3. Sugar Ray Leonard
Almost as sweet as the original Sugar Man, Leonard’s boyish looks and flashy skills belied his courage and toughness. I travelled with British hope Dave ‘Boy’ Green for his 1980 Washington clash with Leonard and was dazzled at ringside by the champ’s sublime skills.
After demolishing Dave in the fourth round, Ray approached Yours Truly – the obligatory Limey in a cowboy hat – waved a gleaming coin in my face and beamed: “That’s me, bright as a dime – tell ‘em back home.”
It took poor Green a long time to recover from that shot. In fact, he confessed in the immediate aftermath to having no recollection of the fight taking place. He was walking and talking, but still out cold with concussion.
Leonard, a former Olympic gold medallist, had much tougher tests – and passed them all.
He made the mistake of allowing Roberto Duran’s antics and insults to rile him and threw the game-plan out of the window, electing to stand toe-to-toe with the Panamanian slugger. He paid the price for his bravado, losing the Montreal epic on decision.
In the countdown to that classic encounter, Leonard recalls spotting Duran on the other side of the street. He nodded. Duran scowled and, as the Americans say, “showed him the finger”. Mrs Duran, walking a few steps behind her husband, did the same. “Those Durans,” he said, “they’re just crazy.”
Leonard’s revenge was emphatic. He showboated and taunted the Latin American idol in the November 1980 return until Duran’s pride could take no more. He quit in the eighth.
Duran also beat Wilfred Benitez and unified the world titles by halting Tommy Hearns in a 1981 battle of undefeated greats.
Sugar Ray v Sugar Ray… now that would be a superfight to savour.