Boxing's Fab Four Part Three: Sweet Revenge
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
25th November 1980, Superdrome, New Orleans, Louisiana
WBC Welterweight Title
Roberto Duran Vs Ray Leonard
The new champion partied hard after his victory over Ray Leonard. Duran ate, drank and partied some more. In late September the new king of boxing received a call from his manager Carlos Eleta, telling him that the rematch would be in November. "Are you fucking crazy?" Duran shouted. "I weigh nearly two-hundred-pounds (90.72 KG). I can't drop all that weight in a month."
The reason for a quick rematch was duly down to the amount of money Don King, who promoted the fight and Carlos Eleta would make. Duran however, knew he would lose as he was so drained making the one-hundred-forty-seven-pounds (66.68 KG) limit that he was suffering from stomach cramps. Three days before the contest Eleta claimed that his fighter had used diuretic medication to get his weight off, but this was refuted by Duran and his personal physician Dr. Orlando Nunez.
On the morning of the fight Duran was a pound (0.45 KG) over the welterweight limit and spent the hours before the weigh-in drying out. Both boxers weighed one-hundred-and-forty-six-pounds (66.22 KG). Straight after Duran got off the scales he drank a large thermos of consommé, a type of clear soup made from stock and a half thermos of hot tea. He then ate an orange the size of a grapefruit before wolfing down a large lunch which included two T-bone steaks and french fries. Four hours later at 17.00 he ate half a steak and drank some more tea.
Leonard on the other hand, who didn't struggle to make weight had a large breakfast of two eggs and grits, a food made from corn, two pieces of toast, peaches and Kool-Aid, a powdered drink. He had an early dinner at 16.00, which consisted of fried chicken, green peas, a glass of water and some more Kool-Aid.
The challenger had lost Dave Jacobs, his trainer from his amateur days after a falling out. Jacobs wanted his man to have a few tune-up fights before getting in with Duran again, but Leonard insisted on an immediate rematch, leaving Jacobs no option but to quit.
Again the contest was shown live on closed circuit television at three-hundred-and-forty-five different locations in the United States and Canada, with sixty foreign countries also televising the event. ABC also shelled out $2.5 million to show the bout on 19th December that year, making it the highest fee ever paid for a delayed prime time telecast.
25,038 fans paid for tickets ranging between $40 to $1,000 to produce a gate of $3 million, but the receipts from the closed circuit broadcast made $38 million, which gave Duran a pure of $8 million, whilst Leonard received a million dollars less.
Leonard, who ditched his usual attire of red, white and blue trunks with tassels on his boots for a pair of black trunks and tassel-less shoes. "How do I look?" He asked Mike Trainer as he left his dressing room.
"You look like a mix of the Grim Reaper and an assassin," came the reply.
Once both men were in the 21 foot by 21 foot (6.4 m x 6.4 m) green canvased ring, jazz singer Ray Charles sang 'America The Beautiful'. Once he had finished the singer came over to his namesake to hug him and kissed him on the cheek.
The champion offered his glove at the bell and the difference from the original encounter was all ready in motion. The challenger circled his foe on his toes, using the jab, not the flat-footed over zealous boxer turned brawler. Duran edged forward, using his right but was coming up short. He tried to force Leonard to the ropes, but he was having none of it. Duran had to take two right hands as the bell signalled the end of the opener.
Leonard used the ring again in round two. Duran bulled forward, but the challenger refused to engage as he kept the champion on the end of his jab. There was a brief exchange as Leonard fought off the ropes, catching the champion with a good right. Duran sneered a smile as he thought the challenger was going to stand and trade, but he didn't oblige. Leonard continued to dance and snake out the left as they had a quick-fire exchange at the bell.
The champion started the third by forcing the challenger to the ropes, but he had to take a good left hook in doing so, as Leonard skipped away. Duran was the one forcing the action, but he was chasing shadows as Leonard picked him off with the jab. Finally Duran had his man where he wanted him and banged at the midriff, but Leonard matched him with fast flurries. Duran walked back to his corner, looking frustrated at he tactics of the challenger, even though he had much more success than the previous two rounds.
