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Looking Back – Sugar Ray Leonard vs Roberto Duran II: No Mas

Sugar Ray Leonard vs Roberto Duran II
We take a look back at the fight best known as, “No Mas.”

This is supplemental material to our new podcast series The Fabulous Four. Our second episode, up on Tuesday, discusses the fight in heavy detail.

The Stage

November 25, 1980

Sugar Ray Leonard: 27-1 with 18 KOs, WBC Welterweight champion
Roberto Durán: 72-1 with 55 KOs

Duan: The pre-fight here is night and day compared to their first bout just a few months earlier. While Leonard again looked anxious during his ring walk, all signs of nerves disappeared as soon as he stepped between the ropes. He’s absolutely beaming as Ray Charles sings America The Beautiful and he even laughs and smiles afterward when he gets to meet the great man.

Duran, on the other-hand, appears as though he has aged a decade facially in the five months since fight one. You can tell right away just from looking at him that he hasn’t done the weight the right way. The crowd responses have been reversed too. It’s a much more pro Sugar Ray crowd in New Orleans than it was in Montreal. This time it’s Duran who gets the mixed reaction. Both head trainers seem to be fretting this one. On the challenger’s side, I’m sure Angelo Dundee knew it was a must win for his man. For the champion, perhaps it was a matter of Ray Arcel knowing that Duran wasn’t going to be the same fighter this time around.

GG: In Sugar Ray’s book, he said that the man he was named after told him to whip Duran and he knew at that time, he was winning. I really wonder if Ray Charles told him that.

Round One

Duan: Leonard is on his toes and moving already at first bell. Its a much tamer opener than the first fight. This time there’s no explosion out of Duran and that allows Ray to choose the tempo of the fight. He circles the Panamanian and pops off a shot whenever it’s available to him. He then either ties up or breaks away before the response can come back his way. Duran is mostly just standing his ground. He attempts the occasional charge behind the double jab, but it’s all a bit halfhearted looking, and never really takes Ray out of his comforts. Towards the end of the session, Leonard starts using the lead hand as a measure and brings the right in behind it. The fact that he’s willing to commit to the power hand so early indicates a confident fighter.

Leonard is clearly more on his toes in the first round, feinting and keeping Duran on the defensive. Duran looks off-balanced. Neither guy did any damage whatsoever, but with about 10 seconds left, he did hammer Duran with two right hands to win the round.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-9 Leonard

Round Two

Duan: The commentator addresses Leonard’s complaint about soft-spots in the ring between rounds. The ring’s support structure is already on the verge of collapse after carrying the weight of each camp’s huge entourages during introductions. The beams are literally being held in place by security personnel crouched below the mat from here on out.

Duran’s lack of self belief in this fight compared to the last one is already a big difference maker. There’s almost a timidness to the way he’s throwing his shots – as if he knows he’s out of range and is anticipating being caught on the counter. The first time around, he was the one with all the conviction in what he was doing. That’s what gave Roberto the upper-hand. It took him catching a couple of right-hands clean on the button to bring out even a glimpse of the fury he fought for 15 rounds with last time. The bad news is those two big shots took the round for Leonard and took something out of Duran.

GG: Duran does a better job closing in on Leonard, but in the clinch, Duran couldn’t push him around and Leonard threw an uppercut and got out. He also nailed him with a sharp counter right. There’s a distinct difference in Leonard’s strength, confidence, or both and Duran looks overly frustrated.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-9 Leonard

Round Three

Duan: Roberto has a half smile on his face to start the third. Arcel is instructing him to put Leonard back against the ropes. Duran put in a really big shift in this round and maybe did just about enough to steal it. He tried ramp up the pressure on Leonard. It’s all very laboured looking work and he’s missing a lot, but he did have some successes too. Ray was doing more dancing than boxing in that round. When Leonard does get caught with a decent shot, he doesn’t allow himself to be suckered into a war this time. He sticks to his gameplan. That gameplan is to move and frustrate the older man.

GG: Best action of the fight so far was Duran pushing Leonard against the ropes and wailing on him and Leonard fighting back with lightning quick punches. This suits Duran far more and Duran accentuates the round at the end by bullying Leonard a bit. That’s Duran’s round.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Duran
GG’s score: 10-9 Duran

Round Four

Duan: This was an odd sort of round. There was a lot more inside fighting, which is where Duran theoretically would want the fight. He’s the one coming forward, he’s the one pushing Leonard back, and for the first time in the contest, he was the one able to dictate the terms of the fight. I still think he lost the round though. You could certainly make a case for Duran, but I felt Leonard was able to outscore him in it by just always being first on the trigger. You can tell the number of missed punches from Duran are starting to effect his cardio.

GG: Leonard throws a left right to the gut and it looked like Roberto felt it big time. Duran tried to make it a rougher round, but whenever he overthrew his punches or missed, Leonard countered with a right hand, no different from what you’d see Floyd Mayweather do. Leonard ended the round well with a nice right hand.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-9 Leonard

Round Five

Duan: This was a round of two halves. It was a battle of the jabs early which Leonard clearly won. Ray’s was sharp and stinging. Duran’s was tired and weak. Midway through the round, there was a scuffle which ended with Leonard going down from a Duran shoulder tackle. After that,the dynamic changed. It fell into more of a maul and brawl pattern with Roberto coming out the better. I think Duran’s work in the last 30 to 40 seconds clinched him the frame.

