Jerry Glick reporting: ESPN and Producer/director Eric Drath have produced a marvelous documentary about one of the most talked about fight series in the annals of boxing, in particular, the second of the three Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran encounters; focusing on the famous, or infamous, No Mas fight. The film, titled appropriately, “NO MAS,” was shown to a select group, including members of the media at the IFC Center in lower Manhattan. Both fighters attended and answered questions after the film
The film explores the story behind the fights and the emotions that impacted what went on in the ring. Director Drath traveled with Leonard to Panama to find closure for Ray. For the 33 years that have passed by, the Palmer Park native has felt unfulfilled in victory. He said he believed that he made Roberto quit, Duran has maintained that it was stomach cramps and weight making that caused him to give up his welterweight title. Duran was not ready to tell Ray that it was he, Leonard, who was the reason that he waved his arms to signal that he was done for the night.
Firstly he denies actually saying “no mas”; “I had a mouthpiece in my mouth,” claimed Hands of Stone. “I could not talk. It was (announcer) Howard Cosell who said no mas.”
Ray was the darling of the 1976 Olympics who had that handsome face with the golden smile that captivated the world, but was he a real fighter? It had been said before, but it was former heavyweight champion Iron Mike Tyson who voiced it in the documentary, “Leonard was a pit bull with a pretty face.” Ray proved to the world that he was no TV manufactured wind up doll, he was genuinely tough, and he demonstrated that when he elected to stand and trade with the best slugger of his era, Duran, in losing his WBC welterweight crown in their first fight.
Ray was angered by the nasty behavior of the lightweight champion who was jumping over the junior welterweights to challenge for Leonard’s 147 pound belt
The boorish behavior leading up to the fight by Roberto, including giving Ray’s wife the finger triggered rage in Sugar Ray. It took him out of his game. It made him want to beat Duran at his own game so instead of using his enormous skill set Ray went flat footed and traded punches with the hard hitting former WBA/WBC 135 pound titlist for fifteen classic rounds. In the end it was Duran who claimed victory. It was Duran who celebrated nonstop, quickly gaining more than 30 pounds.
At first Leonard contemplated retirement, but while vacationing in Hawaii he decided that he wanted an immediate rematch without a tune up. Stories of Roberto’s non-stop partying spurred Ray to make it happen in only five months. It was a strategy that worked. As soon as he weighed in Duran consumed oranges to recuperate from having starved himself to make weight. So did Duran suffer stomach cramps or was he frustrated because Leonard taunted and humiliated him by sticking out his chin daring Roberto to hit him and winding his right arm around and poking Duran in the face with his left? Duran had no answer for any of Ray’s showboating.
“It was totally the opposite of what it was from the first fight. I was a stationary target; this time I was very mobile and very animated, if you will,” explained Ray. “People were laughing. He just short circuited without realizing the ramifications or penalties.”
“It happens,” added Ray who seemed almost apologetic when agreeing that Duran acted like he was saying ‘if you’re not going to play right, I’m taking my ball and going home.’ Unfortunately this wasn’t stickball in a school yard, this was high profile boxing and he was losing, but the fight had many rounds to go and anything could have happened.
Was there any hint that Duran was about to walk away? “Nothing so big,” said Ray, “but I saw something in his eyes just before.”
“I take what he said,” claimed Ray. “You have to surrender at some point.” It appeared that Leonard was now at peace with himself and vindicated without pointing fingers at his former enemy. Yes, not just a rival, they were hated enemies. Now there is a mutual admiration.
“Just going to his country and seeing his environment gave me closure,” added Ray.
The documentary will air Tuesday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m. on ESPN. It is a must see film, so compelling that the viewer is drawn into the ring they battled in, and into the minds of two of the best pound for pound fighters in boxing history who shared an event that was more than just a boxing match.