As much as I’ve bashed ESPN over the years, I have to say this: their 30 for 30 series is flawless (it’s not like I’m biased or anything, right?). As I’ve said before, I love boxing and MMA all the same, but I was into boxing long before I got into MMA. I used to stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights when I was a kid and watch the fights with my dad. He bought me books that went into intricate detail about Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Chuck Wepner, Marvin Hagler, Mike Tyson, Thomas Hearns, Sonny Liston… I could ramble on and on. It’s said by many people that baseball makes for the best reads in literature due to its history, but I tend to disagree. Boxing in literature comes alive. I love it. Although I’m now much more into MMA these days since boxing has been thrown into the ruins with unrecognizable champions (for the most part) and poor marketing, I still love the sport.
One of the many classic boxing bouts I’ve always been fascinated by is the second WBC Welterweight title fight in 1980 between Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. Duran had beaten the young buck Leonard for the title earlier that year in a fight for the ages, a 15 round war, seeing a victory by unanimous decision. The second fight was hyped up heavily and, when it went down, Duran quit in the eighth round. Now, announcer Howard Cosell stated that Duran said, “No mas”, but Duran has since stated that it isn’t what he said. ESPN ran a 30 for 30 about this bout last night with that title: No Mas.
All these years later, Duran still cites that the reason he ‘threw the white flag’ is because he was dealing with intense stomach cramps due to a quick drop in weight followed up by a heavy meal involving ‘two hot steaks and cold water’.
My thoughts? Roberto Duran quit against “Sugar” Ray Leonard because of his frustration — Leonard continually taunted Duran and was consistently beating Duran to the punch with his superior hand and foot speed. Since Duran knew that Leonard was not going to change the way he was fighting just to accommodate him, he decided to do the easiest thing and simply quit fighting (which was a shock at the time due to how much machismo and toughness Duran had).
Another reason why Duran quit? He didn’t train properly for the rematch. Leonard has stated numerous times in recent years that he knew how Duran partied and ballooned up (or got fat) in between fights, so he stated that he wanted to have the rematch as soon as possible because he knew Duran would not be able to get into proper shape to beat him again after all the long celebrations and the weight he gained after pulling a big upset and beating Leonard for the Welterweight title. The rematch took place just a short five months after the first fight and Leonard knew exactly what he was NOT going to do in the rematch and that was fight Duran’s fight (like he tried to do in the first bout between the two).
Instead, Leonard prepared himself to use his advantages against Duran and outbox with him speed and athleticism. Leonard was a very smart fighter (that’s why he wanted the rematch as soon as possible) and he wasn’t going to be stupid enough to try and outfight Duran like he did in the first fight. Duran, on the other hand, prepared, but not like he should have. When you have to spend more time training to drop weight than you do training for a fight, you are most likely not going to do very well in the actual matchup and that is exactly what happened. Leonard began to really start clowning with Duran in the mid-rounds by doing things such as taunting Duran to hit him (Anderson Silva-esque) and doing the famous bolo punch while Duran simply could not be effective against such an opponent. While Leonard’s confidence soared, Duran’s plummeted and due to the embarrassment and humiliation that was being doled upon Duran, he did what no fighter is ever supposed to do and that is surrender in the heat of battle.
And again, Howard Cosell is actually the one who came up with the “No Mas” saying, but what Duran did was the equivalent of saying “No Mas” (No More). In reality, he said “I’m not boxing with this clown” in his native Spanish language. The whole thing about Duran having stomach cramps (some even claim he quit because he had to go to the bathroom) was just an excuse that Duran used to attempt to validate his quitting and it didn’t work. Only delusional people will really believe that he quit in that fight because of stomach cramps, especially after you see how the fight was going in the last few rounds before Duran quit. Duran’s manager and one of his friends, who was at the fight and was in Duran’s dressing room after the fight, both stated that Duran was not suffering from cramps. He was suffering from embarrassment and that is why he quit.
Of course, if you watched the 30 for 30 last night, Duran is still saying the same thing 33 years later.
As far as why there was not a rubber match directly after the second fight, the public was not too keen on seeing one at the time because of the fact that Duran did something unforgivable in the second fight and it took quite a while before the people truly forgave Duran for what he did (although they never forgot). It wasn’t just the money that made Leonard fight Thomas Hearns the next year instead of having a rubber match with Duran, it was the public’s interest that made Leonard fight Hearns. If the public wanted to see a top notch fight, then it got made and there was no fight at the time that was bigger than a unification bout between “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns for the undisputed welterweight title: the public was demanding it, so it got made.
If Leonard had fought a third fight with Duran instead of facing Hearns, people would have ridiculed Leonard and claimed that he was ducking Hearns (and many had claimed that he had already been ducking Hearns prior to them actually facing off). Duran went into obscurity for several months after quitting against Leonard and did not fight until nine months later (which was a long time back then, especially for a fighter like Duran who consistently fought every few months), so a rubber match was sort of out of the question at the time and even if Duran had stayed active, people still would not want to see him face Leonard again because they still hadn’t forgiven him for quitting (Duran didn’t truly get forgiven until he dominated and stopped the previously unbeaten Davey Moore to win a junior Middleweight title). Leonard on the other hand had an easy title defense after regaining the title against Duran and then he moved up in weight to win a junior Middleweight title before he fought Hearns in the mega fight that the public had been demanding for quite some time.
Leonard and Duran eventually did fight a rubber match in 1989 when they were both past their primes and Leonard won an uneventful unanimous decision to retain his super Middleweight title that he had at the time. It would have been fair to give Duran a rematch directly after the second fight since Duran give Leonard one after the first fight, but as previously stated, Duran went into obscurity for a little while most likely due to the humiliation stemming from him quitting in the rematch, and the public was not demanding a rematch, so there was really no way that it could have happened even if both fighters were receptive to the idea.