5. Sugar Ray Leonard
(36-3-1, 25 KO)
Ray Charles Leonard was primed for the spotlight after his performance at the 1976 Olympics. His career was the most televised, but also shortest of any others on this list. It cost him a few spots, but he made the most of his time.
Leonard turned pro in 1977, but it was in 1979 that Leonard went through many contenders, including Floyd Mayweather Sr., on the way to a title shot with Puerto Rican dynamo, Wilfred Benitez. Leonard secured the title with a 15th round TKO, defending the title once before facing Roberto Duran in the same place he competed in the Olympics, Montreal.
When he faced Duran for the first time, many felt that Sugar Ray was pampered and would be easily beaten by the rugged Panamanian.
Leonard earned the respect of many by proving his mettle and willingly exchanging with Duran in an unsuccessful defense, he would rectify the loss later that year in New Orleans. The “No Mas” fight, in which Duran quit in the eight round, left the boxing world stunned.
In 1981 Sugar Ray topped that performance by knocking out his rival, Tommy Hearns, after being down on points for the majority of the fight. In between those fights Leonard also won the junior middleweight title by knocking out Ayub Kalule, which meant he held two weight class titles simultaneously.
Leonard briefly retired after the Hearns fight with a detached retina, but he came back to defend his title once more before retiring again for two years. He would never again fight at Welterweight, but he would move up in weight and shock the world again besting the other great fighter of the 80’s, Marvin Hagler.
Some consider the best four fighters of the decade to be Leonard, Hearns, Hagler and Duran; affectionately known as the four horseman.