What really happened to Roberto Duran?
By Klaas Mabetlela: On the night of November 1980, Roberto Duran shocked the world when he turned his back and refused to fight any longer against the challenger, Sugar Ray Leonard. He won his career defining fight against the same Leonard hardly 5 months earlier in Montreal. How does a man who never displayed cowardice before and after this fight can took such a drastic action? Experts say our biggest strengths can result in our weakest moment and I think that is what happened. Everything he fought for in his life, all his frustrations about the establishment, the hatred of his opponent and personal woes collided on that chilly November night.
Duran epitomized fighting, he started early and possessed all ingredients of the great fighter; spirit, guts, passion, intensity, pride and guile. His fighting style was maniacal at certain times and he electrified the boxing world. To him, someone like Sugar Ray Leonard was his opposite; he was too ‘soft’ to be a boxer, too pretty, too much of a television star and Duran wanted to ensure that boxing is ruled by real men like himself. He hated the attention that Leonard was getting and the fact that he got only a fifth of what Leonard got, brought the intensity of his feelings to the boiling point.
That is the reason why he skipped Jr welterweight division and went straight after Leonard t welterweight division after oblitering the lightweight division to such an extent that most rate him as the best of all-times in that division. There were other benefits like taking his career to another level and earning the biggest payday of his career. I think to Duran, the burning passion was to correct the boxing order and ensure that boxing is left for real men. Duran was in such a stance and trance for their first fight in 1980 that he would have beaten any boxer that night. He displayed all; boxing of the highest quality, intensity, fighting spirit and physical fitness second to none. Yes, Sugar Ray Leonard could have boxed more but I do not think he had too much choice that night.
He went on to beat the then undefeated Sugar Ray Leonard to top the pound for pound list without any dispute. I think that win was the beginning of the build up for no mas. Duran won the fight he was supposed to lose against all odds and he was on top of the world. His win brought him more attention than he never knew existed, he was a mainstream superstar not only a boxing superstar and he can beat any man in front of him. He went on to enjoy the trappings of being a mainstream superstar and that impacted in his mental and physical preparations for the rematch which took place barely 5 months later.
Duran expected round one of this rematch with Leonard to be round 16 of their first fight but Leonard has done his homework thoroughly and was mentally and physically fitter to carry out his strategy to the tee. The frustration of being humiliated by the man you hate the most, lack of proper preparation, questionable conditioning and Leonard’s ability to stick to his plan were all too much for Roberto Duran. He did the unthinkable and something totally out of character; he allowed the demons that helped him to the top defeat him mentally and gave up.