Move to Welterweight and Fall from Grace – 1978-1981
Monroe Brooks – 12 round Welterweight Contest
Having cleared out the lightweight division Duran issued a challenge to the likes of Cervantes, Gomez, Zarate, Lopez, Arguello, Cuevas, Palomino and Serrano etc. however it would be the ranked Monroe Brooks who would be Duran’s next opponent as he stepped up to the welterweight division.
Brooks was stepping up from light welterweight and felt strong at the weight. Brooks who had a fantastic amateur record had 33 knock outs in 48 fights and was a former NABF title holder and world class fighter who had also been involved in a fantastic war against Bruce Curry.
Some felt that Duran was taking on too much by jumping up two weight divisions, but those who worried need not have bothered. Duran methodically chopped down the taller Brooks with his power punching and fantastic inside work and the end came in the 8th round as Duran thudded home a left hook to the body that dropped Brooks for the count.
Significance of Fight: Even though Duran got the stoppage in the 8th round his team felt it could have come sooner had Duran not needed to come down in weight from 168lbs to 147lbs, it was felt that he drained himself too much. In the end though Duran marked his spot; he had now arrived as a genuine welterweight contender after beating a highly ranked and excellent fighter.
Carlos Palomino – 10 round Welterweight Contest
In his next fight Duran beat the tough Jimmy Heir (73-17-1) by unanimous decision and signed up to fight former WBC Welterweight Champion Carlos Palomino who boasted a record of 27-2-3. Palomino won the title in 1976 by stopping Britain’s John H. Stracey in a twelve round toe-to-toe war. He successfully defended his title 7 times until 1979 where he lost his crown on points to the great Wilfred Benitez.
Five months later he was in the ring with the Duran. Palomino was very strong and rugged, he had never been stopped and that remained the case when he retired, he had fantastic stamina and loved to attack the body.
Duran was now nearing the peak of his popularity and if he wanted to become successful in one of the most exciting divisions in boxing then Palomino was the man he had to go through and he [Palomino] was no easy fight for anyone and was only too willing to stand and trade and go deep into the trenches if need be.
Palomino was a notoriously slow starter and as both started the first round feeling each other out Palomino thought he could use his strength to push Duran to the ropes and in doing so ate a solid right uppercut and left hook that eventually backed up Palomino and in came Duran to fight on the inside.
With a minute left in round 2 Palomino again got Duran on the ropes and both started to throw punches with Duran landing the cleaner shots with his right uppercut being successful on a number of occasions, even with Duran’s back against the ropes he totally dominated Palomino. Duran dominated round 3 by using his jab and feints to get in close and even backed Palomino up with a straight right. Round 4 saw Duran working the angles as Palomino tried, and couldn’t, land his body punches as Duran would tie his arms up and sneak the uppercut in underneath. In the 5th Duran again dominated and right at the start of the 6th a straight right hand to Palomino’s jaw knocked him down for the mandatory 8 count though Palomino was up quickly.
Again in round 7 Duran dominated and in the 8th he showed his deft defensive skills as he bobbed and weaved his way out of trouble when Palomino punched and showed that wonderful footwork that was sometimes overlooked. The 9th again was Duran’s as he showed no respect Palomino’s punching power. Palomino had to get the knock out to win and in the 10th both men put their Latino pride on the line and went toe-to-toe but there was no question at the end of the round who the winner was – Roberto Duran put on a wonderful clinic of boxing coupled with effective aggression and street smart and developed defence.
Significance of Fight: Duran by now was widely considered the pound-for-pound number one, beating a tough fighter in Palomino opened the door to Duran for the million dollar pay days and he knew that any slip up in this fight could have spelled disaster. As it turned out Duran never let up, Palomino stated that he wasn’t hurt and that he had faced harder punchers but Duran was an excellent fighter.
Duran had earned Palomino’s full respect and after the fight Palomino announced his retirement although he would return to the ring a few years later.
As for Duran a WBC Welterweight title fight was now on the horizon with Wilfred Benitez but Benitez turned round and signed, for what he thought, was an easier fight against the up and coming star Sugar Ray Leonard. Pipino Cuevas believed to be the most dangerous welterweight in the world held the WBA strap but was promoted by Bob Arum whilst Duran was with Don King and was in the camp with the WBC, it would be one year down the line, and 3 fights later, before Duran would get his crack at super stardom.
