He was boxing's savage warrior. His punches landed with such fury and force that he was known as Manos de Piedra (Hands of Stone). Panama adored him, their intense, fiery champion.
Losing, he always said, was not an option. He once had a streak of only one defeat in a span of 73 bouts.
One of his wins was a dominating defeat of Sugar Ray Leonard for the WBC Welterweight title. So when he walked into the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on November 25, 1980, for a rematch against Leonard, he fully expected to keep his belt.
But . . .
Leonard shifts strategies and shows great confidence, a cockiness that he hadn't illustrated in the previous bout with Duran. He refuses to box toe to toe with Duran as he had in Montreal, where Duran's relentless attack had overwhelmed Leonard. Instead, Leonard utilizes his quickness, flashing from one side of Duran to the other, using a variety of looks. He taunts Duran, sticking out his tongue, frustrating and angering the champ, making him look like a chump.
Duran is not his typical self on this night. His timing is off. He appears flustered, confused. But, above all, it's Leonard's taunting that causes Duran to unravel, to lose his mind.
In the third round, as a bearded prophet with an Afro wig of various colors parades ringside in a T-shirt that exhorts, ''Repent your sins,'' Duran lunges at Leonard and falls embarrassingly short. Leonard laughs and sticks out his tongue.
In the seventh, as actor Mr. T tugs on his white dinner jacket with his white gloves at his ringside seat and runs his hand over his shaved head, Leonard has the audacity to stick his face toward Duran, mocking him with a shoulder-shrugging dance. Duran becomes more frustrated as the fight progresses.
The fight is close on the judges' cards as it moves into the eighth round with a crowd of 40,000, many with full-length fur coats and wide-brimmed hats, cheering on, bewildered at the amazing disparity between Leonard-Duran I and II.
Then, two minutes and 44 seconds into the eighth round, a weary Duran, the tough and leathery Panamanian fighter, unable to hit Leonard, puts his hands of stone down by his side, turns his back on Leonard and waves a glove at the referee, the signal that he's done, that the fight is over.
The crowd is in total disbelief. Leonard, confused and unaware of what is happening, runs after Duran and lands a shot to the belly. Duran does not respond, shockingly. Then, the words that would haunt him forever, flow from his battered lips: ''No mas, no mas,'' he tells the referee. ''No more box.''
He walks slowly to his corner, head hung low, a desperate, beaten, disheartened figure of failure. How could this monster of a man, a man who is said to have knocked out a horse and broken a policeman's jaw with his hands of stone as a 12-year-old running rampant through in the inner-city streets of Panama City, bring disgrace and humiliation upon himself and his loyal and proud legion of fans?
When Leonard finally realizes that Duran has surrendered the title to him, when he grasps his opponent has actually quit, he springs like a cat onto the ropes and celebrates toward the crowd. The ring suddenly turns chaotic. One of Leonard's corner men charges Duran and takes a swing at him. Bodies swirl around the ring in a mass of confusion.
Initially, Duran tries faking it, acting as if he thought the round was over. Then he claims he had injured his shoulder. Later, he tells the press in his scratchy voice, ''I don't want to fight any more.'' He later says that he developed stomach cramps in the fifth round, that it grew progressively worse, and that he couldn't take it any longer by the eighth round.
The match is officially ruled a knockout. Leonard is ahead on all three judges' cards. Two judges have Leonard by two points and the third by one at the time Duran bailed.
Hours after the bout, Duran flies to Miami, where he goes in hiding for a week, one of history's great fighters shielding himself from the world, in disgrace. Rumors fly as to why he quit the fight. One is that with Leonard clowning around, sticking out his chin, taunting Duran, making him look like a fool, quitting was Duran's way of saying, "The hell with you."
Duran, reaching for every available excuse, blames his management team, telling the press, "They should have guided me and protected me for that fight. They didn't. They sent me in without giving me enough time to get ready."
For a span of five decades, from 1967 all the way to 2001, Duran won 104 of 120 fights with 69 knockouts. He won four world titles, two against younger men at junctures in his career when he was considered washed up. Except for one inexplicable night in New Orleans, Duran had never given less than everything he had in the ring, even when he was pathetically out of shape later in his career. Yet he will be remembered for none of that, only for uttering those two famous words: "No mas."