Duran Attacking Leonard

San Francisco, CA– They called it, “The Brawl In Montreal,” Roberto Duran, ex-lightweight (135 lbs) king taking on boxing’s glamor boy “Sugar Ray” Leonard on June 20, 1980. In the three decades and two years that have passed since, I can’t remember a more captivating evening of watching professional boxing. Duran, who turned 61 on June 16, in the “prime” of his career was a man that would not be denied that cold night in Montreal, the site of the 1976 Olympics where Ray Leonard became the darling of boxing.


I had seen most of the major fights in the 1980s sitting ringside, but for this event we were at the Cow Palace in Daly City, CA watching Duran school Leonard on Closed Circuit TV. It was an epic event, Ray coming in the betting favorite and Duran rocking him in the second round with such force from a left hook thrown in combination, that Leonard’s brain trust, Mike Trainer, a Washington DC area attorney told me later. “At that point, I knew Ray wasn’t going to win. So I lit up a cigarette, sat back and hoped that he would not get hurt.” Of all the fights I saw in the decade, this is still the one that stands out for me!


Duran, the shorter of the two, timed Leonard, something nobody had ever done before professionally. When Leonard would jab, Duran would would either counter or lead with bone-crunching right hands from the third round on. Leonard had a few moments, this when Duran lapsed into a state of relaxation because of his dominance. But each time Leonard would flurry, Duran would answer back with ferocity that Leonard thought going into the fight was all hype!

Duran Landing The Right Hand


Hurting Leonard with those right hand leads throughout, Ray could never solve the puzzle as to how to avoid them. Never hurt, although Ray Leonard connected solidly on occasion, Duran smiled and sneered at Ray, not displaying one ounce of respect for the defending WBC welterweight (147) champion. Leonard had beaten Wilfred Benitez for the title in November 1979 in a fight that made Las Vegas’ premier boxing handicapper Herbie Lambeck hate referee Carlos Padilla for life! Herbie had gotten good odds on the fight going the full 15 rounds, thus dropping $20,000. When the referee waved the fight off with just a few seconds left, this with Benitez on his feet, Herb blew a cork he could never ever put back in the bottle.


In Ray’s lone defense before meeting the man with the “Hands of Stone,” Leonard threw a combination that was punctuated by a left hook that left “Davey Boy” Green looking like a corpse. Ray didn’t just knock Green out, he to use street vernacular, “knocked green the **** out.” It was a perfect ending to set up the Duran fight some three months later. Roberto’s claim to fame as a welterweight was beating the snot out of former champion Carlos Palomino in Madison Square Garden. Carlos was a good fighter, but Duran toyed with him, seemingly not trying to KO Carlos, just punish him.


Right after the bell sounded that ended the fight, a swollen Ray Leonard knew he had lost. Duran on the other hand was running around the ring jumping up in the air when he ran over to where promoter Bob Arum and Wilfred Benitez were sitting. He grabbed his crotch area and told them to suck his, you know. The next day, Roberto flew home to Panama in a private jet as thousands jammed the airport to see him. He started partying that night in Montreal and did not stop for nearly four months.


With Duran somewhere over 200 lbs., this Leonard’s guy Mike Trainer learned after sending a spy to Panama to verify the weighty rumors, Trainer offered Duran $8 million, eclipsing the $1.5 million he made beating Leonard in June. It was now late in September 1980 and Trainer told Duran’s people that if they wanted the $8 million, he had to fight Leonard on November 25th. With around seven weeks to train, Duran shed the weight but never really got in fighting shape. As a result of this, and Duran’s people not reading the contract Trainer had prepared, the ring side was at least 22 by 22 feet, some say 24 feet. It looked more like somebody’s backyard, not a boxing ring as Leonard danced and dazzled Duran for the most part.


Roberto was in condition to fight a lesser guy in a smaller ring. But when you combined Ray’s skills, his running and Duran’s lack of preparation, after seven rounds, Duran got off the stool for round eight. With Leonard doing his Carl Lewis imitation, in other words sprinting, Duran had enough of Ray’s clowning and waved for the referee to stop the fight in round eight, uttering the words that would haunt him for the rest of his career, “No Mas Box,” or “No More Boxing.”


