In the beginning, people appreciated Ray Leonard’s talent but it’s fair to say his heart was questioned.
Borrowing the name Sugar Ray from Sugar Ray Robinson also seemed a bit presumptuous. After all, Robinson was considered one of the finest boxers in history and Leonard, when he first got started, wasn’t seen that way at all.
That would change eventually as Leonard defined his greatness with stunning fights against Thomas Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and, perhaps most of all, Roberto Duran.
Leonard had two welterweight belts by the time they fought and one excellent fight against Wilfred Benitez. Duran was a different cup of tea though.
In the first fight, Leonard fought Duran’s style and lost. He also lost some credibility.
The second was entirely different.
Duran at that point was considered a near-lethal fighter with the nickname “Hands of Stone.” After the first fight, he said Leonard must have heart and “that’s why he’s still living.”
If the first fight was solid, the second was legend.
Leonard went back to his strengths, sticking and moving.
By the seventh round, Leonard began to actively humiliate the most feared boxer in the world, taunting Duran in a way no one imagined possible. During the broadcast, Howard Cosell openly worried that Leonard was courting disaster but Leonard was ridiculously confident, winding up a fake bolo punch, sticking his chin out and shuffling like Muhammad Ali.
And in the eighth round, Duran, considered pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world, said “No Más” and quit.
It was an unbelievable moment in sports history and understandably, Leonard exulted.
After that and some of his other legendary fights, Leonard may have surpassed Robinson as a boxer.