Duran/Leonard Comparison

02.01.07 - By William Pinkard II: Roberto Duran - Sugar Ray Leonard. Two names that will be forever linked together almost as popular of a dynamic duo as Muhammad Ali - Joe Frazier. Recently, Roberto Duran was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hell, he should have been inducted while he was fighting. Many believe he was the most dominant Lightweight ever to live. Roberto Duran had a career record of 104 - 16 (69). At Lightweight, he was flat out a beast. He steamrolled the division. He amassed a record of 70-1 before he moved up. The one loss to Esteban Dejesus, he later avenged. Twice! He greatest victories at lightweight were against Dejesus and Ken Buchanon. He then saw a chance at not only history but also the biggest purse he had ever made. To do this, he would have to put on 12 pounds and beat the Sugar man. Duran moved up, and in one of the best fights the welterweight division will ever know, Duran had his way with Sugar Ray Leonard. Duran was awarded a 15 round unanimous decision.

There was a rematch In Nov of the same year. This time Leonard used his boxing style, speed, counterpunching ability, and even taunting tactics to frustrate and humiliate Duran, to the point that he quit in the 8th round. All of a sudden the man known for taking on anyone and anything, for his brutality, was made to look like a traitor. It would be nine years before he would get another shot at Leonard. By that time, both were well past their primes. This fight was completely one-sided as well. Making Duranís career record vs. Leonard 1-2 (1 tko). Duran would go on to lose fights to Benitez, get brutally koíd by Thomas Hearns in 2 rounds.

He would also lost a very close fight to Marvin Hagler. However, he would also beat Davey Moore and Iran Barkley to add to his list of championship belts. How do we look at a Duran that was dominant in the lightweight Division, like others moved up. He is the only fighter to beat Leonard in his prime, but he also has a less than spectacular record vs. his best opposition If you consider Dejesus, Buchanon, Leonard, Hearns, Benitez, Hagler, Barkly and Moore as his best oppositon, then this record is 5-7 versus these fighters. Be honest, how many would consider Leonard, Mayweather, Chavez, Dlh, Roy Jones great if they had a record of 5-7 versus their best opposition?

Sugar Ray Leonard. We all now how the story goes, because he was the media darling since the 1976 Olympics, where he was the caption of the USA boxing team, and won himself a gold medal. Leonard had an amazing amateur career of 145-5, with 75 KO's and the gold medal at the Olympics. He turned professional due to the financial and medical situation with his family. In 3 short years Ray overwhelmed his oppostion, satisfied his contractual obligations to any who held ownership in him. Ray changed the landscape of boxing for fighters in the lower weight division for ever. Ray was the first to open the doors for boxers to not only make tons of money, but also created the blueprint for boxers to self promote themselves. In short, Ray was much more than a boxer he was boxing.

Everyone from Jr. Welterweight, to Middleweight wanted piece of Leonard. From 1979 to 1987 almost every fight Ray Leonard fought , were classics. Starting with Benitez, and ending with Hagler in 1987, Ray fought and almost always beat the best that ever laced up a pair of boxing gloves. Not many fighters in any generation can claim to have victories over legends like Wilfred Benetiz, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran (twice), Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

Many dispute Leonard's victory, and opinion is divided, even to this day. Although he won the WBC super-middleweight & light-heavyweight titles, it was clear that Sugar Ray's best days were behind him. Hollow rematch victories against Duran & Hearns carried little weight, and he took a beating in a WBC light-middleweight title against "Terrible" Terry Norris in 1991, getting knocked down twice and sustaining a nasty beating. Six years later, a non-title contest against Hector "Macho" Camacho finally made Sugar Ray Leonard realize his time was up.

So how can we compare these two fighters and attempt to factually say one fighter is better pound per pound than the other. The only fair way to do this, is to have a scorecard with 5 top categories with a 10 point scoring system and , and also 6 smaller categories with 5 points scoring system. In each category I will give each fighter a score. At the end I will total up the scores and that will be a quantified approach to this. I will also give a brief Summary at the end that will summarize these two. Then make a final choice as to who was the better fighter pound per pound

Lets get Ready to Rumble.

