The No Mas Fight's 30th Anniversary: Brains vs. Brawn

CJ JamesContributor IFebruary 16, 2010

Holly Stein/Getty Images

This year brings the 30 year anniversary of one of the more controversial moments in boxing history.

The No Mas Fight.

Unhurt, and in the middle rounds of an incredibly close bout (Duran was only down by 1 round on the judges cards when it was stopped) Robert Duran instructed the referee to stop the bout.

No more.

No Mas.

Fight over.

As with most things in boxing, what you see isn't necessarily what you get. And the circumstances behind this shocking end to a keenly contested rivalry take some explaining.

But explain is what I will try and do.

A lot of answers can be found within "The Brawl in Montreal". Duran was 72-1, and already a boxing legend. Rapidly approaching his 30th year, he realised time was short to cement his legacy, so shocked boxing by moving up two weight divisions to challenge the seemingly unbeatable 27-0 Sugar Ray Leonard.

Duran was surely too old, too small, and too bloated to challenge possibly the greatest Welterweight of all time, at his peak, at his own weight right?

Well that was the general theory.

The important thing to remember about Leonard was that although he was quite possibly one of the braver fighters in this great sports history, he was also one of the smartest.

Leonard was the USA's golden boy. Quite literally. One of Lady Libertie's greatest Olympians. Leonard dominated Olympic boxing like no athlete before or after.

He didn't even drop a point in the entire tournament.

Leonard used his position as Americas golden boy, and boxing's number one draw,to go into the Duran fight holding all the aces.

Duran would have to move up two full weight divisions. He would have to agree to fight in Montreal, (in the same stadium where Leonard won his Olympic Gold). He would only be given a 12.5% purse split. Leonard's people arranged to use a referee who had a reputation for being overly hard on inside/rough fighting.

This infuriated Duran. He was a living legend, being treated like a sparring partner. He rightly felt on a par with Leonard, and felt like he was being priced out of the bout. He had a choice between pulling out of the bout, or ramming that 12.5% down the cocky Leonard's throat.

He chose the latter.

Duran spent the next four months training like he had never trained before in his life. As well as regularly airing his dirty laundry in public. Leonard was a fighter he saw as having no honour or class.

Leonard played on this, realising he had his guy rattled. He started blowing kisses at Mr. Machismo in the pre fight press conference. Duran's reply was so vulgar that I couldn't possibly repeat it on here!

A fighter Duran wanted to beat was now a fighter he now wanted to hurt.

Duran went into the bout on a tide of hatred, anger, and passion. And in the best condition of his life shocked the world by beating a fighter that many people had previously considered unbeatable.

Pundits were shocked at Duran's speed and power at the weight. Leonard was heavily rocked by a big right early in the second round. And did very well to even last the round.

This was a fighter who took Hearns and Haglers best shots without flinching. One of the better chins in boxing history.

This was not part of the plan. Don King saw Duran as a stepping stone to possibly the biggest fight of all time (at the time) against WBA Welterweight Champion, Thomas "The Hitman Hearns". Duran was a lot better at Welterweight than they thought, and they had a problem on their hands.

The "No Mas" bout was a fight steeped in controversy from the off. Duran had an agreement to re-match Leonard in Summer 1981, a full year later. He planned to use the 6 months after this career defining win to do little more than party.

He was on the first flight back to Panama after the win, and didn't leave the bars and clubs until his promoter rang him stating that there had been a change of plan.

The cerebral Leonard had heard rumours. Rumours that Duran had lost all discipline after his win, was now hopelessly addicted to drink and drugs, and at least 40 pounds overweight turned out to be true.

Think Ricky Hatton on a bad day.

Leonard petitioned King to forget the agreement, and make the fight as soon as humanely possible. He felt that there was no way Duran would be able to get in the type of shape he was in, in Montreal, with only four months notice.

Duran rightly refused. They would fight as agreed, in 1981. He was in semi retirement, and would need a full 6-8 months to get back into life as a fighter.

Leonard wouldn't accept this. He went back to King and informed him to do whatever it took to get Duran to agree to a November 1980 rematch.  King then went back to Duran and offered him huge financial incentives to agree to an immediate rematch, no matter what his physical condition.

Duran, a fighter who typically struggled to make big money throughout his career, accepted the pay off, and agreed to an immediate rematch. Even though he hadn't been near a gym in over three months, and was hopelessly out of condition.

Much of what followed was Duran's general frustration and pure hatred towards Leonard. He wasn't happy about the tiny purse he received for this career defining win, and was even less happy about the timing of the rematch. And how Leonard had used his position as "draw" to manoeuvre Duran into fight he probably didn't want at the time.

The only way Duran could get paid by Leonard and King was to give into all their demands, basically.

Fast forward to the night of the fight. Duran was struggling to make weight. He was forced to fast for 48 hours, to drop the remaining pounds and then spent the 18 hours leading up to the fight gorging on food to make up for the loss of strength.

Hardly Floyd Mayweather preparation.

None-the-less, he was a confident man, and felt he had the beating of the young challenger for a second time.

The rematch was a different fight. Leonard tried to go toe-to-toe with the brutal Duran in "The Brawl" and came off second best. He wasn't making the same mistake twice.

He spent the majority of the "No Mas" fight on the run. Hitting and moving. Trying to stay away from Duran's inside style. Surprisingly Duran adapted quite well to these tactics. And by the 7th round the score cards were even.

But the cerebral assassin was at work. He was taunting Duran for the entire fight. Trying to play on Duran's anger, he was regularly dropping his hands, and mocking his opponent and throwing occasional "Bolo" punches for good measure.

Duran went into this fight with the basic view that rightly or wrongly, Leonard was a man of no honour. He had come to fight, like the warrior that he was, and his opponent was playing tricks to beat him.

This all came to a head in round eight. After even more taunting, and show boating,  with the score cards basically even, Duran inexplicably quit.

He'd had enough.

He wasn't hurt.

He'd barely taken any real shots. He just wanted out.

Then followed the conspiracy.

The "No Mas" (Spanish for "no more") attributed to Duran, was an American media invention. A newspaper headline the next day, to simply state that he had quit, that over time took on factual resonance.

Duran had complained about stomach cramps (more than likely because of his pre fight "diet") to his corner in rounds six and seven, which they visibly treated with Ice Packs. But they were having no obvious affect on his performance.

He was boxing well.

With 17 seconds left in the 8th round, he actually turned his back on Leonard, and said "No boxeo con el payaso". Translated, "I'm not boxing this clown any more".

This was months of pure frustration for Duran. He had been played.

Creating such hatred, that his opponent would rather quit, than share seven more rounds in a ring with him.

What's my take on the fight?

Duran considered himself a superior fighter to Leonard, and he felt he had been duped into the circumstances of a loss. He didn't think Leonard could beat him at his peak. And he simply refused to give his rival a potential "clean" win over him, when he felt the fight was anything but fair.

Going into the 8th, he was one round down on all of the cards, with seven more to go. It was every bit as close as the first fight.

Latin fighters are a strange breed. Built on honour. Duran felt Leonard had no honour. And had not challenged him "mano et mano".

He felt so strongly about this, that he refused to even share a ring with him any more





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