Sugar Ray Leonard I – WBC Welterweight Championship
Ray Leonard defeated Benitez by stopping him with 6 seconds left in the 15th round and had originally wanted to set up a unification fight against the WBA champion Pipino Cuevas, however the master manipulator that is Don King worked his magic. Using his cosy relationship with the WBC and Jose Sulaiman, King had Sulaiman contact the Panamanian government stating that the Panamanian based WBA were trying to do the dirty on Panama’s favourite son. Pressure was duly applied and Cuevas eventually withdrew with an “injury”.
Duran finally had his career defining fight and he was not about to let it pass him by. Duran who was sometimes lax in his training methods if he wasn’t in the mood but for this fight Duran was hungry, he wanted it badly and the mind games he played had the desired affect to mentally throw Leonard off his original game plan.
In the pre-fight build up the normally pleasant and refined Leonard was shocked when he and his wife were accosted by Duran in the streets of Montreal with Duran screaming at Leonard’s wife “I kill your husband!” Angelo Dundee, Leonard’s trainer admitted that he lost his fighter mentally and couldn’t bring him back on track.
Leonard was the golden boy of his generation with a million dollar smile, all the talent he could handle, millions in the bank and a gold medal in the trophy cabinet from the 1976 Montreal Olympics so you would think Leonard would be the fans favourite in Montreal. Wrong! Duran entered the scene speaking French and wearing t-shirts saying “Bonjour” the fans warmed to Duran instantly and that further threw Leonard off mentally.
Duran utterly detested Leonard who he felt grew up with a golden spoon in his mouth and had everything handed to him hence his tactless mind games. Duran turned the heat up so much on Leonard that he lost his composure before he had even thrown a punch, Leonard simply wasn’t use to someone being so aggressive towards him and every time Leonard reacted Duran knew he was well into his opponents mind.
Duran promised a war – he was about to take on the biggest draw in boxing since Muhammad Ali but a spanner was thrown into the works that left Duran thinking there was a conspiracy against him. Duran had a pre-fight medical a few days before the fight which apparently showed up an irregular heartbeat. He had to undergo an electrocardiogram at the Montreal Institute of Cardiology before he was cleared to fight. According to Duran he felt that Leonard was scared and that he wanted the fight re-located to New York.
Duran’s team had their suspicions about this irregular heartbeat and after a second opinion he was given a clean bill of health. Ray Arcel famously quipped, “Roberto doesn’t have an irregular heartbeat how can a man who has no heart have an irregular heartbeat?”
At the weigh in Duran weighed 145 ½ lbs and Leonard 145lbs with Duran letting Leonard know that he was bringing a war to the ring. Incidentally the ring was measured at 20 feet which was felt would favour Leonard. The purses for the fight saw Duran earn $1.65 million and Leonard $8.5 million.
In the Olympic Stadium in Montreal 46,317 spectators turned up to witness the fight billed as Le Face-Face Historique.
Although Leonard was mentally affected by the constant barrage of verbal abuse he sustained from Duran he [Leonard] and Dundee made a tactical blunder before they entered the ring. Leonard had his body covered in Vaseline which Dundee felt would help to deflect Duran’s punches but as it transpired the Vaseline would help Duran as early as the fourth round as it had dripped on to Duran’s gloves. This tactical blunder helped Duran massively on the inside as when Leonard looked to tie Duran up Duran had an easier time to pull his arms free and continue punching.
Leonard entered the ring to a mixed reception waiting in the ring was Duran pacing around in his corner eager to get to work and when the ring announcer announced his name he was given a rousing reception whilst Leonard was booed during his introduction so much that it became hard to hear the announcer.
The third man in the ring was Carlos Padilla who famously officiated the legendary Thrilla in Manila. Padilla had a reputation for not allowing infighting which worried the Duran camp immensely because if you took away Duran’s infighting you had won a key battle in beating him. To ensure that Duran got his way, during Padilla’s final instructions the ever wise Ray Arcel had his back to Leonard and was about 10 inches away from Padilla and quietly whispered, “don’t take away the infighting!”