Leonard was happy to trade in the fourth round, but he wasn't flat-footed like last time. As Duran landed with some good shots, the inside work coning from the challenger was so much better, notably a left to the mid-section and his right catching the champion on the way in.
Round five was a bit quieter, Duran would come forward pawing with a jab, as Leonard was content to stay on the outside away from trouble. The champion flew forward and pushed the challenger off his feet in Leonard's corner. The referee, Octavio Meyran, ruled it as a slip as the two combatants continued their rivalry. In the dying seconds Leonard was forced to the ropes, but he more than held his own as the bell rang.
The champion tried to no avail to force his man to the ropes in round six, but the challenger's movement was too good as he danced around the ring, picking off his advancing foe with snappy lefts and rights, doing what he should have done in the first match instead of brawling with the brawler.
Again Duran did his best to get close to Leonard, but he moved around snaking out his jab. At the midpoint of the seventh round the show boating from the challenger began. He shrugged his shoulder's, wiggled his hips, did the Ali shuffle, offered his chin and taunted the taunter by beckoning him with his right glove. Leonard even swung his right arm in a couple of circles and caught Duran with a jab. The crowd loved it, but the champion wasn't impressed. He walked back to his corner at the bell, waving his glove in disgust as he just wanted to fight.
The pattern continued in round eight, Duran would come forward, Leonard would move back, pick off his man with some fast punches and stay away from danger. They had a brief exchange, but then the unthinkable happened. With the timer ticking away, Duran waved his right hand in resignation and walked towards his corner. They continued for a few seconds but Duran did it again. Meyran waved them to continue, but Duran wasn't interested, leaving the referee no option but to call a halt at two-minutes and 44 seconds.
There was shock and confusion as Leonard celebrated with his team pouring into the ring and Duran resumed a fighting stance, then realised the fight was actually over. Leonard did go over to his opponent and both men exchanged in an embrace.
The referee claimed that Duran had said the now famous phrase 'No mas' (no more), but Duran didn't actually say that. He said "No sigo" which means 'I can't go on.' He would later blame stomach cramps for his reason to quit. "I ate too much. I was eating hot food and drinking cold juice. That's what caused the cramps. That's why I quit the fight," he said in an interview in 1981. "I actually wanted to stop the fight in the fifth round because my whole body was feeling paralysed because I had these stomach cramps...I felt slow and tired and I wasn't sweating. And I wasn't breathing enough. In the eighth round, I felt I could have feinted if I continued."
Duran's co-trainer Freddie Brown was astonished. "I was shocked. There was no indication he was getting weak."
But Carlos Eleta branded Duran as the 'Stomach of Stone' and suggested that he always ate like that before a fight. "Duran exploded at that moment, not realising what he was doing. He was so angry...because Sugar Ray was making fun of him," he added. "So at that instance, in the eighth round, he said, 'To hell with this fellow. He's making fun of me and I'm not going to fight anymore.' Stomach cramps? Maybe that's true, maybe it's not. But Duran didn't quit because of stomach cramps. He quit because he was embarrassed. I know this, Roberto was crying after the fight when I took him to the hospital for a checkup. In the car, he said to me, 'I'm ashamed of myself. I never should have done that. That's not me. I am not proud of myself.'
Ray Arcel was outraged: "That's it. I've had it. This is terrible. I've handled thousands of fighters and never had anyone quit on me. I think this guy need a psychiatrist more than he needs anything else."
Duran also spoke of retirement. "I am retiring from boxing right now. I don't want to fight anymore."
In contrast Team Leonard were overjoyed. "We were sky-high in the dressing room," said Angelo Dundee. "Different from last time. Everything was cool, smooth, good.
"I did everything I said I was going to do, and he couldn't accept it." Leonard reiterated. "He was frustrated, confused. I did everything I could to make him go off, like a clock wound up too tight. He got wound up so tight, he blew a spring. . . . I made him quit. To make a man quit, to make a Roberto Duran quit, was better than knocking him out."
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