I left the IFC Center in Greenwich Village on Wednesday night pondering deep philosophical issues, and also what a badass Roberto Duran was in his prime and how skilled Sugar Ray Leonard was in his.
I'd just watched Eric Drath's documentary production "No Mas," which will run Tuesday on ESPN as part of the network's "30 for 30" series. The film examines the rivalry between Leonard, the 1976 Olympic golden boy who took the baton from Muhammad Ali and ran with it before Mike Tyson wrested it away; and Duran, the man with the Manson-esque eyes, whose extraordinary malevolence outside and inside the ring affected Leonard to the point that he admitted he felt fear.
Closure, and the ability to attain it, was the primary philosophical matter I chewed on after watching the doc. I cannot and will not give away too much of the film here. But suffice to say, Leonard has been affected since Nov. 25, 1980, when he clowned Duran and saw the Panamanian shame his nation by quitting during Round 8, by the way the bout ended and how it was perceived. Instead of being glorified for his supreme display of clever pugilism, Leonard found the press and fans obsessed with Duran, now age 62, and why he quit. It was not noted, to Leonard's satisfaction, how he had rebounded so robustly following the first fight, which took place five months earlier and saw Duran win a decision after 15 rounds.
If Duran had since admitted that Leonard's skills and game plan and preparation were too much for him to handle, physically and mentally, and that is why he said -- or didn't; that's part of the story -- "No mas," then I suspect Leonard could have closed the book on what became a recurring torment.
During a post-screening Q&A, I asked Leonard, now 57, about his current degree of closure regarding the fight.
To be candid, I'm of the school that believes achieving total closure is a rarity in this life, and I'm an admitted cynic when anyone announces, "It's all good" -- that they have made total and complete amends with a wound that festered for decades. That isn't to say it's an impossible feat, but ... let me put it this way: Even Mother Teresa had doubts about the meaning of it all. Again, I will let you screen the film and decide how you perceive Leonard's viewpoint toward the "No mas" debacle, rather than give away plot points.
Striding out of the theater, I saw Leonard and addressed him: "Sugar Ray, I have to say, I think you schooled Duran. You outboxed him, masterfully. No matter if he can admit it or not, or you need to hear him admit that, or don't, that is what happened. I think that is why he quit. And I think true-blue boxing fans know this to be the case."
Leonard said nothing with his mouth, but his grin and smiling eyes told me something else.
I believe that more so than Duran's partying, or rapid weight loss, or cold water, or hot coffee, or too big a meal ingested prefight, or cramps, it was Leonard's in-ring wizardry that forced Duran to surrender.
Will we ever know the truth? You have to watch "No Mas" and decide for yourself.
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