LOS ANGELES (March 4, 2005) – Legendary Sugar Ray Leonard and featherweight People's Champion Manny Pacquiao expressed mutual respect and pleasantries Thursday at a chance meeting at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood.
Pacquiao, who idolized Leonard for his footwork and ringmanship when he was just beginning his boxing career, shook hands with Leonard on top of the ring even as pop singer Mark McGrath and Frank Stallone completed the “Hollywood” atmosphere.
Leonard and McGrath comprise the band “Sugar Ray.” The performers were to film a music video at Freddie Roach's gym when Pacquiao was just about to step out for a two-hour filming schedule.
Leonard, who like Pacquiao, won world titles in different weight classes during his storied career, got a first-hand look at Pacquiao's secret weapon “Manila Ice.”
“I cannot confirm or deny I saw Manny test 'Manila Ice.' ” said an impressed Leonard following Pacquiao's sparring session. “I promised the camp I would not disclose what I saw today, but I can see that trainer Freddie Roach has zeroed in on a major weakness of Morales. But if there was a new weapon in Manny's arsenal called 'Manila Ice' on display today — it will stop him cold if it is on target.”
“Ray told me that I am fast,” said Pacquiao, who also got several tips from Leonard and Stallone, brother of Sylvester, on how to get past three-time, three-division former champion Erik Morales in their March 19 encounter at the MGM Grand .which will be televised live via HBO Pay-Per-View.
Morales will come in as the bigger and taller fighter come fight night and Pacquiao, like Leonard, will step up in weight to issue a challenge. Leonard, also a former Golden Gloves champion and Olympic gold medallist, knocked out a much bigger Donnie Lalonde for the WBC light heavyweight title in 1988.
“Good luck to your fight,” said Leonard to the Filipino ring idol, as cameras clicked away, much to the delight of some other gym junkies who also posed for souvenir photos.
“He is my idol. I tried to copy some of his footwork and I developed speed because he was a great fighter and champion,” said Pacquiao.
Leonard even showed his skinny legs which deceptively carried him to the top of the welterweight division as well as four other different weight classes. He and Pacquiao agreed that leg power is one of the keys to becoming a great fighter.
“You should also possess this,” said Leonard, pointing to his head, indicating that half of the battles on top of the ring are won because of mental preparation and toughness, something that Pacquiao completely concurred with.
Pacquiao sparred for another 10 rounds Thursday and got the usual high praises from Roach and new managers Shelly Finkel and Keith Davidson who were present earlier.
The 26-year-old Pacquiao solved the puzzle posed by the tall, unbeaten and powerful Jose Santa Cruz , then took the measure of regular sparring partners “Sugar” Raymundo Beltran and IBF superbantam king Israel Vasquez .
Last Tuesday, Pacquiao decked 5'11″ David Rodela with a barrage of punches, making Roach and co-trainer Buboy Fernandez smile a little bit, as the countdown to the mega-fight with Morales whittled down to 16 more days.
“I hope my countrymen and my fans continue to pray for my success,” said Pacquiao.