In round 1 Leonard surprised everyone by coming out flat footed instead of using his legs he signalled an intent to stand toe-to-toe with Duran who had challenged his manhood, Leonard wanted to make a statement but both cancelled each other out and it became a pretty even round but Duran was slowly measuring Leonard and started to close the distance.
The intensity of Duran was so great that in round 2 he started running at Leonard then with 1 minute 30 seconds left in the round Duran threw a jab that missed followed by a right cross that also missed but the follow up left hook landed flush on Leonard’s jaw that buckled his legs and backed him up to the ropes. Duran smelt the blood and piled in but Leonard grabbed on for dear life. Duran began to stalk Leonard, flicking out his jab to measure the distance then unleashed a 3 punch volley that once again had Leonard grappling whilst Padilla started knocking Leonard’s hands away to free them up but it was a hard task as Leonard’s grip was like a vice, he was badly stunned.
Round 3 could have been fought in a phone booth as Duran had pinned Leonard against the ropes for almost 2 minutes throwing every punch in the book to the head and body with unbelievable fury. Leonard attempted to fight back but Duran was right on his chest as he landed 3 uppercuts. Finally Leonard managed to get off the ropes by pushing Duran off of him. However again Duran came steaming in and with 20 seconds left in the round Leonard attempted a rally but Duran ducked his way past the shots as he clearly went on to win the round.
Ray Arcel was ecstatic with his charge pumping his fist in front of Duran between rounds telling him “to be the boss.” Whatever words of advice he had gave him really wouldn’t have mattered as Duran was in the zone.
At the start of the fourth both fighters looked to box then Duran sprang into life and pushed Leonard back to the ropes. Padilla broke up both fighters and in doing so Duran landed an immediate left hook then seconds later a huge overhand right hurt Leonard again. Leonard again grabbed on tight as Duran tried to maul Leonard, on occasion Duran would manage to free his hands, thanks to the Vaseline, and attempted to cave in Leonard’s ribs. As time ticked by Leonard started to come out of his defensive shell and both went toe-to-toe which suited Duran right down to the ground.
The fifth was perhaps Leonard’s best so far as he looked to let his hands go more often and even landed a stinging left hook at the start of the round but again looked to hold, then towards the end of the round Leonard managed to turn Duran and unleashed a flurry backing up Duran who looked to come firing back but it was Leonard who was now on the front foot. Both continued to trade right up to the end of the round and Duran narrowly missed with a right hand that was sent with murder written all over it.
The sixth saw both landing heavy shots with Duran looking to measure Leonard for the right hand. The seventh followed a similar path to the sixth with both fighters fighting brutally on the inside, if Leonard landed then Duran would come roaring back and visa versa. The eighth was slightly slower than the earlier rounds as both looked to box however there would be the odd occasion where they both locked together looking to get some punches off in the inside, then towards the end of the round both traded huge shots with Duran, probably, come off better.
The ninth was a clear round for Duran as Leonard looked to take a breather even though Leonard managed to tee off towards the end of the round. Duran came back and gave Leonard all he could handle but the pace of the fight had inevitably slowed. Leonard now had another problem to contend with, his right eye was cut thanks to Duran’s head and what’s more Leonard still hadn’t grasped that standing in front of Duran was not the smart tactics to employ.
The tenth once again saw them both trade brutal shots with Leonard perhaps landing the more meaningful blows to take the round.
The eleventh was vicious and brutal, the speed in their punches weren’t the same but they were thrown with all the power they could muster in such an energy sapping fight. Into the championship rounds it became a battle of attrition as in the twelfth they both thudded shots home to the body. Round 13 belonged in a Rocky movie as one would get on top only for the other to come back as neither man was willing to yield.
Prior to the start of the 14th round Angelo Dundee pointed to Duran telling Leonard to go get him and instantly Duran responded with a “come on” wave with his hand as he raced out and landed a lead right hand and they proceeded to get back at it. With twenty seconds left in the round Leonard landed a right uppercut bolo punch that lifted Duran off of his feet. The challenger simply shook his head and continued to throw punches and keep in close with Leonard.
In the first minute of the last round Leonard took the play away from Duran but as the champion thought he was now on top Duran showed the underrated defence as he weaved his way past Leonard shots and then, mockingly, Duran put his fist to his chin as if to tell Leonard to try and hit him again.