Duran would claim that he had eaten two steaks and that he had cramps, when the truth of the matter was Team Leonard had outsmarted the former Panamanian street urchin by getting him into a fight he was not physically or mentally prepared for. All Duran could see was the $8 million and knowing he had beaten Ray to a pulp the previous June, that the fight was going to be easy. Leonard got his revenge for the loss and Duran calling his then wife, Juanita Leonard, a “whore” before the fight.


In late 1989, after Duran had did the impossible and beat Iran Barkely for the WBC middleweight belt in February, Roberto again got fat. Leonard goaded him into a third fight for the grand opening of Steve Wynn’s Mirage Hotel. In an outdoor arena in December, with the temperature around 38′ come fight time, Leonard ran circles around Duran and beat him with ease. In the end, Duran had beaten the crap out of Leonard once, and Leonard humiliated by out running him twice. Today when they see one another, there is nothing but mutual respect. You know, I’m well aware that it’s been 32 years and yet it seems like it was yesterday!

Pedro Fernandez


  • Pedro Fernandez

    Thanks, Matt! It’s now been almost 35 years!

  • Duran was the smaller man and 5 years (and many many fights) older and still beat on Leonard in the first fight. He had not trained well enough in the second fight. Hagler BEAT Leonard. Enough said.

  • Ronald,

    Really, you are that hurt that I questioned the prowess of your hero? I mean, you’ve direct a few insults at me already. Something I haven’t done to you, but OK, I see how you can be hurt by this.

    Leonard did have some great opportunities. How fortunate for him was it to catch Duran out of shape, and then be able to dangle a crap load of cash & get him to agree to concessions/stipulations in the contract? He was fortunate to be able to do the same with Hagler & Lolande. Maybe Leonard did take Duran’s advice, I don’t think he did though, because what Leonard did that night was run, run, run. What leverage did Hagler have in a rematch, with the darling of Boxing at the time getting that bogus (my opinion) decision? BTW, I’m not a Hagler groupie, I just think Leonard pulled a punk move. A move that Oscar & Pac would follow and use themselves to create “opportunities”. OK, I agree, a Great Duran beat the Best Leonard. Leonard had to “catch” Duran at a moment of weakness to beat him. I hope you had a nice weekend.


  • Like I said, it is only a theory, you , myself and nobody will probably never know what really happen that night, by the way i hear they are making a movie about it to come out next year…

  • Pedro Fernandez

    Mario, another not-so-smart comment. I know Duran, worked with him in the 80s, he was just frustrated with Leonard’s running sand, “Screw it.”

  • i think the no mas fight was FIX, boxing has had fix fights before, hall of famer jake lamatta amitted to throwing a fight once, watch the first fight on youtube, the whole fight and you will see both men throwing bombs with bad intentions and then watch the second fight on youtube, i mean the WHOLE fight and not just the highlights and you would see that leonard wasn’t really running and frustrating duran like the media says but it’s actually looks like they both are just sparring without headgear, neither man is willing to throw hard punches, look carefully and if you know boxing you will see it, leonard didn’t taunt duran all night like the highlights shows but instead show boated in the 7th round when the crowd started to boo due to lack of action by both fighters, duran wasn’t getting pummel or hurt so why quit, he had the same kind of fight with edwin viruet while very sick, i theorize duran was paid off to throw the fight but didn’t want to take a count against leonard or go thru 7 more rounds of sparring so just quit the fight, just a theory but the lack of committed punches in this fight as to compare to the first fight is very very very obvious if you watch them…


    For me, when you compared Sugar Ray Leonard to Oscar, that told me all I needed to know about what you know about boxing. And yes, you DID compare Leonard to Oscar, when you said that just like Oscar and the Pac-Man, Leonard was a “good fighter who had some great opportunties!”

