Sugar Ray Leonard: The Closer

leonard14.05.07 - By Ted Sares: I was shocked. At stake were the WBC Light Heavyweight Title and Vacant WBC Super Middleweight boxing Title, and Donnie LaLonde was doing a number on Sugar Ray Leonard. The fight was being televised from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Novemebr 7, 1988.

BAM! Donnie put Ray down early in the first round with an overhand right and lifted his hands to salute the stunned crowd. Sugar was visibly shaken and went on the defensive as LaLonde pressed the attack. Ray looked dejected as he headed for his corner at the bell.

Donnie, the "Golden Boy" of Canada, who had climbed his way to the top by winning the light-heavyweight Canadian and world championships was throwing punches that had evil intention written all over them. Trading furious exchanges during the next several rounds, the fight appeared to be even, though LaLonde had tallied the knockdown in the first round.

Finally, toward the end of the seventh, Leonard started backing off Donnie with sharp counters and the tide turned almost imperceptibly. In the eighth, LaLonde landed some bruising lead rights and used his long pawing jab effectively to keep Ray off him.

Finally, “The Golden Boy” uncorked a volley of shots in the ninth and went for the kill, but Ray slowed him down with a crunching punch to the rib cage the power of which was generated by his unbelievable hand speed. Sugar Ray then mounted his own attack. After a vicious assault, Donnie hit the canvas and Ray, as is his wont, lifted his hands high. Inexplicitly and unwisely, referee Richard Steele let the fight continue and it was now time for Ray to end matters. Le onard was now the predator and LaLonde his helpless prey.

Quickly backing the defenseless Canadian into a corner, Leonard hurt him badly with two savage rights and finished him with a brutal left hook that landed on LaLonde’s throat. Donnie went down and stayed down for several minutes. It was not a pretty sight.

Sugar Ray Leonard’s starchings of LaLonde, Andy “The Hawk” Price (who a few years earlier had beaten Pipino Cuevas), Dave “Boy” Green, and Bruce Finch were a testimony to ring brutality. Indeed, some thought he had actually killed Green in the ring in 1980.

Sugar Ray Leonard belied his baby face by being a ruthless closer. Yes, he was a great ring technician, but when he wanted to, he could crack. Once he had his man hurt, he gave new meaning to the word “closure.”

Article posted on 14.05.2007

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