As the bell sounded to end the fight Duran was completely incandescent, he reneged Leonard’s out stretched glove then shortly afterwards pushed him away. He then proceeded to issue a volley of abuse to Wilfred Benitez who was sitting at the ringside, grabbed his crotch and shouted “pussy” in Spanish to Benitez.
When the scores were read out it went to Duran by majority decision, however after a recheck it was changed to an unanimous decision – 145-144; 148-147 and 146-144 it was a close fight but Duran’s constant aggression, especially early in the fight, saw him the edge the decision and become the new WBC Welterweight Champion and win his second weight world title.
Significance of Fight: A few factors decided the outcome but none more so than Sugar Ray Leonard wanting to prove that he was more of man than Duran and match macho with macho. To this day Leonard cites this fight as one of the three toughest fights of his career. Duran on the other hand had beaten a man who was bigger, younger, faster and stronger. However Leonard had also proven a point, like Duran, he showed an abundance of will power even though he was mentally and physically exhausted. He proved that he had the heart of a champion, something a lot of critics felt he lacked prior to the fight.
Duran’s body attacks would have broken a man in two but some how Leonard dug in and showed that he had a champion’s heart that he was willing to go to the brink. In the dressing room afterwards a teary-eyed Duran turned to his cut man and assistant trainer Freddie Brown and said “es tuya, te la has ganado!” (This is yours. I won this for you”) and handed his new WBC title to the old school trainer.
At the age of 29 Duran was now untouchable. He was at his peak. Pound for pound number 1, the best in the world. He flew back to Panama 4 days after the fight where he was greeted by an estimated 700,000 people and began to party. He could be pleased with his lot, some though began to worry. Duran would fly back to New York to continue partying which kept on going into September spending close to $100,000.
The people that weren’t close to Duran didn’t know it, but those that were, especially his manager, Carlos Eleta felt that after the Leonard win he was on the road down, some though didn’t realise just how spectacular that fall from grace would be.
Sugar Ray Leonard II – 1st defence of WBC Welterweight Championship
With Duran still partying in New York Ray Leonard took off to Hawaii with his wife and decided that he wanted the rematch straight away, the decision at the timing was a master stroke by Leonard. Carlos Eleta, Duran’s manager, had known Duran since he was a young boy but his influence over Duran had begun to wane as Duran started to become increasingly independent. Realising his grip was loosening Eleta entered into talks for the rematch in August of 1980 a mere two months after the first fight.
In order to get the fight Leonard took a drop in money and it is claimed that he would earn $6 million whilst Duran was reported to be making $8 million but Duran claimed that he never knew how much he was offered for the fight.
Duran’s partying and womanising continued and the Panamanian press, who were usually well informed on Duran, grew concerned and right through training camp they knew Duran was having problems.
Eleta though was really concerned. Duran began training in Miami Beech at a rumoured 190lbs (some also claim 225lbs but given Duran’s frame this appears to be entirely impossible) whilst Leonard started camp at 173lbs and by the time Eleta finally managed to get Duran to New Orleans his [Duran] entire posse had arrived. It was then Eleta felt that Duran was going to lose. He explained, “I took him to New Orleans in plenty of time. I told him to get all these people out, but he explained that they were his friends and that he needed them to be around him. Some of them were mixed up in drugs and some claimed that Roberto was involved, but I don’t think he was.”
As training camp wore on another problem arose when Ray Arcel approached Eleta and told him that he was confused because Duran wasn’t losing weight. Eleta found out that a person from Panama called Abuela (a friend of Duran) was taking food and beer to him late at night.
Eleta further explained, “With only 15 days until the fight Roberto was still 20lbs over the weight limit. Arcel wanted to postpone the fight, so I approached the promoter but he said it was impossible as he had put too much money in. Fact is I made the promoter sign a contract where he had to have paid Roberto’s purse into a Panama bank 15 days before the fight. I saved his purse in that fight, all he had to do was get in the ring and the money was safe, that’s why I made the rematch in a couple of months. Roberto was out of control, if I didn’t sign him up for this fight [Leonard rematch] then he was going to lose to a no-body. He surrounded himself with people that he claimed he needed, but when you have about 50 people surrounding your fighter to eat, sleep, talk and train then it’s impossible. After Montreal he wouldn’t listen to Brown, Arcel or myself, he was king of the world.”
