On June 20, 1980, in a match in Montreal, Canada, Roberto Duran out-points “Sugar” Ray Leonard to win the World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight title and the unofficial title of best “pound for pound” fighter in the world. The international panel of judges voted unanimously for Duran, albeit in a very close decision.
Roberto Duran, 29, of Panama, was a former lightweight champion who was known for his powerful slugging but could also box with great expertise when needed. Sugar Ray Leonard, from Temple Hills, Maryland outside Washington D.C., was a stylish fighter who entertained crowds with his fast hands and feet and powerful punches. He was returning to Montreal, site of his Olympic gold medal victory in 1976.
Before the fight, Duran, who had a reputation for trying to intimidate his opponents, repeatedly insulted Leonard with the intention of angering the champ and luring him into a street fight. Leonard initially played into Duran’s game plan, slugging it out with him in the early rounds. The challenger was able to get inside of Leonard, neutralizing Leonard’s speed and quickness advantage. Duran first hurt the champ and took the lead in the fight in the second round, when he hit Leonard with a left hook to the body, then an overhand right that sent him reeling into the ropes. In Duran’s previous fights, when he hurt opponents, he finished them with his “manos de piedra” or stone hands, which he developed street fighting in the slums of Panama. Leonard, however, was not an average opponent: He was in excellent shape from intensive conditioning work and was able to maintain his feet. Leonard shook Duran with powerful left hooks in the fifth and sixth rounds, and a classic was underway.
In the 13th and most exciting round, Duran maneuvered Leonard against the ropes and then unleashed a flurry of punches that was answered by a barrage from Leonard that all landed squarely. The last two rounds were won by the slippery Leonard, but when the final points were counted, Duran’s superiority early in the fight gave him the decision.
With the victory, Duran became only the second lightweight ever to win a title in the heavier welterweight division. When asked after the fight if Leonard was the best fighter he had ever fought, the usually cocky Duran answered sincerely “Si, si.”
Duran and Leonard fought again five months later at the Superdome in New Orleans. With less than 30 seconds left in the eighth round, Duran looked at the referee and famously uttered the words “no mas” or no more, giving up, as he could not get a handle on the elusive Sugar Ray, who taunted him throughout the match.