It is Sunday and I just finished watching an ESPN special on the infamous “No Mas” fight of 1980, Roberto Duran Vs. Sugar Ray Leonard. First off the documentary was biased in Leonard’s favor. It was his point of view and the meeting at the end was for Leonard entirely. Roberto Duran got nothing out of it. But still a pretty interesting documentary.
The documentary did not get into he hispanic mindset, especially around the time of the controversy, the late 70’s and early 80’s. That was the time I was coming of age, I was in my late teens and taking stock of the world and my place in it. Just to have a living, hispanic figure to look up to was something. At that time our greatest sports hero was Roberto Clemente and he passed away in 1972. No one I knew was cheering for Leonard in my Brooklyn neighborhood.
Even before the first Leonard – Duran bout, Duran was already a boxing hero to me. Manos de Piedras, Hands Of Stone-Damn Right! He was a mean mother fucker to lots of people. But to us he was what it meant to be a man at that time in our lives, tough and ruthless. There was that fierce look in his eyes that most people saw. But I saw something else behind those eyes. I saw the soul of a misunderstood country boy, a jibaro, who wants to be popular, a hero, a lover, but knows he has to be ruthless and savage in order to survive and become something in order to live out his inner persona. I saw the soul of many a hispanic man in those eyes.
Just watching the short segments of him in the bar in his hometown; he is playing pool buying beers, shaking hands and joking with everyone and taking in the subdued adulation of the other patrons, shows him at his happiest. I think that is all he ever really wanted.
I don’t think that Duran was expecting to defend his title so quickly. It was only a few months. The man was in the middle of his much deserved celebrating in New York when he gets called back to Panama and is asked for a rematch. Now a smart man would have put off the fight. The smart thing to do was to get the celebrating out of your system, rest, and then get back down to fighting shape before even considering a rematch. But Leonard could not wait. His ego would not let him. Duran unfortunately was seduced by the $8 Million purse. He let money blind him and went into the ring not with the heart of a fighter but with the stomach of the newly indulged. He had to take drastic measure just to make weight.
In the eighth round of that infamous fight Duran realized his mistake after being frustrated by Leonard from the beginning of the bout. Now I am by no means saying Duran did the right thing, but I could see in the shaking of his head and the look in his eyes as he turned around and let Leonard take a few more blows to his back, the look that said, “I fucked up!”And then he lost heart. Personally I think the thing to do would have been to finish the fight, take the loss and then ask for a third bout. The smart Duran would have studied the fight film and figured out how to counteract Leonard’s style and build up and harden his heart against Leonard.
The psychology of any fighter is a mystery with countless levels of desire, regret, and ego, but to delve into the reasoning and the lightning quick decision that was ¡No Mas! is to hack your way through the cultural, societal and personal history that makes up the hispanic boxer. Roberto Duran will forever be the archetypal hispanic boxer and Champion.