“Sugar” Ray Leonard is, without question, one of the greatest boxers in the history of boxing. Few have ever combined his blinding hand speed with superior foot movement, toughness, the pursuit of the finish, sound fundamentals with a dash of unique style.
Leonard was also greatly influenced by great fighters who came before him. Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson were among his biggest inspirations.
Before turning professional, Leonard posted a stellar amateur career. He is a two-time Golden Gloves winner, three-time National AAU Champion, two-time North American Gold Medalist, a Pan-Am Games Gold Medalist, and in 1976, he won a gold medal in the Olympics.
Needless to say, he emerged from the amateur ranks as a can’t-miss prospect that boxing promoters were pursuing.
Leonard turned professional in 1977 and competed in front of a crowd of over 10,000 people. He won his pro debut and the first 27 fights of his career. He became a world champion for the first time in 1979.
Throughout Leonard’s career, there were signature techniques that he used to help push him toward new levels of success. Let’s take a look at five of them.
Today, Evolve Daily shares five of Sugar Ray Leonard’s signature boxing techniques you can add to your game.
1) Stealing Rounds
This approach and term was popularized in 1987 when Leonard brilliantly executed a plan to beat the heavily favored Marvelous Marvin Hagler. By most accounts, Hagler, who was the WBC and lineal Middleweight Champion was going to maul Leonard, who had been out of the ring for more than three years since his last bout.
Hagler had run roughshod over most opponents. He came into the bout with Leonard 62-2-2 with 12 consecutive successful title defenses. It was clear, Leonard needed to keep his distance and box as he would be unable to win a slugfest with the more powerful and naturally larger Hagler.
Leonard used his outstanding movement and hand speed to avoid Hagler’s dangerous power shots for most of the rounds, but during the last 30 seconds, he loved to unleash a barrage of punches.
The combinations he landed effectively gave him the edge in several rounds that were otherwise quiet. The strategy is called “stealing rounds,” and many boxers use the tactic today. Leonard utilized that strategy on the way to an improbable split-decision victory.
With the win, Leonard became a three-division champion. He would go on to win world titles in five weight classes.
2) Bolo Punch
This punch was used more as a taunt than a shot designed to finish an opponent, but it scored nonetheless. With his opponents often mystified by his hand speed and jab, Leonard would wind his power hand up behind him before throwing the jab or power hand as a surprise punch.
This was an example of Leonard’s showmanship and elite-level athleticism. Many have copied this since Leonard, but he is one of the first to bring such a style to the boxing ring.
3) Signature Jabs to the Body
There is nothing especially technical about the Bolo Punch, but that’s not the case with Leonard’s signature jabs to the body. Leonard would launch this punch usually as he circled opponents. Because of his speed, he was able to control the distance in which he fought an opponent.
Like most will advise, he almost always used a jab as the initiator for an attack. However, he would vary the levels of the target to confuse his foe.
After a few jabs to the face, Leonard would change his bullseye to the midsection, sinking a jab into his opponent’s gut. In addition to scoring with the judges, this punch also slowly sapped the energy of the man in front of him.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. uses this same technique in his offensive repertoire, and it’s a very useful tactic for any fighter with speed and good reach.
4) Foot Feints
The purpose of a feint in boxing is to force a reaction from your opponent. If a fighter feints a shot to the head and the opponent raises their hands each time, it leaves their midsection open and vice versa. Leonard would use those kinds of feints, but he also faked with his foot movement.
By sliding in closer to his opponent with two or three quick movements in their direction, he could often send a man into a defensive posture. The feints also caused his opponents to fire a shot that he was prepared to slip and counter. While it may sound simple, this was one of Leonard’s most effective techniques.
5) Big Overhand Lead Right
Almost any orthodox boxer knows how to throw a big overhand right. However, Leonard’s was set up by a few of the things we’ve already mentioned.
He would fake the jab to the body, and with the same foot movement, Leonard would instead unleash the right hand over the top that would often catch his target as they blocked the midsection.
Likewise, Leonard would cut off his foot feints and throw the right hand as soon as he was in range. While we’ve detailed a few of Leonard’s tactics here, there is more to this complex and talented all-time great. This is just a taste of what he brought to the sweet science.