    Look, Leonard and Duran fought twice in 1980. The first fight was a WAR and Duran was the bull of the woods on that night and in their rematch, Leonard fought his fight and he took him to school and made him quit. Stop making excuses for the Hands of Stone. Did Leonard have stipulations when he beat Thomas Hearns or Wilfred Benitez? I will say this one last time, because I’d rather debate boxing with people who REALLY know about boxing: Sugar Ray Leonard BEAT Wilfred Benitez(Hall of Famer), Roberto Duran(one of the best 10 fighters in boxing history) and Thomas Hearns (the man who anesthetized the Hands of Stone a few years later).

    And one more thing I want to add: It’s true that Leonard decided to fight Hagler after the Mugabi fight, but remember, after Duran almost beat Hagler in 1983, right after the fight Duran walked up to Leonard and told him, “If you box him(Hagler), you can beat him!” Leonard was retired and doing commentary for that fight, but watching Duran give Hagler fits and Duran’s comments planted the seed and convinced him that he could beat Hagler if he used his superior boxing skills and that’s exactly what he did.

    And for your lame excuses about the Hagler fight, remember it was Leonard who did not fight in 3 1/2 years and he moved up in weight to face him and he still beat him. Hagler groupies like yourself can’t digest that, but it’s the truth. And truth be told, Hagler took the $$$ because he was convinced he was going to beat Leonard. But he lost, never asked for a rematch moved over to Italy and made movies so terrible that Blockbuster wouldn’t carry them. If Hagler REALLY thought he beat Leonard, then why not fight him again? And to be clear, that was NOT the best Sugar Ray Leonard. He was still good, but again, he was coming off of a 3 1/2 year layoff and he still beat a guy who hadn’t lost in 11 years. As for Hagler being “too old”, Hagler is only two years older than Leonard.

    Look, I know Roberto Duran beat Sugar Ray Leonard on June 20th, 1980, I never denied that for one second, but I also don’t believe the fight was a one-sided one. Duran gave away the last 2 rounds and ALMOST lost the fight by doing so. Go back and look at the fight and the official scorecards, the fight was scored thisclose. And for the record, the BEST Duran was the one that was brutalizing the Lightweight division. He was GREAT when he beat Leonard, but he was even better as a Lightweight in the mid to late 70’s when he was at his peak.

  • Ronald,
    If it doesn’t matter to you; “whether or not you (I) like Leonard”, then why did you bring it up? I said I don’t know if Leonard was a HOFer before Hagler. I don’t vote for the HOF, and I wouldn’t try to get into their heads. Have you seen some the fighters who got in and others who haven’t? It’s like a popularity contest all in itself.

    You asked one particular question that I have been addressing; “… how can you deny his greatness?” Again, easy. In my book a GREAT fighter doesn’t get beat by a guy and then dangle $ in front of them to catch them at an inopportune time (for the other guy). Remember, the Best Duran BEAT the Best Leonard, and not the other way around. Leonard used $ to lure fighters when they weren’t at their best and with stipulations attached. A Great fighter doesn’t wait for another fighter to get “old” or “weight-drain” them, or have to Manipulate contract stipulations to get an advantage and a victory. In that regard Leonard, DLH, and Pac are all the same. When did I compare DLH to Leonard? Quit trying to obfuscate things. I understand your hero worship, but get over it and look at the big picture. Then again, those are MY opinions for how a Great Fighter conducts himself.



  • at least oscar fought people in their prime which is more that i can say for mayweather, who has floyd beaten while they were in their prime??

  • Pedro Fernandez

    Oscar couldn’t carry it if he had a forklift!


    I can read between the lines, I just don’t understand your logic. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not you like Leonard, that’s your choice. And remember one more thing about the Hagler fight: Leonard moved up in weight to face him and he was off for 3 1/2 years and he STILL beat him. I could only imagine how the fight would have turned out if Leonard never retired and was active. Leonard would have beat him easier if that were the case.

    I don’t want to hear about Hagler’s excuses after the fight, he lost to a smaller man and he fought the wrong fight early on. And speaking of the Marvelous one, I do consider him to be one of the greatest Middleweight champs of all time, but not the greatest. His three biggest fights against HOF fighters were against guys who moved up in weight to face him(Duran, Hearns, Leonard) and he almost lost to Duran. Hagler was a dominant champion, but he NEVER beat a TRUE HALL OF FAME Middleweight when he was champion.