For the record Leonard weighed 160lbs with 21 days left until the fight whilst Duran was now in a dire situation to lose weight that he started to take diuretics. With Duran in complete disarray the situation in Leonard’s camp wasn’t exactly rosy either. Leonard’s long time trainer, Dave Jacobs quit after complaining that Leonard should have had a tune up fight first rather than get involved in another war with Duran.
The fight was signed to take place at the New Orleans Superdome on the 25th November 1980. At 1pm on the day of the fight, after both fighters had already weighed in at 146lbs Duran sat down to his pre-fight meal.
Angelo Dundee noted at the weigh in that Duran gulped down a beef broth within seconds from getting off the scales – it was a sure sign that Duran had went through hell to make weight.
Duran then consumed a combination of hot and cold cycle of steak and orange juice. The quantities are debated as are what he ate altogether, but Duran’s loyal trainer from since he was a 8 year old boy until his retirement, Nestor “Plomo” Espinosa knew Duran better than most, he could read all the angles. “Duran was a like a bohemian,” explained Plomo, “he would sleep all day and party all night. He ate 3 steaks and drank 5 glasses of orange juice. Before the fight he complained about stomach pains to me. His stomach was stretching out.”
More worry crept into the Duran camp when he began shadowboxing in the dressing room to work up a sweat. When Plomo entered the dressing room Duran told him that his liver was starting to hurt. His quick fix weight loss and training regime had dramatically taken its toll on him.
Prior to the fight the man that Leonard was named after Ray Charles sung a rendition of “America the Beautiful” with Leonard bouncing in his corner with a huge grin on his face. Duran stood in his corner looking on with a smirk.
As round 1 began Duran came out and uncharacteristically wanted to touch gloves with Leonard which was snubbed. Leonard came out using lateral movement with Duran taking centre ring but the round itself was entirely uneventful with Leonard moving from side to side, popping out a couple of a jabs and feigning attacks only to back out. Duran didn’t start with the same intensity as the first fight but was reduced to lunging at Leonard on a couple of occasions and with a few seconds left in the round the most meaningful punch from either fighter was a lead right hand from Leonard that landed flush on Duran.
Round 2 looked like it would take a familiar path as the first however when Duran attempted to rush in close Leonard nailed him with downward right hand. Duran attempted to come right back but took another solid right hand. The fury in Duran rose to the surface instantly. The leer on his face said it all. However when Duran thought he was going to get into a tear up Leonard started to use his legs again and it reduced Duran to stalking.
In the first fight it was Duran’s infighting that helped him greatly but this time around whenever both fighters came in close it was Leonard who was getting the better of the inside exchanges especially with the right uppercut.
Leonard went back to his corner at the end of the round very satisfied and even afforded a wry smile. Arcel on the other hand was telling Duran to “be the boss, get this guy to the ropes and keep him there!”
Round 3 again started badly for Duran as he again stalked the fleet footed movement of Leonard around the ring only to catch a solid left hook. Duran though couldn’t hold Leonard on the ropes when they got in close. Leonard would either spin off or tie Duran up and force the referee to break them. Finally out of nowhere both of them locked horns against the ropes and both exchanged shots then Leonard moved out of position.
Round 4 started brightly as Duran tried to impose himself and force Leonard on the ropes but a telling left hook from Leonard to Duran’s mid-section stung him slightly. Again Leonard got the better of another inside exchange and then landed another stinging right hand. Duran’s frustration was showing as he attempted to maul his way forward only to land on his knees after losing balance.
Round 5 again saw Arcel implore his charge to “be the boss” but Leonard’s game plan was now bearing its fruit. He continued with his lateral movement and popped out his stiff jab. Finally towards the end of the round Duran got Leonard on the ropes but the brutal body work from the first fight was not there from Duran.
For the majority of round six Leonard clocked up more miles as he again circled the ring. Leonard began to target his jab towards Duran’s body and on one occasion when Duran went to throw a right hand he ended up receiving to two left hooks in rapid succession.
Duran was now seething and in round 7 with Leonard carrying out the same game plan whilst Duran was subjected to a public humiliation. Leonard began to drop his hands, stick his chin out then only to pull it away when Duran took the bait. He danced, he shook his hips, waved his arms around then landed a solid 3 punch combination.
