The Sugar Ray Leonard Vs. Roberto Duran rematch indeed took place a whole four decades ago today. Even now, though, fight fans the world over have a very hard time trying to explain what happened in the ring that night in New Orleans; a city of intrigue and mystery, where the Voodoo religion is still practiced by (according to some reports) 20-percent of the city’s population.
And there may have been strange and malevolent forces at work on the night of November 25, 1980. Certainly, Duran himself says all these years later how there were “many shady elements to that fight.”
It was, as all boxing fans know, in the eighth round when Duran, inexplicably, shockingly and disturbingly threw up his hands and quit; this while supposedly mumbling the two words, “No Mas.” There is much debate as to whether or not Duran actually said the two words that are so easily recognized by a fight fan (recently, this year in fact, Sugar Ray, in speaking with TMZ Sports, said he himself never heard Duran say the words, while Duran himself has long since insisted the whole story was made up by Howard Cosell – Duran adamant he never said “No Mas.”)
But the quit job on the part of Duran was and is undeniable. And unexplained.
The fight was close at the time of Duran’s odd capitulation, with the outcome still in doubt (scores after seven rounds being 68-66, 68-66, 67-66, all for Leonard). Duran was never visibly hurt in the fight. Leonard was teasing Duran by dropping his hands and putting forth his own attempts at mimicking the “Ali Shuffle” and the “Bolo Punch,” but was this alone enough to make Duran, the toughest of tough guys, do what he did? All these years later, and many millions of fans have a tough time buying it.
At the time, Duran said stomach cramps were the reason he quit. Not too many people bought that one either. Leonard was hurt by the manner of his victory, a revenge win that should have been so sweet. Sugar Ray was stung by all talk of his win being dominated by what Duran did, not what HE had done.
Duran went home to Panama and he was met by a savage “welcome.” His house splattered with graffiti, the former hero to an entire country was now an outcast. It took years for Duran’s reputation to fully recover. Or maybe you feel it never really did.
40 years is a long time. Too long for a mystery such as this one not to reveal itself. Or perhaps you think there was/is no mystery, that Duran really did quit because he was being embarrassed and his tough guy image and persona was simply unable to handle it. Maybe it was that simple.
But a simple mistake on the part of a man many people say is one of the greatest fighters of all time sure proved to be a costly one. Looking back at that astonishing eighth round once more, it’s quite clear Duran knew he had made one huge mistake almost as soon as he’d made it; Roberto wanting to resume fighting just seconds after he’d surrendered. By then of course, it was too late.