Sugar Ray Leonard – The Up Jab


up jab

When Sugar Met El Radar

When Sugar Ray Leonard met the man with the Spidey Senses Wilfred Benitez in 1979 the two were both young but already great fighters. Benitez had made waves when he became the youngest world champion in history aged just 17 as he took the light welterweight crown and now still only 21 he was the welterweight champion.(Benitez is also featured in my book Forgotten Legends of the Ring)

Leonard of course was being primed as the new face of boxing now that Ali had retired and with an Olympic gold medal and a gold smile to match, he was the perfect candidate. The two undefeated fighters met and it was quickly noticeable that Benitez was living up to his nickname of El Radar. Benitez had an uncanny knack of moving out of the way just when it looked like punches were about to land.

In the opening round Leonard repeatedly tried to land the overhand right but every time Benitez would slide and roll under the right hand and Leonard despite continuing to miss, continued to throw the punch with no success. Leonard would miss with the right and follow up with the hook but Benitez would slide the right and pull back from the hook as the punches sailed harmlessly by. Considering that Leonard had such fast hands it was even more astonishing that Benitez was making him miss.

In Round two Sugar Ray Leonard did not attempt a single overhand right – he knew he had missed badly in round one so in round two he was looking for another angle. In the whole round Leonard threw just three right hands, one to the body and two uppercuts – zero overhands to the head. Instead knowing that his overhand punches were missing Leonard tried the up jab. Now the up jab comes with the lead hand held low and comes from the waist up so the trajectory is totally opposite to the overhand right. That punch comes from over, the up jab comes from under. Leonard began to see success with the up jab in round two, Benitez seemed not to be able to pick up on the up jab perhaps still thinking the overhand right was coming any moment.

In Round three Leonard continued throwing the up jab with the lead hand held low and eventually Benitez walked right into an up jab and was knocked down. Through the rest of the fight Leonard fought behind the up jab and in round 15 the fight was eventually stopped and Sugar Ray Leonard was the new welterweight champion of the world.

This goes to the show the versatility of the jab, there are so many varieties to the jab and so many ways it can be used. Learning how to the throw the different jabs should be imperative to your growth as a boxer and when to use each one and whether to use the jab to attack or defend. Here is the video below to see how Sugar Ray Leonard used the Up Jab.

  • Credit to The Breadman Stephen Edwards, the trainer to former champion Light Middleweight Julian Williams. The Breadman is the brightest all round mind in Boxing I have come across and I first read about the Sugar Ray Leonard use of the up jab to adjust against Benitez in one of his mailbags.

About the author 


Boxing Coach
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Boxing Author of:

The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival

Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit!

Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle

*Any videos or images used on this site to support my articles that are copyrighted are used for educational purposes and in accordance to the fair use act and are not my own - all credit is due to the respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.


el radar, Forgotten Legends of the Ring, sugar ray leonard, up jab, wilfred benitez

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