Originally Posted by Manassa
This is an open question as opposed to a persuasion - not necessarily an argument in favour of, nor intended to be a well structured essay, just some food for thought.
Leonard is pretty well regarded anyway, and many if not most posters here seem to have him in their top fifteen all-time list. Less frequently he will appear in the top five - but should it be a case of more frequently?
For a time I rated Duran the greatest lightweight ever, and I can't think why. Ability? Arguable (I'd say painfully even), but not if we're talking about what they accomplished at the weight.
Leonard's record is incredible. At one point, between the years 1917 and 1924 he amassed a streak of 80-2-1 (counting newspaper decisions), the only losses being a four rounder to the excellent Willie Ritchie who he later knocked out and a disqualification to the great welterweight, Jack Britton, with the draw coming against the other great welterweight of the era, Ted Kid Lewis. During this period he also expressed superiority over such Hall of Famers as Johnny Dundee, Johnny Kilbane, Freddie Welsh and Lew Tendler, against whom he resulted 4-0, 1-0, 1-0 and 2-0 respectively - and 2-1 against Britton. Rocky Kansas and the previously mentioned Willie Ritchie were two particularly notables who Leonard went 4-0 and 1-1 with. He beat everyone worth fighting within about ten pounds of the lightweight limit either way; Charley 'KO' White and Soldier Bartfield were among the other top names Leonard beat on his run of dominance.
They say he had it all, scoring high in categories such as 'intelligence', 'technique' and 'movement' whilst also possessing excellent power and a great jaw. It's important to realise that up until Ray Robinson became consensus, Benny Leonard was considered by many to be the greatest of all time and was also a big draw in his own era, commanding massive crowds and setting records. It is interesting to note that although Leonard was stopped five times, four of those occurred within his first year fighting (aged fifteen and sixteen) and the other in his very last fight against Jimmy McLarnin - a knockout-free period of twenty years and one hundred and ninety eight bouts.
I rate Leonard #5 and I may move him to #4 on my pound-for-pound list.
An amendment - I didn't realise Willie Ritchie and Rocky Kansas were in the Hall of Fame! This means that within his 80-2-1 streak, Leonard's record against Hall of Famers was:
Ted Kid Lewis 0-0-1
Jack Britton 2-1
Johnny Dundee 4-0
Freddie Welsh 1-0
Johnny Kilbane 1-0
Lew Tendler 2-0
Rocky Kansas 4-0
Willie Ritchie 1-1
One loss was a disqualification to a great welterweight he was about to knock out, the other loss was a four rounder which he avenged emphatically. The draw came to another great welterweight.
Anyone who rates Leonard below #6 has some thinking to do in my book. Completely dominated his era.