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This entry comes from Roger Kimball's terrific Four Kings, which chronicles the four-way rivalry in the 1980s between Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler.
Hearns was beating Leonard in their first fight in 1981 when Leonard staged a dramatic comeback to win by Round 14 TKO. Although their 1989 rematch was a draw, Hearns dropped Leonard twice, and many observers felt he should have won.
If anybody ever really had Sugar Ray Leonard's number, it was Hearns. Yet, when asked later why he hadn't made more use of his lethal right hand against Leonard, the Hitman replied:
He kept moving off to the side, so I couldn't hit him with the full force of the punch. I still haven't hit him with my best shot. Why didn't I try to land more right hands? Basically, because I don't throw a punch if I know it's not going to land.
I like this quote for the way it reveals just how difficult boxing truly is. Anybody who has even done some low-level sparring knows how hard it can be to actually land a clean punch on a moving target.
When the target is a pound-for-pound superstar like Sugar Ray Leonard, even one of the best offensive fighters in the sport's history can find himself unable to unload.