Boxing's Fab Four Part Two: Leonard Vs Duran

Updated: Aug 7, 2019



20th June 1980, Olympic Stadium, Motreal, Quebec, Canada

WBC Welterweight Title

Ray Leonard Vs Roberto Duran

The massive contrast in both men were evident; Leonard was the boxer who possessed lightning speed of hand and foot and in boxing circles was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, thanks to the big paydays he commanded from his pro debut until now. Duran, who came from great poverty, learning to fight on the streets of Panama was the raw slugger, who brawled his way to the WBA lightweight crown, fighting for peanuts compared to his opponent's considerable purses.

Roberto Duran raced through his opponents and finally after making his debut in 1968 as a bantamweight moved up to the lightweight division in 1971, knocking out Jose Acosta in round one. In February 1972 he took Ken Buchanan's WBA lightweight crown after thirteen rounds of ferocious fighting.

He lost his first bout to Esteban DeJesus nine months later. Unfortunately for DeJesus the WBA crown wasn't at stake as it was a non-title contest. The Puerto Rican had to wait until March 1974 to get a crack at Duran's title.

As in their first contest DeJesus put the Panamanian to the canvas in the opening round. This time around Duran got straight up and fought back immediately. In round seven it was the Puerto Rican who tasted the canvas and in round eleven the champion finished proceedings with DeJesus having nothing left.

Duran continued defending his crown until January 1978, where he met DeJesus, who was now WBC lightweight champion for a third and final time. It was a bruising encounter from start to finish, where 'Hands of Stone' suddenly ended the bout with a right hand in the twelfth round to become undisputed lightweight champion, making twelve successful defences in the process.

Roberto Duran then moved up to welterweight, skipping the light-welter division all together. He won eight contests, including a ten round unanimous decision over ex WBC welterweight king Carlos Palomino.

By the time Duran had made his debut at the welterweight division in April 1978, 'Sugar' Ray Leonard had ten fights under his belt. When he challenged Wilfred Benitez for the WBC welterweight championship in November 1979 he had amassed a record of 25-0 (16 KO's). After fourteen rounds of calculating boxing, both fighters went toe-to-toe in the final round, with Benitez paying the price as Leonard stopped his man with 6 seconds of the contest remaining. The new champion defended his belt against Britain's Dave 'Boy' Green. A devastating left hook relieved the challenger of his senses in the fourth round, to set up the super fight with Duran.


Duran's right was a constant threat

Leonard, being a natural welterweight had the advantages of size, age and height, being 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) taller. Duran, who celebrated his twenty-ninth birthday four days before the fight is five years older. Many viewed him as being past his sell by date, with Leonard being installed as a 9-5 betting favourite with the Vegas bookmakers. Tell that to his Panamanian fans who were parading around the city with their country's flags and wearing badges with 'Duran Campeon' emblazoned on them, claiming the title for their man before a punch has even been thrown.

Leonard opened the original press conference announcing the fight by jesting "I'll kill him." He later stated he said it to bring some life into such a boring presser, but Duran failed to see the funny side.

Both fighters had a distinct dislike for one another, with Duran shrugging off the comparison of their respected fight earnings. "I fight for nothing. I have no respect for Leonard. He talks too much." Duran taunted Leonard endlessly by questioning his masculinity and even insulted his wife to goad the champion into abandoning his boxing and fight on Duran's terms; brawling.

On the Wednesday before the contest at the unofficial weigh-in, Duran taunted the champion again. "Leonard, two days more, two days more. Remember."

Leonard's response was to blow a kiss in his opponent's direction, with the Panamanian getting into a rage. "I have never seen Duran as determined as he is for this fight," said his trainer Ray Arcel. "Not even for DeJesus."

Both corners had an abundance of knowledge and experience. Angelo Dundee, who guided Muhammad Ali to the heavyweight championship and beyond, knew how to get his man out of a sticky situation.

With Dundee in Leonard's corner, Duran also had Arcel and Freddie Brown, who between them had a century or so of boxing expertise. Brown, Duran's cutsman had worked with the likes of Floyd Paterson, Aaron Pryor, Rocky Marciano, Dick Tiger, Larry Holmes and Vito Antuofermo, where he was probably paid a lot of overtime money.

Ray Arcel, who was coaxed out of retirement to train the Panamanian had also trained Georges

Carpentier, Buddy and Max Baer, Jame