Whenever the subject of Dream Fights comes up, fans often ponder what would have happened had classy, skilful and artistic welterweights Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather Junior met. In a forthcoming issue of “The Bible of Boxing,” Ring Magazine, this very subject, this very Dream Fight, gets front cover treatment. The issue – sure to be a fascinating read – covers others Dream Fights (including, notably, in what promises to be another great read, Joe Frazier Vs. Mike Tyson!)
But it is a Mayweather-Leonard Dream Fight that seems to be the one that is most argued over and debated these days (why not Sugar Ray Robinson against Mayweather, you may well ask!) The experts at Ring will do their usual, brilliant stuff, but let’s discuss this mythical meeting of greats here.
Mayweather, who walked away with a stunning 50-0 pro ledger (maybe for good, who knows) believes he is “T.B.A,” The Best Ever. This opinion on the part of “Money” is not shared by all fans, but some people do agree with his bold claim. But would Mayweather have ever been anywhere close to able to get away with calling himself that had he been born 20 years earlier, and had fought in the 1970s and ’80s; his big fights coming in the years that saw Leonard take on the likes of Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Wilfredo Benitez?
There is no doubting Mayweather’s special talent, but he fought in a different era to Leonard. Leonard of course, had to fight 15-rounders against a murderer’s row that included the three fellow greats listed above. How would Mayweather have done in comparison to Sugar Ray?
Leonard, in speaking with another big publication, in Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago, said he felt Mayweather would have “held his own” in his special era, but Sugar didn’t go as far as to say Floyd would have beaten either him or the Hearns and the Durans and the Benitezs who were thrilling the world during that simply glorious era.
“I think because of Floyd’s talent, his natural born talent, the hand speed…..Floyd is a very precise fighter, he’s a technician in the ring. He’s a great counter-puncher, he reminds me of his father who pretty much fought in the same way,” the former five-weight king said to S.I in 2016. “Floyd would have held his own [in my era]. I told Floyd that I would have beat him – if he was in my era. And he told me the same thing, that he would beat me if I was in his era. I did tell him that [I beat his dad] – like father like son.”
Leonard, when he was 14-0, stopped Floyd Senior in the 10th-round of a non-title fight in 1978. Mayweather Junior, though, is a far better fighter than his father ever was, even if they do have some similarities in their fighting approach. But the Leonard of 1980 to 1982, the version that fans are thinking of when they picture Leonard against a peak welterweight Mayweather, was something truly special. Faster than Floyd, a much harder hitter with far nastier aggressive tendencies, Sugar Ray was also in possession of a great chin, an elusive defence and excellent stamina.
Mayweather would likely have given Leonard some problems for a few rounds, but would he have beaten him? It’s pretty tough to make a case for Floyd – a fighter who wouldn’t have outworked or out punched Leonard, who wouldn’t have outboxed or out-slicked him and who wouldn’t have outsmarted him. Floyd, in all honesty, would have done very well to have seen the 15th and final round.
But then this is a Dream Fight, and fans of either fighter can pretty much dream up any scenario they like – and that of course is the very point. But in short, Sugar Ray proved his toughness, his heart and his courage numerous times; more so than Mayweather ever did. These qualities would have made the difference, surely.
Leonard TKO13 Mayweather.
Now let’s wait and see what the folks at Ring Magazine come up with!