It may have happened over 33 years ago but Floyd Mayweather Sr. reminisces about his 1978 encounter with Sugar Ray Leonard as if it were yesterday. And even after all these years, the thought of what could have been won't let him forget the night he fought a rising star named Sugar Ray Leonard.
Perhaps the senior Mayweather was finally able to come to terms with the loss by confronting his foe and, on camera, defiantly declaring, "You didn't beat me fair and square. (Referring to a fractured hand injury he suffered prior to the bout) I fought you with one hand."
Amused by the older Mayweather's excuse, Sugar Ray Leonard replied, "But that was your problem."
After a few moments of mild tension, the two former fighters put aside their differences and laughed and hugged like old friends before Ray left the scene. (Video of chat is below)
Despite Floyd's light-hearted demeanor, his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard haunts him to this day.
On September 9, 1978, Floyd Mayweather Sr stepped into the ring with a young Sugar Ray Leonard in a nationally-televised event at the Civic Center in Providence, RI. Although Leonard had yet to win a world title, he was the 'golden boy' of the 1976 Summer Games and already a boxing icon. Floyd knew a victory over boxing's fastest rising star in front of a nationally-televised audience would open many doors and quite possibly change has life forever.
It was for Floyd, the opportunity of a lifetime.
But sometimes opportunities come at a cost and like many of Sugar Ray's future opponents, Mayweather ceded any pre-fight advantages he may have had to Leonard. "People don't know this but I only had two weeks to get ready for Leonard. I took the fight on short notice," said Floyd.
"I wasn't scared of Leonard at all. I knew the moment I stepped into the ring I could beat him."
Although Leonard was 13-0, 8KO and had won gold in the Olympics just two years prior, he was only 22 years old and had never stepped into the ring with a fighter of Mayweather's credentials. Floyd Mayweather, Sr was three years older and a legitimate, world class welterweight who boasted a record of 15-1, 8 KO and was a former two-time Michigan Golden Gloves Champion.
But there was a problem.
"I fractured my hand in the fight against McKnight in the 8th round," Mayweather said solemnly. Floyd had won a unanimous decision over Art McKnight just two weeks prior facing the young Leonard. Although Mayweather's hand had begun to heal, fifteen days wasn't enough time for his painful fracture to mend satisfactorily.
"I told my manager that I didn't want to do it. He told me not to worry (because) a doctor would be there to give me a shot so I could compete... Well, guess what, he never showed," said a regretful Mayweather.
Footage of the fight is consistent with Mayweather's story. He used his right hand sparingly in the early rounds and couldn't throw it with conviction after the fifth - And the two knockdowns scored against him in the eighth were from punches that hit his right glove (the fractured hand). "He didn't know it but he was hurting me by hitting my right hand. I was blocking his lefts and my (injured) hand was screaming."
The fight was stopped by the referee in Round 10 after Sugar Ray Leonard unleashed a steady barrage of hard, unanswered power-shots that wobbled a tired, almost-defenseless Mayweather.
Reflecting on that night, Mayweather said, "I don't want to take anything away from Leonard. I respect everything he accomplished in the game - But I know if my hand was okay I could have beat him."