By Michael Marley
If Floyd Mayweather Jr. needs a hug outside the ring, not the foolhardy kind that crunched opponent Victor Ortiz sought, then "Money" just got a big one from his "Uncle Ray."
Fresh from his recent stint coaching movie star Hugh Jackman on how to mangle metal foes, Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard said Wednesday night that, while he agrees that his fellow American Mayweather must take on Manny Pacquiao, he doesn't need to change his personality or public image at all.
"What Pacquiao does in politics, in other things, that's good because it gives boxing a positive image in some ways," Leonard told me by phone from Los Angeles where he's busy day and night hyping the Jackman movie about ring robots entitled "Real Steel."
"But Floyd Mayweather, he gives back to society also," the five weight class champion and 1976 Olympic gold medalist told me. "I know that Floyd has his foundation, that he does charity events because I've been there, right beside him. Floyd gives back, he does, he is philanthropic," the 55 year old Leonard said.
As to suggestions that Mayweather, now age 34, might benefit from pitching himself less as the guy in the black hat and more of the personable, All American (albeit with imperfections, many revealed in Sugar Ray's recent book, "My Life: In And Out Of The Ring") type, Leonard rejects that as an artificial act.
"Floyd has to be himself," Leonard said. "He has to be who he is and that's fine, that's enough for most people. Floyd can't be another guy in the same way I couldn't be like (Roberto) Duran or Tommy (Hearns) or Marvin (Hagler). I could only be myself.
"Floyd is who he is and I think he is fine in what he stands for. Like I say, Tommy Hearns had to be who he is, the Hitman. I couldn't be the Hitman, he couldn't be me. Whatever Floyd is, he's fine. You can like it or not like it but Floyd can only be himself."
Leonard also offered his take on:
WHY MAYWEATHER AND PACQUIAO MUST COLLIDE:
"It's not their fault that they have not fought and it won't be if they don't but...they are the top two guys and they have lifted their divison over other weight classes. There's no other fighters out there with what these two have, their gifted attributes. It will be a shame, really, if they do not ever fight."
ON THE MOVIE, WHICH IS GETTING SOME HARSH REVIEWS:
"Go see the movie. It's a movie the whole family can enjoy. I took my kids, my wife and the mother in law. It's a great movie in that way. They all loved it. There is a love story, a father-son story, in the movie and it's all about love. Go see it, judge for yourself. I enjoyed working on it because Hugh took to boxing easily. He was an athlete, his father was an amateur boxer and I think Hugh fought street fights in Australia. I enjoyed working on it because, well, because I was in my element."
BERNARD HOPKINS, 46 YEAR OLD MARVEL:
"Bernard is just, well Bernard is just amazing in what he does. He is truly an anomaly. He is because what he's doing (at this age) is not just rare. When he beat that guy (Jean Pascal) in Canada, Bernard was stronger in the later rounds than the much younger opponent. I was very impressed by that."
ON EXCESS PPV EVENTS IN BOXING:
"It's a problem because you've got fights that are not really pay per view TV quality. Some of the fights they offer on pay per view, they just don't add up."
ON HIS BOUT WITH DICKIE EKLUND IN REAL LIFE AND CHRISTIAN BALE'S PORTRAYAL IN REEL LIFE:
"I was playing golf with Mark Wahlberg about 10 years ago and he spoke to me about doing a cameo in the movie. But then nothing happend for a long time. Finally, they called, I went to Boston and I did the cameo.
"Christian Bale turned himself completely into Dickie for the movie. He had that herky-jerky way that Dickie had. Beale pulled it off totally.
"We all knew, way back, that Dickie was not all there (laughs)...He was a tough guy but he didn't know it..."
"As far as Dickie knocking me down in our fight, in New England, they say yes. In Boston, they say yes.
"Let's leave it like that (laughs)..."