    And again, Leonard faced the best fighters out there. I will say this again so you can understand: He beat Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns BEFORE he beat Marvin Hagler. Ingemar Johannson and Ken Buchannon are all in the HOF and they did not accomplish anything close to what Leonard did before he faced Hagler, and you still believe Ray was not a Hall of Famer before he faced Hagler? OK…

    Keep hating on Leonard, that’s your choice. I will be the first to admit that I could not stand Roberto Duran, but I respect him and I believe he was a Hall of Famer BEFORE he faced Leonard based on what he did as Lightweight Champion. Beating Leonard put an extra stamp on it.

    And where I really disagree with you is when you compared Leonard to Oscar. Oscar made a lot of money and won some world titles, but he NEVER beat a Hall of Fame-caliber fighter in his prime. He lost to Trinidad, Mosley twice, Hopkins, Mayweather and Pacquiao. You could argue that his biggest win was against Pernell Whitaker but Whitaker was near the end and truth be told, Whitaker really won that fight in my opinion. Simply put, to quote the great Larry Holmes, Oscar couldn’t carry Ray’s jockstrap.

  • Ronald,

    I guess you can’t really read between the lines. I never said I hated Leonard, I hate Top Rank & Bob Arum. I also think Duran won by a wide margin. I can’t say for sure if Ray was a HOFer before Hagler. Maybe after a while, but I don’t think he’s 1st ballot without the Hagler or Lalonde fights.

    I’m sure Hagler also complained about the fact that Leonard only “fought” for the last 30 seconds of each rd too. Of course he’d complain about the contract stipulations after the fight, Pedro did an excellent where he said Hagler “whored” himself out for $ and accepted those stipulations. It’s called buyers remorse.

    I don’t think Leonard faced the absolute best fighters out there. Specifically, when he waited for Hagler to lose something vs Mugabi. Leonard’s words, not mine. Add to the fact Leonard wanted those stipulations and had the $ to back it, then my logic makes perfect sense. Especially when you add in the Lalonde fight, and include that it wasn’t Lononde’s best weight either. I’m not trying to debate you about Leonard. IMHO, he’s a good fighter who had some “great” opportunities. Just like DLH and the Pac man (through Top Rank). I didn’t know you’d get so sensitive over Leonard.


  • I never liked How leonard-benitez ended. Ray won but that stoppage was bullshit, I just always though it was a way to put more shine on Ray`s first tital win. Ko looks better than a UD in Newspaper headlines.
    Would have loved to see that fight if Benitez had his shit together, would have been a good one. I remember as he was walking to the ring the anouncers were talking about his training problums and all that family drama.
    Duran had problums too, gaining to much weight between fights and just keeping it off in general.


    Do you really believe that more than half of Leonard’s legacy was built on his draw with Hearns and his fight with Lalonde? Are you blinded by you hatred for Leonard, or do you really believe this? I’m not trying to clown you or anything, but how long have you been watching boxing? I’ve been watching for over 35 years and I’ve seen just about every Leonard fight and I don’t understand your logic.

    For the record, I don’t totally disagree with Pedro’s article. The only thing that we don’t agree on is the score of the first Leonard-Duran fight. Pedro had it for Duran by a wide margin and I had Duran winning a close fight. Pedro is one of my favorite boxing writers yet I have no problem respectfully disagreeing with him if need be.

    Let me say this again: Sugar Ray Leonard was a Hall of Famer BEFORE he faced Marvin Hagler. He beat Benitez, he lost a CLOSE fight to Duran and came back and embarrassed him, and he came from behind to stop the undefeated Thomas Hearns. That’s 3 Hall of Famers who were near their prime who were stopped by Sugar Ray Leonard, the man who you say got “gifts” late in his career.

