Sugar Ray Leonard did a 10-round disco number yesterday on Rafael Rodriquez of Minneapolis on the way to a unanimous decision before a crowd of 7,000 at the Civic Center.
The former Olympic champion ran his unbeaten streak to 12 bouts by flitting about the ring, dancing, shuffling, faking bolo punches with his right hand and bruising Rodriquez left eye with slashing jabs.
There were no knockdowns and only minor complications for Leonard. He was subjected to some clubbing rights to the head the last two rounds as he went 10 for the time.
He made another slip yesterday, as he did in his previous fight at Capital Centre.
Slightly disconcerted by being put on the defense, then trying to avenge himself in the ninth round, Leonard belted Rodriquez with a smart left hook after the bell. This time, Leonard acknowledged his mistake and immediately apologized and embraced his opponent in midring before they went to their corners.
Although it looked as though Leonard sailed through the first eight rounds and had a minimum of trouble the last two, he said afterward, "I learned a great deal. We exchanged some devastating punches to the head.
"I remember in the 10th, I said to Rafael at the bell, 'I'm glad it's over' and he said, 'Yes, sir.'"
At the final bell, while the weary Rodriquez was being refreshed by his corner men, Leonard carried his son and the youngster's cousin about the ring. Leonard then expropriated the microphone from the ring announcer and said to the crowd, "I want you to give Rodriguez a good hand; he fought a hell of a fight."
At age 32, Rodriguez did not have the hand or foot speed to cope with Leonard, 10 years younger. Nor was he able to overcome an eight-inch disadvantage in reach.
"I just waited to long for the kill," Rodriguez said. "He was a little faster than I was, powerful, too."
It was the ninth loss in 31 bouts for Rodriguez, who weighed 147. Leonard weighed 145 3/4.
Manager Angelo Dundee was asked if Leonard had been bothered by getting hit with a couple good overhand rights by Rodriguez at the end.
"No," Dudee said, "if you swim you're going to get wet; if you fight, you're going to get hit. I wasn't tricked by Rodriguez (Dundee handled him for one fight a few years ago); I knew he had a good chin. I'm happy Ray whomped him a few times. The trouble was Rodriguez wouldn't cooperate by sticking his chin out more."
Referee Tom Kelly scored the bout 50-41; Judge Harry Cecchini, 50-42, and Judge Larry Barrett, 48-45. As Leonard won his fourth decision in 12 pro bouts, winning the others by knockouts.
In a preliminary bout, Keith Broom, 159 1/2, Washington, won a unanimous decision over Wilbert Crews, 160, Bowie, to extend his unbeaten record to 11 bouts. It was Crews' sixth loss in 10 fights, one a draw.