The other night I tuned into a documentary about the infamous “No Mas” fight between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Born on June 16, 1951, in El Chorrillo, Panama, Durán rose from poverty to become a world-renowned professional boxer. Known for his “Hands of Stone” punching power, he won world championships in four weight classes. Cutting right to the chase – the boxing world and fans turned their back on Duran after he refused to continue fighting after the 8th round in the title re-match against Leonard. Leonard was hungry to regain his Welterweight championship after losing it to Duran in the “Brawl in Montreal” fight in Olympic Stadium. Sugar Ray punished Duran by taunting him with every confidence diminishing tactic in the book. Only fair I guess because in the prior match, Duran had done the same to him. Now Duran would have to take his own medicine.
There are so many different views on what exactly happened to Duran. Why did he quit? How could he just decide not to go on with the whole world watching? Duran claimed to have been suffering from severe stomach cramps yet none of his corner coaches recall him ever complaining about cramps. Duran also claims that he never used the words “No Mas” to stop the fight. Whether he used the words or not, he still made the choice to stop fighting when fans everywhere were expecting him to take the fight to the finish. To this very day, Sugar Ray still has no peace in having re-gained his title from an opponent who decided “on his own” to call it quits. The media didn’t cover the victory the way Leonard had dreamed. Instead, Duran got all the attention – but not the kind that made Duran feel respected – but utterly ashamed. He had let the world down and the media labeled him as the biggest quitter ever to come into the game.
After hearing both sides, I can’t say that I support one over the other. Who knows, maybe Duran did throw in the towel on purpose to take his millions and go home as some accused. What I can say with absolute heart is that I feel for the guy because of what happened to him afterwards. He went into hiding after his house was pelted with rocks and family threatened. Fans openly revolted to show their disgust. The once loved boxer became a very lonely and isolated man. And as I watched how his life unraveled, I couldn’t help but wonder why he should be punished that way. Gone from every sports writer’s memory was Duran’s incredible history. How he powered up out of poverty, going from shining shoes to become one of the greatest fighters of all time. No one cared to remember his hands of stone. Duran re-entered the ring producing some incredible wins against formidable fighters like Davey Moore. He would not win his last fight against Leonard for the WBC Super Middleweight title. Even so, Duran would rebound and at age 49, Durán won a 12-round decision over Pat Lawlor to claim the Super Middleweight championship title.
I am sure of one thing. Duran would have changed his “No Mas” decision if he could do it all over again. Not because his decision was wrong for him – but because it wasn’t worth all the pain he would have to go through afterwards. No matter how hard he tried to regain the respect he once had, it was lost.
The inspired truth for today is my feeling that no person should ever have to endure the kind of punishment Duran endured for making such a difficult personal decision. For making a choice that was unexpected, unpopular and to most – unforgiveable. I wish Duran had more friends standing by him and his decision, right or wrong. The crowds that followed him through his victories had all but disappeared. No one likes a quitter. And they let him know that for sure.