“He’s accurate. He’s correct!” Leonard said. “It’s so wonderful at the age of 49, you don’t give a sh*t (and can speak the truth). I did not want to lose. Not at all. That’s what makes fighters, makes champions. That’s what makes greatness.”
And it is a trait Leonard said he sees in Mayweather that will propel him to victory in Saturday’s highly anticipated bout against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“This is more than just a fight,” he said to The Guardian. “It’s about bragging rights. It’s about legacies. It’s about history. This is one of those mental, psychological, spiritual fights, a fight to make your palms sweat.
“I think there will be a couple of surprises for the fans, knockdowns – and I don’t think this will happen late. There could be dominance, mostly by Mayweather.
“It will take both fighters a few rounds to figure each other out, to know when they have, after they’ve seen each other. When you’re in the ring, it’s totally different [from perceptions beforehand]. I knew [Tommy] Hearns had long arms and was fast but I didn’t know he was that fast. I knew he hit hard but I didn’t know he hit that hard until I was in there.”
Leonard said a contributing factor could be Pacquiao’s chin. He was knocked out cold by Juan Manuel Márquez about two years ago.
“Normally,” Leonard said, “when a fighter is knocked out in that fashion, nine times out of the 10 he’s not the same. But Pacquiao is an anomaly. He’s gifted, a blessed young man with incredible hand speed and power. . . The edge for Pacquiao is that he goes to this fight totally committed, no thoughts of: ‘I got knocked out by [Juan Manuel] Márquez.’”
Thirty-seven years ago, on his way to a Hall of Fame career, Leonard stopped Mayweather’s father in a TKO. He said of the current 47-0 Mayweather: “He reminds me so much of his father. But the difference is that Floyd Jr. can punch, Senior didn’t have that much of a punch. I’m sure that it was all about bad hands [Floyd Sr. hurt his right hand in the first round of that fight]. And even Floyd Jr. has delicate hands—but he is able to get away with it, to find some way.
“Without question I enjoy watching (Mayweather) because I appreciate artistry, I appreciate technique, strategy, tactics. No matter who it is, he breaks down his opponents, whether it’s body shots, the jab, countering, making the guy stop punching, mesmerized. The bigger the fight, the better he is, because he is used to that stage. Myself and Muhammad Ali had that too.”
Pacquiao’s chance is a slug fest, Leonard said. “If he can bring back the Manny that fought Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and all the other guys, we’re then talking about a very interesting, physical fight,” Leonard said. “Pacquiao has been around the block a bunch of times. He has a great trainer in Freddie [Roach]. But everything has to be perfect for him, for both of them. You talk about nerves—we don’t say scared; for fighters it’s not the right word to use. But we’re concerned. They know they’re in the ring with one of the best guys, if not the best guy, in the division or in boxing.”
In the end, Leonard said Mayweather’s vast skill set will be decisive.
Leonard: “Mayweather has a couple of ways to win the fight: as a counter-puncher, wait for Pacquiao to make mistakes and make him pay for those mistakes; or just box him, dance around, move and do what he does best. He’s a little bit more versatile than Pacquiao.”