Sugar Ray Leonard Breaks Down De La Hoya-Pacquiao

October 25, 2008

Boxing superstar Sugar Ray Leonard, who’s in Mexico City for Telmex’s World Sports Congress, says that Manny Pacquiao can defeat Oscar De La Hoya but it’s going to take excellent defense as well as his famed all out aggression.

Oscar received a well deserved standing ovation following his superb presentation, which stressed the vital importance of self belief and making sacrifices in life to reap the rewards.

And during the question and answer session, in which he was joined by the peerless undefeatable Ricardo “Finito” Lopez, the man who’s name encompasses singing legend Ray Charles and boxing’s most revered non heavyweight icon, also smilingly, but reverently responded that if he could fight anyone in the history of boxing – it would indeed be his idol Sugar Ray. caught up with the great one in his hotel suite and started by asking his overall assessment of the face to chest confrontation between Oscar and Manny?

SRL: It’s an intriguing fight because one is a superstar in Oscar, and another is well known and well liked, in Pacquiao. Disparity YES! There’s no question about that. Oscar’s the bigger with more weight, taller and with a longer reach. I don’t think fans at this time are even concerned about that. It’s not a fight that is anticipated because you would never have thought these two guys could meet in the ring, because of the weight issue. But there’s always a way to work things out. A few more zeros here, a few more zeros there.

I think it can be intriguing, but I see Oscar as being just a bit too strong, with his reach and with his speed. It almost seems like a mismatch, but I don’t think it will be a mismatch, because also on the flip side Oscar could take him lightly. Will he? I doubt that very seriously, because Oscar needs a big win over a big name. But Oscar’s 35 years old now, and his has to be on his A game to beat Pacquiao. Pacquiao has one helluva solid chin, but can he take Oscar’s punch? You said it’s an intriguing prospect, but is it going to be a competitive fight?

SRL: You will see Oscar’s jab knocks Pacquiao back, it’s going to be a pretty short night. This whole thing is offense. Pacquiao’s game is offense, throwing repeated punches. He’s like a little Tasmanian Devil. He’s non stop. But will those punches hurt Oscar? Oscar will be in pretty good damn shape himself. He’s been hit by big guys, and I don’t foresee Pacquiao hurting Oscar. Sting him. But hurt him? No.

I fought Donny Lalonde and forget how they rate him as a Light Heavyweight Champion. Every time he hit me, he hurt me. I could feel the difference, and I think Pacquiao will feel the difference of size and strength, and just that overall big guy!” How you assess the fight as going?

SRL: It’s very hard to assess, because which Oscar’s going to get into the ring? Will it be the Oscar of thirty five years old, or will it be a renewed Oscar that’s all of a sudden rejuvenated.

When he fought Felix Sturm, he wasn’t really into the fight and it showed. The same thing happened to me, when I fought Kevin Howard. The same thing happens to all fighters. It’s going to be about what Oscar dictates. In your career you fought boxers who were bigger than you. How did you train and prepare for this?

SRL: My formula, tactics and strategies worked for me because I just had that ability to make it work, because I was thinking the whole time during the fight. I worked my way in, got out, used my footwork and positioned myself. Pacquiao is very dominant with guys his size, but when he’s on the attack, he’s open, and very vulnerable. Oscar will see that…or he should see that.

It’s very hard to say what Pacquiao can do and should do, because he has to be aggressive, because he’s the smaller of the two. But he also has to be defensive, to protect himself from the big punches. Looking at it from the flip side, Oscar has been told that he’s got to get down to 147. And for any pound over, he’s have to pay a hefty penalty. Oscar’s not been at welterweight for about nine years. Do you think that’s going to help Manny Pacquiao?

SRL: I saw Oscar on the golf course and I was totally blown away by how healthy he looked. He was trim. He looked great. There was a glow to his skin and complexion. He wasn’t emaciated. He was about 151 or 152 lbs, and I think he’s going about it the right way because Oscar has the doctors, trainers or nutritionists that allow him to take his weight down the right way. And I still think he’s going to be strong at that weight. Manny has speed on his side and the fact he’s younger than Oscar.

SRL: The only way Pacquiao wants to fight is to go to Oscar, throw more punches and overwhelm Oscar. But that’s another obstacle to overcome, because Oscar’s taller, and Oscar protects himself and Oscar’s going to be in shape. It’s not going to be an easy task. Manny has got to get inside, because he can’t beat Oscar on the outside. That’s a fact. If he does do that( fight on the outside), he’ll surprise the hell out of me! If you looked at this fight, just from the athletic point of view, do you think it’s a mismatch?

SRL: I don’t think it’s a mismatch. I just think it would be an incredible feat for him to upset Oscar. Can it be done? YES! Anything can happen in the ring. I also think it’s one of the biggest business moves there is, especially with Wall Street falling (wry grin).

People will watch this fight. I’m going to watch because it’s intriguing. Who do you think is more likely to win?

SRL: A large percentage of the general population and fans say Oscar wins this hands down. But you also have some boxing aficionados who say…well…lets see Oscar is that night. I also believe in bio rhythms. How you feel that day. Could that be the day that Oscar gets old? I doubt, but we’ll see. Do you think the fight will last the distance?

SRL: If I would bet on anything, I would say it won’t go the distance. Oscar really wanted to knock out Steve Forbes (but didn’t), because it was the same thing…fighting a smaller guy. And he’d feel better if he knocked out Manny Pacquiao. We’ll see. Freddie Roach was saying Oscar can’t pull the trigger any more.

SRL: You don’t lose power. I think what fighters lose as we get older – we lose that commitment to take a punch. When I was in the ring in my twenties, I would hit you, because I don’t think you’re not going to hit me back, because I’ll hit you so fast that you won’t touch me. But as I got older, when I turned thirty five and then forty, and those comebacks, I anticipated the punch coming back. So I didn’t have the same commitment. That’s the commitment in your head. I knew a consequence would come back.

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