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Looking Back – Sugar Ray Leonard Vs Roberto Duran III Scorecard

Duan and GG are back tomorrow with penultimate episode of the Fabulous Four podcast on the third fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. Here, they score the fight before the podcast.

This is supplemental material to our podcast series The Fabulous Four. Our eighth episode, up tomorrow, discusses this fight in heavy detail.

The Stage

December 7, 1989

Sugar Ray Leonard: 34-1-1 with 24 KOs; WBC Super Middleweight champion
Thomas Hearns: 85-7 with 59 KOs; WBC Middleweight champion

Duan: The last major fight of the 80s and the book closer for our Fabulous Four. series. A new venue as we’re leaving Ceaser’s for the first time since these two last met in New Orleans in June 1980 for the newly opened Mirage in Las Vegas. A 16,305 sellout the attendance on the night.

Duran is coming off a fantastic performance against Iran Barkley and I think that’s something people tend to forget when the look at this fight. He showed he could still box at the championship level even at 38. Ray on the other hand had been knocked down three times in his last two fights so there was something of a question over where their trajectories would cross and whether Duran might be better suited to fighting old than Leonard was.

Ray looks extremely intense during ring walks. He’s well warmed up under his winter gear which he leaves on right up until the opening bell. Roberto, you can see, is still cold during the ring introductions. You can see Larry Merchant is wearing a scarf at the commentary table which giving you an indication of how cold it is going to be out in the open air for the fighters. Ray’s WBC Super Middleweight crown is on the line in this one. Both men though are fighting within the Middleweight limit which should have also meant that Roberto’s WBC belt was in play too, but it hadn’t been factored into contract negotiations so a late change was made stipulating that it was only on the line for Duran and Leonard couldn’t win it.

GG: Why is this outside in December? Why the fireworks? You’d think that Leonard would be into the pomp and circumstance, but he’s clearly agitated. He even comes out to Michael Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone” which would sort of be Ray’s mantra coming into this fight with much of his business being behind closed doors.

The Fight

Round One

Duan: You get the sense right from the off that this is going to be a tough night’s work for Duran unless he can lure Leonard into a fight. Ray is moving well early and Roberto is slow in closing him down. The younger man picks off some nice jabs as Duran plods after his nose already reddening from the shots.

GG: Leonard looks all business. The ring looks huge. Leonard only has to take a step or two and Duran is already out of distance. Leonard peppered Duran with two shots that didn’t quite pop, but he was out of there quick. Leonard doesn’t do much, but Duran does less.

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

Round Two

Duan: An indication of the different levels of preparedness between rounds. Ray’s team have him wrapped in blankets to keep him from cooling off during the breaks, while Duran’s corner are holding an ice pack to the back of the still cold fighter. He’s fighting like a cold fighter too when they take center ring. His movement is frigid, his shots look slow and forced. He does start to throw some half decent body shots in this round, but Leonard is mostly able to just takes a half step back or a little slip to the side and tag him with the jab and even bring through a few sharp right-hand counters too. Ray starts to mix in some of the taunting and trickery that caused Duran to unravel nine years earlier. He’s starting to feel it already.

GG: Duran sneaks one big right hand in. Ray fakes a bolo punch. He’s pretty confident in there that Duran can’t really reach him. Ray goes back to the corner under a blanket. Leonard’s landing at a high percentage.

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

Round Three

Duan: Great Leonard round. He’s going to work with both the jab and the right to the body of Duran and he’s starting to bully and beat up on him like he did in New Orleans. Roberto is landing at an extraordinarily low rate which bodes poorly for a boxer who needed to establish a foothold early. He over lunges late in the round and is teed off on by a Leonard left hook against the ropes which rocks his head back.

GG: This is an even better round for Leonard as he’s found his comfort zone and is landing pretty much whatever he wants. He’s still staying on the outside and using his long reach.

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

Round Four

Duan: Duran looked like he was going back to the wrong corner at the end of the 3rd round and Ray followed him across the ring and shoved him from behind. Again doing everything he can to get in his head. Ray’s corner warn him it’s not time for the macho stuff yet and implore him to keep boxing until he’s softened Duran up some more. Duran’s team want him to be more aggressive. I don’t think it’s through any lack of trying that he’s not been so far. He just looks bamboozled. He can’t get anything going. Ray is not willing to trade with him the way he did with Lalonde and Hearns and Roborto doesn’t have the legs to chase him down.

Leonard did less damaging work in this round, perhaps taking a breather, but he still banked the points. Duran’s most effective offense so far has been a butt that opened up a cut Leonard’s mouth in this session.

GG: Leonard is going to the body often. Merchant says that Leonard is giving Duran a boxing clinic. At the end of the round, Leonard hops back to his corner and Duran looks at him with a look of disgust.

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

Round Five

Duan: The crowd rallies for Duran in this round and it seems to spur him on some. We see a bit more spirit to his attacks. There’s still not a lot of effective work from him but he tries to bullrush, grab in close and fling away to the body. Mostly though, Ray is able to just circle away, create distance and boss it on the outside.

GG: Leonard must’ve gotten hit solid as he has blood in his mouth. Faint chant for Duran. Duran gets inside and Leonard immediately ties him up.

