Sugar Ray Leonard is taking nothing for granted in his junior welter-weight bout today against Willie (Fireball) Rodriquez at the Civic Center in Baltimore.
"I anticipate a good fight from him," said Leonard, who became the darling of area fight fans after winning a gold medal at the Olympics in Montreal. "I'm in excellent condition and I should be ready."
Leonard's longtime adviser and trainer, Dave Jacobs, said "We expect the fight to go the entire six rounds. Rodruquez is a good mover and slips punches very well. This is a big step for us but we feel we're ready for it." The bout, which begins at about 5:45 p.m., will be nationally televised but blacked out locally.
Leonard grossed in excess of $40,000 for his pro debut, a unanimous decision over Luis (The Bull) Vega earlier this year.
Rodruquez, a standup-type slugger, should give Leonard a much tougher fight. While Leonard has had only one professional bout, Rodriquez has won 10 of 11 pro fights.
The Puerto Rico natice's one loss came at the hands of Rufus Miller. Rodriquez came back to beat Miller in their next meeting. Rodriquez has fought three tough opponents recently and has been training with several good Philadelphia fighter.
Leonard, who came in at 140 3/4 at yesterday's official weigh-in, was scheduled to meet Rodriquez April 2, but suffered a lacerated lip sparring and the bout was postponed.
"I was at my peak before I cut my lip," said Leonard. "So I just relaxed a little then began back at my peak again. I had a taste of pro fighting in that first bout and I'm eager to go again."
Leonard expressed some concern that fans might overlook his match since it comes after the Ken Norton-Duane Bobick bout and just before the Muhammed Ali? Alfredo Evangelista heavyweight title fight Monday night at Capital Centre.
"It might not hurt," he said. "Besides, if I have true fans, they'll be here."
Ali, Norton, Evangelista, light-weight champion Roberto Duran, junior lightweight champion Alfred Escalera, and former heavyweight title-holder Joe Louis are expected to attend today's featured bout.
Aside from having the edge in expreience over Leonard, Rodriquez boasts a good left jab, a long reach, fast hands and excellent footwork. Like the stylish Leonard, Rodriquez throws good combinations and punches well with both hands.
The first of seven preliminary bouts gets underway at 3. The highlight of the undercard features a 10-round bout between Dominic Monaco of Italy and Irish Johnny Copeland of Fort Worth.