    As for those “gifts”, Marvin Hagler agreed to all of Leonard’s demands BEFORE the fight because he was confident he was going to knock Ray out. But what did Hagler do? He fought right handed for the first 2 rounds and he clearly lost the first 4 rounds and he didn’t do enough to win the fight. Hagler whined and complained AFTER the fight about the large ring and for the fight being 12 rounds instead of 15. If Hagler would have won the fight, he probably would not have complained about the 12 round fight or the bigger ring. He would have laughed all the way to the bank.

    And maybe you did not read my last comment, but I agree that Leonard DID lose to Tommy Hearns in their rematch. In fact, SUGAR RAY himself told Hearns to his face that he won the fight while on ESPN Classic Sports when discussing their two fights. Leonard’s legacy was set in stone long before he faced Hearns the second time in my opinion.

    As for the Lalonde fight, I agree that fight was a joke in terms of the catchweight and the fact that two titles were on the line. My point is that I don’t put a lot of value in title belts. I’m more concerned with whether or not elite fighters face the absolute best fighters out there and like him or not, for most of his career, that’s exactly what Sugar Ray Leonard did.

  • it doesn’t matter if they fought 12 times and who won the most between them, the first fight was the most important, most anticipated and best one and brought both guys in at their best and in their primes, the very best roberto duran beat,defeated, and won against the best and in his very prime sugar ray leonard!!! what a classic!!!!

  • Roanld,

    Easy, because his greatness came from (or at least half of it) getting that “gift” draw decision vs Hearns the 2nd time, the “catch-weight” fight vs Lalonde where the light-heavy title was on the line, yet Lalonde couldn’t weigh more than a super-middle even though both titles were on the line, So I guess in actuality Leonard was given a belt he never had to make weight for, and getting a larger ring and making the fight with Hagler a 12 rd instead of 15. Sure, Lalonde and Hagler went for it, but that began a whole new bastardization of Boxing. A pattern Arum used with DLH and the Pacman. Leonard went along it it, of course. He’s just as fake as the others I mentioned. You can’t argue with Pesro’s article though, the best Duran beat the best Leonard.


  • SKERGE, the reason why I believe Duran could have been stopped late in the second fight is because Leonard was landing his own counter right hands and uppercuts when they did fight in close and Duran was not himself that night for whatever reason and was ripe for the picking. But Duran QUIT before Leonard had the chance to finish him off.

    As for you comment about Arum, I believe that he’s a slimeball, but Leonard called his own shots, along with his manager Mike Trainer. And about Leonard’s “manipulations”, it was not Ray’s fault that Duran did not keep himself in shape between fights. As I mentioned before, he had more than twice as many fights as Leonard at that point, so I don’t agree with that excuse.

    I take it you’re not a Leonard fan and that’s fine, but how can you deny his greatness? He beat a young, yet experienced champion (Wilfred Benitez) to win the title, he got his revenge against Duran after losing the first fight, he beat Thomas Hearns in what was in my opinion the greatest Welterweight fight of all time and years later, after a 3 year layoff, he moved up to Middleweight and out-boxed a Middlweight Champion who hadn’t lost in 11 years(Marvelous Marvin Hagler).
    Leonard didn’t need a bigger ring, a corrupt promoter or catchweight fights to develop into a great fighter. He put in the work, fought the best fighters out there and beat several Hall of Famers.

    Now sure, things did get out of hand after that. I thought he lost to Thomas Hearns in the second fight and he had to come off the canvas to beat Donny Lalonde in that “catchweight” fight you were referring to.

    But Pedro’s article was about what Roberto Duran accomplished 32 years ago and while I will admit I was not a Duran fan back in 1980, I have to give credit where credit is due. Roberto Duran was one of the greatest Lightweights of all time and for him to move up two weight classes and beat Leonard at his best, was an amazing feat.

  • I had just moved out here with my parents. I was three months shy of turning 15, my Dad was transferred out here by Amtrak. He and I watched the fight on closed-circuit at Caesars Palace in one of their showrooms. I scored the fight 9-6 in favor of Duran. My Dad had it 9-5-1. My trainer L.C Morgan scored in favor of Duran 8-2-5. Maybe the Italian judge that scored the fight 3-2-10 in favor of Duran wasn’t such a loon after all.

