Little Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray's son, boarded a plane Thursday accompanied by his grandfather, his uncle and his father's gaudy, green championship belt. "Little Ray thinks it is going to go three rounds," said Juanita Leonard's father.
"Three rounds?" Little Ray was asked after his mother and father had met him in Syracuse, the site of Saturday night's (10:30, Home Box Office) 15-round WBC welterweight championship fight against Larry Bonds. He buried his head against his mother's side and raised four fingers, then, slowly, a fifth.
"I don't want it to go one," his father said. "I'll give it all I have. I won't hold back. In Ali's time, people talked about carrying opponents for the public. I don't believe in carrying an opponent for anyone. The sooner (it's over) the better."
How soon might that be? "A knockout in less than 10," he said.
Leonard (28-1) insists he is not taking Bonds, the Fighting Garbage Man who has not fought since April 1980, lightly. There is some evidence to that effect. Leonard weighed almost 160 pounds Monday after eating "too much soul food," said Janks Morton, his closest adviser. After Thursday's final workout, Morton said, Leonard was at 147 pounds, the welter limit.
And Leonard went to the trouble of having Bond's workouts filmed surreptitiously. "I've been spying," said Leonard, who is making his first title defense since defeating Roberto Duran Nov. 25 in New Orleans. "But they (the films) didn't show me much because I think he found out I was spying."
Bonds, 29, who is 29-3 and ranked fifth by the WBC, said, "At first, it bothered me. What did he want them for? He's the champion. He shouldn't be bothered by a nobody like me. He shouldn't even have to work out."
Bonds who paid $25 to see Leonard-Duran II just like everyone else in Denver, said "I've seen him in action lots of times. If they put a film in the ring with me, I'm definitely gonna win. I'll unplug it."
The man who has been a bouncer and a construction worker as well as a garbage collector, but who never has gone more than 12 rounds in the ring, was asked what he thought the odds were he would win. "Probably like they are, 10 to 1. Why are they 10 to 1? You'll have to ask Jimmy the Greek. I haven't fought in a year. There aren't a lot of people who wouldn't say 10 to 1. This guy hasn't got a chance."
That has been the story of Bond's career: not getting a chance to fight. He knocked out Costelo King in seven rounds in April 1980. His last fight before that was in September 1979. "I'd have fought Larry Holmes if necessary," Bonds said. "Though I would have had to eat a table to make the weight."
Bonds' biggest problem is that he is a left-hander, and nobody wants to fight one. That will be Leonard's biggest problem Saturday night, too. Leonard has fought two left-handers in his professional career, both in 1979, decisioning Adolpho Viruet in 10 rounds and stopping Tony Chiaverini with a fourth-round TKO. "I can't equate them with Bonds," Leonard said. "Each southpaw is a different problem. Against Viruet, I could have waited more. I was too hasty. Chiaverini was the perfect way to fight a southpaw: beat the stuff out of him."
Bonds says he is a natural left-hander who began as an orthodox fighter, at age 18, then switched. Angelo Dundee, Leonard's manager, says Bonds writes right-handed. "I met Larry way back. I watched the kid beating up on everybody. I said to Bobby Lewis (Bond's trainer and co-manager), 'Why don't you turn him around?' Bobby said, 'I can't.' He must have tried."
The conventional wisdom is that you beat a southpaw with your right hand. Dundee says no. "What licks a southpaw is a good left hand."
Morton said, "The people who say you have to lead right and come back left are totally wrong. You have to jab, jab, jab."
Bonds "is not a banger," Dundee said, but a "guy who throws punches in bunches. He's got very long arms, he covers himself well and blocks a lot of shots with his forearms (Bonds has a two-inch advantage in reach)."
Leonard said, "My speed helps me neutralize their style. What they do is just from the opposite side. You have to rely on your own balance because they are such awkward fighters."
Leonard says Bonds is a sleeper, but that he hasn't been lulled by him; that he expects "to bring out the best in Larry Bonds."
Bonds, who learned of the fight less than a month ago while playing eight-ball pool at home with his wife, is determined to show that he is worthy of being here. How did the news of the fight affect him? "Well," he said, "I never lost to my wife before."