOU KNOW? The boxers’ combined purse of $2.2m made this the richest non-heavyweight fight in history at the time.

WATCH OUT FOR: The intense staredown that the two fighters engage in ahead of the first bell. The nose-to-nose face-off seems to last an age.

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