1. Quality of Opposition -

Duran 10
Leonard 10

Both fougth the best of their generation in fact had many like opponents. Hagler, Hearns, Benetiz and themselves obviously.

2. Quality of Opposition beaten

Duran 8
Leonard 10

Leonard clear winner: Duran twice, Hearns, Hagler, Benetiz all legends.

3. Number of victories Longevity

Duran - 10
Leonard- 6

No question here who wins. Duran was 70-1 as a lightweight dominated for a entire decade. Had 100 wins. Leonard only had 40 fights total. .

4. Ability to adapt to another style

Duran - 8
Leonard -10

Simply look at the different style Leonard employed to win many of his classics. Boxer, slugger, toe-to-toe counterpuncher. What more can be said.

5. Championships

Duran 10
Leonard 10

Both owned 4-5 belts in different divisions.

6. Boxing ability

Duran 4
Leonard 5

Both were great boxers. Duran was a lot better boxer in close, and head to head, than many think. In fact going to to toe, duran gets the edge. However, Leonard could utilize his speed, angles, combinations etc to give him a advantage. Not many could match Leonard boxing ability from 1976-1981.

7. Punching power

Duran 5
Leonard 4

Duran stopped mules!! Plain and simple. Leonard hit hard too, but not as hard as Duran.

8. Defense

Duran 5
Leonard 4

Clearly one of Duranís best attributes. He had the ability to slip opponents punches with applying devastating pressure. If you look at the Brawl in Montreal, you will see how hard to hit Duran was.

9. Speed

Duran 4
Leonard 5

Duran was fast. In fact very fast, but Leonard was the embodiment of speed. Hand and foot speed rarely seen before or since. What is even rarer, is that he was able to use this when necessary, but then put it on the shelf and dig deep and become a warrior when necessary. Unlike fighters uh hmmm Roy Jones JrÖ.hmmmm

10. Chin

Duran 5
Leonard 5

Both had world class chins. Duranís only blip on his resume was the Hearns fight. Yes he got dropped by Dejesus early on, but this is boxing it happens!. Ray Leonard never went down until he came out of retirement.

11. Heart

Duran 5
Leonard 5

Outside of No mas, can you think of two fighters with more heart.

Total: Duran 74
Leonard 74

There you have it. I have them ranked even as far as a quantities approach. So to break the tie, we have to look at head to head,, their record vs. common opposition, career accomplishments, factor in that Duran started at a much lighter weight., etc. Head to Head you have to give Leonard the edge, based on their fights were decided by what style Leonard employed. It was up to Leonard not Duran. Most Duran supporters will not like it, but it is true. However, you have to add in one other part to this. Duran moved up to face Leonard. I question could Leonard have handled Duranís assault in Montreal had he been a natural welterweight. Leonard handled Haglerís and Hearnís best punches, true. However, brawl in Montreal was a different type of pressure that had Duran been a natural welterweight, Leonard would have been beat up a lot more. The nod goes to Duran if they fought toe to toe, and even more if we are talking pound per pound. Remember Styles makes fights, and Leonard could employ his boxing style at any time to neutralize Duranís aggession so it makes this comparison very tough.

Conclusion. Hmmmmm I go with Duran. in a pound per pound comparison. This will no doubt lead to other valid discussions due to the fact that fighters like Chavez beat better fighters at their natural weight than Duran did. May weather (one of the most hated and wrongfully attacked fighters) so far has moved up in weight more successfully than Duran did, and he is only 30 years old so far. Roy Jones never faced the quality that Duran did, but he did beat fighters on par with a Moore, Barkley, Buchanon, and Dejesus. So yes Duran in my opinion is the better pound per pound fighters, but in all honesty we should not ignore that his record vs. the best he faced is 5-7.

How would you rate others who had this record., especially since all but one of these losses I mentioned, occurred in the during his active and competitive career, not when he was a shell of himself. Leonard did more in 40 fights than 99.9% of fighters will ever even dream of accomplishing, so we should not attack Leonard for having only 40 fights, as no once since the 70ís has a better resume of fighters that they have beaten. So they both are great, but Duran gets the nod.

Article posted on 02.01.2007

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