A look at the boxing style of Olympic champion Sugar Ray Leonard reminds some spectators of a welter weight champion of the past, Johnny Saxton. Like Saxton, Loenard tends to overreact when pressed by mediocre fighters.
This trait is not uncommon to young, gifted fighters. Ray Robinsion took four steps early in his career when one would have enough. The same was true of Willie Rep. With experience, they learned to control their energy while still avoiding punches.
Leonard, who fights Bobby Haymon at Capital Centre Thursday night, has the impression one gets watching him is that he really does not have to think about what he is doing. His hands do it reflexively. Perhaps that is why he does some things wrong.
Leonard seldom will throw two jabs in rapid succession. And when he does land with the jab, he will not keep it up. Like most "naturals" he is spoiled. Most fighters would almost have to stick with the one punch that works best for them. Not Leonard. He is so gifted that he can afford to let an effective jab lie dormant while he proceeds to use hooks and crosses.
Another mistake Leonard often makes is failing to continuing to punch to the body. Against Miguel Vega and Rocky Ramon had began using uppercuts. He stopped his man each time body punches, then changed tactics for no apparent reason and went head hunting. Leonard is one of the few fighters who can knock down a well-conditioned man with a punch to the body.
Harnessing his movements and energy, using the jab more when it lands the first time, and continuing a body attack when effective are only some of the rough spots needed to be smoothed out by Leonard.
He, like most fighters today, is not a good fighter. And he probably doesn't need to be. There are no Sammy Angotts. Jake LaMotta s or Billy Grahams around to exploit a lack of infighting experiences.
Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Joe Giardello are only a few of the great fighters of the past who could not fight inside.
Little is known locally about Haymon, who supposedly stopped his last three opponents. If the welterweight champion fo Ohio can counterpunch, he will let Leonard bring the fight to him. In his fight with Willie (Fireball) Rodriquez, Leonard was tagged with two counterpunches that hurt him. Both were thrown when Leonard was attacking in straight lines.
Leonard has the reflexes, punches, body and connections to become a champion. Like Saxton, his hand speed and general craftsmanship overcomes a chin that is suspect.His destruction of his latest opponent, a tough man, in the first round, demonstrated his firepower.
The best fighters in Leonard's division are Carlos Palomino. Wilfred Benitez and Jose Cuevas, who has a chin of iron. Manager Angelo Pandee is going to have to pick his spots well before Leonard is able to take on those outstading fighters.