GG: Even though Leonard landed the punch that made Cosell most excited, I think this Duran’s round. He was able to get Leonard to fight more inside and especially near the end of the round, he was tagging Leonard with in-close right hands.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Duran
GG’s score: 10-9 Duran

Round Six

Duan: Going into the 6th, it was still anyone’s fight. Leonard had controlled the balance of the action, but over the last few rounds, there were signs that it was gradually becoming more Duran’s type of fight. That was put to bed in this session. Leonard started moving again and Duran suddenly began to look very weary and heavy legged. Ray dominated the stanza and punished any of the frustrated, ill-timed lunges coming back from Duran. Leonard’s only real hiccup in the round was a half slip on a broken ring board which momentarily cost him his balance.

GG: This is the closest round so far I think. Leonard is moving in and out, but having trouble with a spot in the ring. Duran is starting to be able to do some of the things he wants and most of Leonard’s shots are counters.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-10

Round Seven

Duan: This round was the beginning of the end for Roberto. The tank had started to empty already and he was beginning to get beat up and embarrassed. Leonard exclusively just made him miss for the first 90 seconds. Then with Duran’s temper at boiling point, that’s when he amped up the clowning and showboating even more. As Duran lashed out at him, Ray capitalized on the openings and just took him to school. He scored with almost every punch he threw from stinging counter jabs to big right hands, bolo punches and two fisted flurries. He gave it the works in the last minute of the round.

On commentary you hear Cosell imploring Leonard to drop the showboating and to refocus himself on the job at hand. He was echoing a sentiment felt by most in attendance that night as well as the majority of those watching live on TV. The feeling was that it had become Ray’s fight to lose and he was only giving Duran a chance he didn’t otherwise have. 99 out of 100 times those people would have been right too. This time though, Leonard knew better. It was that strategy which broke Duran’s heart and ultimately won him the fight.

GG: This is where Leonard starts playing mind games. He’s goofing around, sticking his head out and daring Duran to hit him with his hands down. He lands a speedy combination with his back against the ropes that was very pretty. He started the bolo punch and landed a left and then asked Duran to come in, only to be out of dodge by the time he got there. Duran looked really frustrated.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-9 Leonard

Round Eight

Duan: We see the same thing again from Sugar Ray in this round. He lets Duran do all the work up until the halfway point – just evading his attacks and letting him burn up energy – then he turns up the heat in the second half of the round. He allows Duran close him down and then picks him off on the way in every time.

Duran, fed up and completely out of ideas, calls it quits with about 30 seconds left in the frame. In truth, the damage was all done in the previous round. Leonard only landed a handful of really hurtful shots in the eight, but it had all been building up and this was the tipping point. Roberto was just worn out, frustrated and miserable from chasing a target he never could catch. The ref is as dumbfounded as everybody else and signals them back in to fight on. Duran has already made up his mind though and just turns away shrugging off the suggestion.

GG: Duran’s corner had an ice pack on his gut before the round started. Leonard stopped the goofing off, but the damage was already done. He started walking him down a bit and Duran just waved him off like he didn’t want it anymore.


Duan: After the fight had been called off and the ring flooded with people, the camera shot back to Duran, who, for one split second, was caught putting his guard back up. Some people have misinterpreted this as him wanting back in the fight. That wasn’t the case though. It wasn’t an attempt to resume the fight with Ray, but rather an attempt to avoid a fight with another member of the Leonard family. Ray’s brother Roger had charged Duran during the post fight melee in Montreal and Roberto had knocked him out with a single punch. When Duran saw Roger hit the ring here to celebrate, he raised his fists back up just in case Roger fancied a second crack at him.

GG: I think Roger wanted, “No mas,” with Duran.

Duan: This bout and Duran’s “no mas” will be discussed for as long as combat sport continues to exist. People will debate what might have happened had Duran chose to fight on because this wasn’t a closed case, not after seven completed rounds anyway. I had Leonard leading five rounds to two at the time of stoppage – that leaves Duran three points adrift. All of the judges had it closer than that. Mike Jacobs and James Deswert had him trailing by just two points, while James Brimmell had him a single point behind. A two point deficit in a 15 round fight is by no means a huge mountain to climb – especially with seven full rounds still to go.

The truth is though, this fight was already gone for Roberto Duran. While it may have still been close on the cards, it was growing considerably less so in the ring. Leonard’s speed advantage was become more pronounced by the second as Roberto continued to fatigue. Duran was spent and it was becoming near impossible for him to lay a hand on Ray. Whenever he did catch him, there wasn’t enough snap left in his shots to shift the momentum of the fight even the slightest amount. The result was academic. Either Leonard would have found the punch to stop him or else it would have been seven rounds target practice for him.

GG: I fully agree. Did Duran feel that quitting was better than getting knocked out? Because in the 8th round, Ray started to walk him down a bit. Maybe at that time he felt like it was all going downhill.

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