Duran looked like he was about to explode into a murderous rage as he ran at Leonard. Both started to land vicious shots on the ropes and again Leonard came out on top and finished by spinning off the ropes but it was not the end of Duran’s humiliation.
Leonard twice stuck his chin out at Duran then backed off with great approval from the crowd. Leonard then began to wind up his right hand for the bolo punch and as Duran tried to beat the right hand Leonard fired in a ramrod left jab straight dead centre to Duran’s face. Leonard wound up another bolo but Duran backed off. Duran then decided to run after Leonard and threw a wild hayemaker but Leonard was now out of harm’s way and motioned to Duran come to him.
The round ended with Howard Cosell stating that “Angelo Dundee might be better off telling Leonard to stop that,” referring to the mocking of Duran who waved his hand in disgust at the end of the round. Leonard was in total control both in the ring and mentally.
Round 8 saw Leonard go back to his boxing and cut out the mocking of Duran who was very wary looking and began to get desperate with some of the punches he threw or had attempted to throw. Leonard though picked him off anytime Duran attempted to come forward, Duran attempted a lead right hand that missed and then waved to Leonard and walked into the direction of his corner.
Leonard didn’t immediately realise what was happening and sailed in with a couple of punches only for the referee to stop him. The referee, Octavio Mayran wasn’t sure what was happening either as Duran waved his hands in the air as the referee told Leonard to go to the corner. Mayran walked to the centre of the ring and told the fighters to get back to it but Duran again waved his hands as Leonard marched forward, Duran uttered something that saw the referee wave the fight off, the unthinkable had happened, Roberto Duran had broken the cardinal rule of boxing – he quit!
Significance of Fight: The fall out from the fight was huge. Roberto Duran had built up his entire reputation as a fearsome and ferocious fighter over a fantastic career a reputation now lying in tatters as some screamed that he was a phoney and a fake.
Immediately after the fight Cosell got hold of Luis Henriquez, Duran’s interpreter who explained that Duran had complained of stomach cramps after round 7 and that he didn’t like how felt when he threw punches which explains why Plomo was holding an ice bag on Duran’s stomach prior to round 8.
In the dressing room after the fight Duran was interviewed by Cosell and stated that he had “cramps in his upper and lower body as well as his arms,” Duran stated shortly after that he was retiring.
Cosell later interviewed Ray Arcel who admitted that Duran had never complained to him directly that he was suffering from cramps other than his arm felt stiff. Arcel further admitted that he wished he could give Cosell an honest answer as to what happened however prior to a ABC TV broadcast a few days later Arcel told Cosell that he later found out that Duran had spoken to someone in Spanish in the corner and said he was suffering from cramps.
In the same broadcast Cosell interviewed both Leonard in the studio and Duran, accompanied by Henriquez, on a live TV feed from Miami.
Leonard declared that in round 3 he noticed Duran watching his foot movement and that he wasn’t as strong on the inside as he was in the first fight.
Duran was interviewed next and after answering Cosell’s question about being in top shape for the rematch he was then asked about Ray Arcel’s comments that by the time Duran arrived in New Orleans he was at weight and some leeches from Duran’s entourage had been sneaking food to him. Duran denied the accusation.
Cosell then directed questions towards Doctor Orlando Nunez, Duran’s doctor, about how Duran got overweight after being at weight and why did he prescribe diuretics for Duran. Nunez refuted the claim that he prescribed anything to Duran as he wasn’t in need of them. Nunez also refuted Eleta’s claims about the diuretics.
Cosell then turned his attentions back to Duran and asked him what he ate prior to the fight and how much. Duran stated that he had drank some soup then went to a restaurant and ate two big steaks, four glasses of orange juice and after that a hot of cup of tea and a lot of French fries, this according to Duran, was not out of the ordinary for his pre-fight meal.
Cosell then asked Duran if he was ashamed at himself for quitting the fight. Duran responded immediately and said “yes, it’s the main reason why I’m coming back, I want to fight Leonard again, I owe it to my fans and I will train correctly, Leonard has to give me the rematch.”
Leonard though was not giving him the rematch. “No,” explained Leonard, “the main reason is because in the first fight it was a very close fight and Duran got the victory and people said that’s not meant to happen to the Champion [champion losing his title it a close competitive fight] and then in the rematch I won in bizarre circumstances and the press are saying that I need to give him a rematch. I just feel that with people saying that you need to fight him again…to be honest Howard I think the press would kill it. It would be in the best interests of boxing not to have a third fight.”
