Sugar Ray Leonard will enter the ring for his first 10-round bout today when he faces Rafael Rodriquez of Minneapolis at the Civic Center in Baltimore.
The welterweight contest will be televised by CBS but will be blacked out in the Washington and Baltimore areas. The preliminaries will begin at 4 p.m. and the main bout is scheduled to start at 5:05.
Undefeated Leonard, of Palmer Park, Md., will be trying for his 12th victory and his ninth knockout.
Rodriquez, 32, has a 21-8-1 record. He decisioned former junior middleweight champion Denny Moyer and was outpointed by former welterweight champion Billy Backus.
"That was in Syracuse, Backus' hometown." Rodriguez said yesterday. "I'm used to that. I've won two of my three fights this year. The loss was to No. 1 contender Pete Ranzany, in his hometown, Sacramento."
Rodriguez, who is 10 years older than Leonard, said, "Age doesn't mean a thing. Naturally, I'm going to win, Leonard? He's a man with two arms and two legs, like me.
"What do I know about him? What does he know about me? I've seen him on television, but if you want to know how I'm going to beat him, you'll have to come to the fight."
Angelo Dundee, Leonard's manager, says he handled Rodriguez in 1976, in a loss by decision to Harold Weston.
"He fights like Carmen Basilio," Dundee said. "He's strong and has a sneaky right he follows with a left sneaky right he follows with a left hook. He'll be Ray's toughest opponment so far. I'm going to have Ray try to hook off a jab to offset Rodriguez's style."
Reports from Minneapolis say Rodriguez has unusually fast hands, moves well, is built solidly and takes a good punch. He was knocked out once, in his fifth fight, by Billy Goodwin, in St. Paul. Rodriguez has seven knockouts to his credit.