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

Round Six

Duan: Duran looked like he might be starting to find a foothold early in the sixth. He was forcing the action and the space between he and Leonard was beginning to closing. In the last minute though, Ray turned up the heat and completely took the play away from him. I’m not sure if perhaps he felt Roberto weakening, but Ray elected to stand and trade for the first time in the fight and got much the better of it. He threw the kitchen sink at Duran as the round drew to a close, shaking him a few times.

GG: Leonard is absolutely having his way with Duran in the 6th. Duran was wobbled a few times and Leonard was teeing off with him. Leonard held the top of his head and threw a bolo-type uppercut. Duran was a shell of himself that round.

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

Round Seven

Duan: Leonard is back on the move again this session. He still looks really sharp, timing Duran and landing clean, crisp counters. When they get in close now, he’s happy to take the fight to Duran there too, slinging away with hooks to the body and head on the inside.

GG: I wondered if Leonard was going to try to close the show, but he really didn’t. He stayed on track and kept piling on the points.

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

Round Eight

Duan: Duran looks like a man totally lacking in belief between rounds. His corner tells him Ray is getting tired. Larry Merchant infers that Duran is too old and too wise to buy what they’re saying. Larry’s probably right.

These rounds have to be miserable for the great Panamanian. Leonard landed with some one-twos that even up at super middle you would expect to put most guys over. Duran never wilted though. If he wanted a way out, he could have taken it.

GG: Leonard blasted him with a big right hand. Duran’s corner said he was getting tired and I don’t see it. He threw some inside combinations that were more show than go that got the crowd excited.

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

Round Nine

Duan: This is interesting. Leonard is conscious of the fans displeasure with what’s going on in the ring. He says “to hell with the crowd” to his corner, which Pepe Correa repeats back to him. It’s almost like he’s embracing it in this round too as he’s back in his safety first shell, making Roberto miss and enjoying doing so to the ire of those watching. He sparks into life in the last 30 seconds to show the judges he’s still dominating and in total control.

GG: Poor Duran is so frustrated. He knows that he can’t catch Leonard and all he can do is keep punching, but in punching, he’s missing so much. And his reflexes aren’t where they need to be to counter Leonard, who is landing at will.

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

Round Ten

Duan: This is another grueling round for Duran with Leonard back to taking command of center ring, planting his feet and letting go with big looping hooks which thud off his face and head. Merchant notes how Leonard isn’t taunting Duran anymore perhaps out of respect for the heart and guts he’s shown to keep taking these shots round after round. I have a Sugar Ray shutout through 10.

GG: Leonard tees off on Duran’s body with two big rights. Just wound up from way outside and Duran couldn’t do anything about it. Leonard closed the round strong.

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

Round Eleven

Duan: Ray is so confident going into the 11th. Everything he’s done so far has worked. He’s relaxed and having fun with him in there. This is full circle from the scared kid we saw in Montreal. He’s besting Duran in every aspect now. Maybe that confidence turned into overconfidence though as he gets smashed with a huge right hook by Duran in one last show of defiance. It opens up a gruesome tear above the eye which had it happened any earlier in the fight would have almost certainly been a problem for the doctors to look at.

GG: Leonard blasts Duran with a right hand, but then at the same time, Duran blasted him with a right hand and Leonard’s eye starts leaking. The corner can’t even get it to stop bleeding. Duran’s best shot came with just 3 minutes left in the fight.

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

Round Twelve

Duan: Ray was taking no chances in the final round with his eye as bad as it was. He spent the entire round circling away, flicking out punches more as a deterrent than a weapon. Duran chased him as he did all night, but did so with very little success as has also been the case all night. I gave him the round; his only one of the fight, but it was otherwise a Leonard sweep. Roberto raised his hands at the final bell showing the same stubbornness that defined his career

GG: As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t give Duran the 12th. This was much like the early rounds, except Leonard just wasn’t that active. You would’ve thought that after he opened up the cut, Duran would be like a man possessed to try and knock him out, but he didn’t even really try.

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


Duan’s card: 119-109 Leonard
GG’s card>: 120-108 Leonard

Jerry Roth: 119-109 Leonard
Joe Cortez: 116-111 Leonard
Bob Logist: 120-110 Leonard

Duan: Ray fought the perfect fight to beat Duran at this stage of his career and at times he looked very good doing it. It would be the last win of his career and it was the last time we got to at least see some glimpses of the great Ray Leonard.

Did the fight need to happen? For Ray maybe it did. Everything about his performance said to me it was a fight he was driven by and one he was taking every bit as seriously as his biggest bouts. I think in his mind he needed to turn the score against Duran in his favour and do so in a way where the story would be about him winning and not Roberto losing.

For Duran? Maybe he needed it too. It was a way for him to lay the ghosts of No Mas to rest. I believe that’s what kept him in there to the final bell. He wanted to show that Leonard wouldn’t break him this time.

There has to be an ending to every era and that’s what this was. There weren’t going to be any more battles between the Fabulous Four after this because there couldn’t be. Any thoughts of a Leonard/Haggler rematch or a Leonard/Hearns 3 were gone because everybody knew it was over and the demand wouldn’t have been there anymore. In that sense, maybe it was needed for that closure.

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