Duran was then forced deny the rumours that he had been taking cocaine stating that he had never taken any drugs in his life. Cosell then revealed that there were no urine samples taken after the fight so it was impossible to back up the rumours.
What Duran said in the ring to end the fight is still debated by many, whether he said, “no mas” is irrelevant and by the manner in which the fight ended it took the shine of Sugar Ray Leonard’s victory.
Leonard stated that he “was taken to school” in the first fight against Duran but the manner in how he defeated Duran second time round was masterful. He knew Duran would get out of shape hence his wanting the rematch straight away but he also knew how to beat Duran tactically. Whether Leonard or Dundee watched the Viruet fights or Duran against Bizarro or Leonard thought of the plan all along then it was a master piece on how to extract the urine out of the most revered fighter at the time.
Leonard frustrated the hell out of Duran with his circling of the ring and his refusal to get into a dog fight. When Leonard decided to throw he made it count which only caused to enrage Duran all the more especially when he himself couldn’t get his shots off.
Leonard admitted that he felt Duran quit out of frustration, Manny Steward, who was sitting ringside with Thomas Hearns, who was rumoured to be Duran’s next opponent, stated, “Duran was completely frustrated. It was like saying, “if you don’t want to fight then f*** you. I’m not going to
stand here jumping all around after you.” In Duran’s mind I think he expected the crowd would condemn Leonard for having made a mockery of the fight, rather than him for quitting.”
Duran was fined the maximum amount allowed under Louisiana law – $7,500. The chairman of the boxing commission, Emile Bruneau wanted to withhold Duran’s entire purse but later admitted he couldn’t impede the letter of credit in Panama.
The following morning General Omar Torrijos [at the time was the Commander of the Panamanian and National Guard and the de facto leader of Panama from 1968 – 1981] angrily ordered Duran and his entire 36-member travelling party to return to Panama immediately. Duran though ignored the order and travelled to Miami.
Weeks later Duran would return to Panama only to discover that in his absence his mother’s home had been vandalised and his own house stoned. The local newspapers also questioned whether Duran was a real man. A makeshift billboard was also erected with the heading “Duran is a Traitor” alongside La Avenue Balboa in Panama City.
He heard himself described as a coward, a chicken and a homosexual and to make matters worse the Panamanian government repealed the special tax exemption it had granted Duran as a ‘national hero’. When he got back to Panama he tried to cash his $8 million letter of credit only to have $2 million sliced from the top.
His entire image was destroyed by one single decision, his admirers deserted him and he lived at his home ashamed to show his face. Duran was immensely proud and cared deeply about what his countrymen thought about him but he had a lot of work to do in order to regain all those fans and admirers.
As a result of Duran quitting his cornermen, Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown struggled to come to terms with what had happened. Brown fell into depression, locked himself in his house, refused to answer the phone and even stopped watching boxing altogether.
Arcel and Brown would also fall out after tension in the camp had reached breaking point. Brown also felt it was wrong of Arcel to tell the press that he had no idea why Duran quit. In Brown’s eyes [probably correctly] you stuck up for your fighter regardless. In the end Arcel and Brown left him, though Arcel would return to his corner for the Benetiz fight.
Eleta on the other hand went back to Panama and absolutely slaughtered Duran in the press whilst at the same time begging Duran to lose the hangers on. Meanwhile Torrijos never spoke to Duran again as a result of the New Orleans fight.
The Panamanian people were in shock, that shock further deepened when Torrijos was killed in a mysterious plane crash in June 1981, his death deeply affected Duran and the country would be held in a vice-like grip by the corrupt dictator Manuel Noriega.
Still drowning in his own self-pity there were talks of Duran coming back to fight Aaron Pryor in the end after 10 months he re-entered the ring against Nino Gonzalez which he won by unanimous decision, but what was surprising was that the crowd cheered everything that Duran did.
Just over a month later he fought the reigning European light middleweight champion, Luigi Minchillo winning again by unanimous decision after having battered Minchillo from the opening bell. Those two wins set up another title shot against another one of Duran’s arch enemies.