    The very next day the great Salvador Sanchez destroyed Danny Little Red Lopez in their rematch at the old Caesar’s Palace Sports Pavilion. 3 months and a few days later on my 15th birthday Marvelous Marvin Hagler won the World Middleweight title from Alan(the nazi)Minter No doubt it truly seems like yesterday.

  • Ronald, I disagree. Leonard wouldn’t have KO’d Duran in the rematch, he was too wary of what Duran could do to him when he got in close. Leonard won many a fight in the contract Arum was behind (Ring size, catch-weight, etc…). As far as I’m concerned, it set a bad precedent in boxing. Without those “manipulations” Leonard wouldn’t be Leonard, DLH not DLH, and Pac not Pac. The common thread that binds them all, Arum and Top Stank.


  • Nice article Pedro!

    I was 10 years old when this fight took place. My dad and oldest brother went to see it on Closed-Circut TV and I stayed up late until they got home to see who won the fight. When my dad got home, I asked him who won the fight and he replied, “that mother-$#$#$%#% Duran!” I watched the fight a few months later and several times since then and I thought the fight was thisclose, but I scored it for the Hands of Stone.

    Simply put, Roberto Duran got in Leonard’s head BEFORE the fight when he made some crude comments about Ray’s wife (Juanita) and Leonard abadoned his game-plan and decided that he was going to stand toe to toe with Duran and try to knock him out for bad-mouthing his wife(big mistake). Duran was a beast on this night(Joe Frazier compared Duran to “Charles Manson”), I can’t take that away from him, but I still believe if Ray would have fought his fight that night, he would have won the first fight.

    Sometimes fighters have to take a step back before they can overcome some hurdles later on. Joe Louis suffered a setback early in his career when former champion Max Schmeling landed counter right leads on Louis all night long before knocking out the Brown Bomber in the 12th round in their first fight. In their rematch, which was one of the biggest fights in boxing history, Louis learned from his mistakes and he anesthetized Schmeling in the first round. My point is that Leonard needed to suffer this setback in order to prepare him for the battles that were ahead of him. I’m not so sure that Leonard beats Hearns on September 16, 1981 or Marvelous Marvin Hagler later in his career if not for going through what he went through with the Hands of Stone on June 20th, 1980.

    As for what happened after this fight, I read all the stories about Duran partying for months before facing Leonard in the rematch. To all you Duran groupies(I’m not calling you a Duran groupie Pedro, I’m speaking to those Duran apologists) I ask this question: How is that Leonard’s fault? Duran was a seasoned veteran with 73 fights under his belt, more than twice as many fights as Leonard at that point, so I don’t buy that excuse. Duran was a champion for many years as a Lightweight, so he should have had the discipline to stay in shape between fights. Leonard fought his fight in that rematch and he toyed with Duran. If Duran wouldn’t have tapped out in the 8th round, he would have either lost a lopsided decision or he would have got stopped late.

    But I say all of that to say that Roberto Duran was amazing in their first fight and this was by far the biggest win in his Hall of Fame career.

  • You know I watched all of Sugar Ray and Duran fights make no excuses for a fighters loss Sugar Ray beat Duran down he quit because Sugar Ray was a better fighter .

  • Roberto, Duran, is on my ALL TIME TOP FIVE, GREATEST FIGHTERS EVER. WHY? becaue at 135, NO BODY BEATS HIM. Then he fought over 5 decades, with the last bout, being when he was age 50, as I recall. Won titles, over 5 wt divisions. Defensively a MASTER of the Slip/Roll, Bobb/Weave, Block/Counter, amazing in the ‘Pocket’, while not getting hit. Took on all comers, in each wt. division, he competed in. Plus POWERFUL FIST, and ability to KO’ you with either hand. Hands Down, for ‘HANDS of STONE’, one of the ALL TIME FIVE BEST EVER.

  • these were the true fighters and duran was the best…fighters today are not as great, not in the same fighting shape or will fight each other like these guys did..

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