December 7

This Day in History

Sports

Dec 7, 1989:

Sugar Ray Leonard fights Roberto Duran for the third and final time

On December 7, 1989, the boxer Sugar Ray Leonard triumphs over a lackluster Roberto Duran in a unanimous 12-round decision at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. Leonard became a sensation in the boxing world during the 1980s, providing a superstar presence that boxing lacked after Muhammad Ali retired in 1981. After a successful amateur career, Leonard earned real notice when he won a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Three years later, he won the World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight title over Wilfred Benitez.

In 1981, seeking to defend his title, Leonard met the Panamanian Roberto Duran, a former lightweight champion, in a much-anticipated bout held in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. The more experienced Duran captured the title in a unanimous 15-round decision. On November 25, 1980, Duran and Leonard met in a rematch in New Orleans. After seven rounds, during which he outperformed Duran and continually taunted him, Leonard held a narrow lead on the judges’ scorecards. Duran quit in the eighth round of the bout, shocking his fans and leaving Leonard as welterweight champion once again. Leonard later suffered a detached retina and was inactive in the ring for nearly three years before returning to score an enormous upset over Martin Hagler for the middleweight title in 1987. In November 1988, he was knocked down but fought back to defeat Donny Lalonde for the WBC light heavyweight and super middleweight titles.

The match at the new Mirage Hotel on December 7, 1989, marked Leonard’s second defense of his super middleweight crown. Though 16,000 fans showed up to watch the much-hype third meeting between Leonard and Duran, they were greatly disappointed, as the 33-year-old Leonard won a tactically superior but unexciting bout over a lethargic 38-year-old Duran. In fact, fans booed both fighters throughout the match, and Duran’s lackluster performance did nothing to quell the controversy still swirling around his decision to quit in New Orleans almost a decade earlier.

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