Roberto Duran vs. Sugar Ray Leonard I

"The Brawl in Montreal"

June 20, 1980

 

 

Roberto Duran had finished his steak and potato, polished off a helping of sausages and now was working on his second soft drink of the afternoon. It had been weeks since Duran had been able to indulge his prodigious appetite, to yield to his weakness for Coca-Cola and 7-Up, but he was getting his fill now as he held court in a restaurant of the Hotel Bonaventure in Montreal. Just 13 hours earlier, in a ring set above second base at the Olympic Stadium, Duran had taken the World Boxing Council's version of the welterweight championship of the world from Ray Leonard.

Duran's child, 6-year-old Robertito, slipped away from the table and wrapped himself in the green belt with the huge gold medallion signifying that his father was now the champion. Duran spotted him and laughed. "Show them how you box," Roberto said. The boy threw a straight right through the air and grimaced dutifully. "Hey hey!" Duran cried. For the first time in days, he was relaxed. He signed autographs. He posed for photographs. And he showed off his two new diamond rings, one for each hand, that his wife, Felicidad, had given him for his 29th birthday on June 16. There were only two visible signs of Duran's whereabouts the night before—manifestations that he took as well as gave. A mouse, violet and red, swelled below his left eye—the work of Leonard's right hand. And there was his own right hand, swathed in an Ace bandage that covered the bruises sustained when he pounded Leonard's head and ribs.

Duran leaned back in his chair, reflective at last. "I'm very content," he said. "Many people did not believe I could make it, but I did. Many people believed I was too old to win, but I was not. Many said I could not beat Sugar Ray Leonard. Before the fight I asked myself, 'Why can't I beat him?' I wondered, 'Maybe he's a phantom and you can't beat him.' Maybe they thought I was going to stand in the ring and let him beat on me, like I had my hands tied." He paused. "That's the only way he can beat me. I would have to be tied to a tree, with my hands behind my back...he would have to break me down a thousand times. He was strong, but he did not hurt me. My rage was very big. When I get into the ring to fight, I always give the best."

--William Nack, Sports Illustrated (June 30, 1980)