No Longer About No Mas: Drath’s Documentary a Winner

By Christian Giudice on October 25, 2013
No Longer About No Mas: Drath’s Documentary a Winner
Duran thought he was guaranteed a third bout; Sugar Ray Leonard embraced the moment.

What slowed down a fascinating look into the early lives of these two fighters was, ironically, the storyline itself…

“Whatever Leonard had to say, I didn’t give a damn.”—Roberto Duran

When I first went to Panama to research Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran the thought of talking to Roberto Duran about the intimate details of No Mas was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, I feared bringing it up. However, as I spoke to the taxis and locals, I quickly realized that the fight represented nothing more than an afterthought in Panama.

In Panama, there was no leftover animosity from his people, or lingering guilt from Duran’s point of view. To him, the moment represented a mere blemish on an extraordinary career. You would never hear a Panamanian going out of his way to talk about the fight or even approach Duran about it. They moved on a long time ago. Still there was enough fascination in the U.S. to garner a fine documentary from director Eric Drath, which debuted last week.

The documentary, No Mas, was a startling reminder that boxing-wise, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran was even less of a rivalry than Duran and Esteban De Jesus. In fact, in three meetings, all that came of the rivalry was one great fight—oh, a sideshow, and, later, a no-show (from both fighters). The “sideshow” or the rematch fueled the public’s intrigue, but what exactly was it looking for? Was there a clue to the mystery that had been hidden for so long? Behind the facade lurked a reality that so many refused to accept.

Drath’s documentary did nothing to detract from what was a once frigid, but now warm relationship between the fighters. Whenever one has a chance to revisit the old tensions between the Panamanian hero and the Olympic star, the possibilities are endless. Whether it was the image of the bearded Duran being lifted on the shoulders of his countrymen or Leonard talking about his struggle to return to the ring after the first loss, Drath was able to include all of the necessary ingredients for a refreshing depiction of the startling ebb and flow of both fighters’ careers.

What slowed down a fascinating look into the early lives of these two fighters was, ironically, the storyline itself.

The antiquated storyline that is no longer fresh and mystifying played second fiddle to the vintage footage of Panama, the interviews (with the exception of the disgraceful Panama Lewis), which were effectively interwoven to bring back that glorious time period, and the rare fight scenes. Although referee Octavio Meyran claimed Duran said, No Mas, Duran’s manager Carlos Eleta told me in Panama that Duran really said, “I won’t fight with this clown anymore.” This type of revelation, which was reported in several news outlets, no longer holds the public’s attention. Drath could have researched for years and still struggled to uncover anything new regarding what Duran felt or how Leonard reacted.

Fortunately for Drath, he didn’t need to cling on to any new material—just having Duran, Leonard, and so many valuable players from that period was enough to tell—what is still today—a compelling story.

As much as one can try to force an explanation for No Mas there is nothing left to dig up. Duran wasn’t prepared to fight a world-class fighter, and everyone knows that Leonard was a gym rat. Duran was impulsive in that fight, and Leonard was calculating. Duran thought he was guaranteed a third bout; Leonard embraced the moment, and then moved on. Although the documentary was appropriately titled No Mas, the reality is that the buildup for the first fight perfectly captured the chasm between the two fighters and overshadowed the second half of the documentary.

That chasm resulted from Duran’s insatiable need to prove to the world that he could hang with Leonard on so many levels. He told me, “I didn’t like Leonard because he was the pretty boy for the Americans and I didn’t care less about him.”

In Hands of Stone, I wrote, Duran reviled the kid who grew up with a “golden spoon.” He saw Leonard as the product of a privileged childhood. He knew he lacked Leonard’s telegenic charisma, but he suspected that Leonard lacked the toughness that one can earn only through battle. He considered the American not a man, but a commodity, a glossy figure enhanced by the media. He wanted to expose the counterfeit.

He did, and this is where Drath’s documentary shined. The momentum from leading off with Leonard-Duran I helped pace the first half of the documentary. It would have been impossible for Drath to detail the underlying stories such as Duran’s supposed irregular heartbeat before the fight, or how quickly the Canadians adopted Duran.

I wrote In Hands of Stone, Duran wore a T-shirt that read “Bonjour” to woo the Montreal French, Leonard, who had won his gold medal in Montreal, couldn’t understand the colder reception he received. “That threw me for a loop,” said Leonard. “I thought that I was the adopted son because of the Olympics and the exposure. But man, when I got there, and they were booing me and embraced Duran, it threw me for a loop.”

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to deliver those same personalities decades later and try to make that same tension palpable. In the end when Drath decided to bring both fighters together in an empty ring, sure, it was awkward and rehearsed, especially with Duran speaking Spanish and Leonard looking at him blankly, but that’s not an easy decision to make. You need to get them back together, and, really, any backdrop is going to feel somewhat rehearsed.

If you love boxing, then you just enjoyed going back to the golden age of boxing.  Maybe, deep down Duran and Leonard didn’t need any closure or any confirmation of what happened on that night in 1980. Their names will forever be attached, and their legacies secured. They both more than redeemed themselves in so many ways in and outside of the ring. At some point, boxing fans had already written off No Mas as a nothing more than a sidebar to the triumphs of the great Duran. It didn’t define him or virtually strangle Leonard.

Yet, that didn’t make the journey back to that time any less enjoyable.


Christian Giudice is author of Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran and Beloved Warrior: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Arguello. He can be reached at christiangiudice@hotmail.com.

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  1. cv 04:06am, 10/05/2014

    Duran was the BEST lightweight of all time! In regards to the other weight classifications,he did a very excellent job against younger -stronger -faster -bigger fighters! Not bad for a small fighter.You have to try to remember his up bringing! I believe he just wanted his country to feel proud. No excuses, he did lose to hearns -hagler -ray the second time around.I do believe he could of beaten hearns if he would of done his homework in general-ray also! Hagler not a chance because hagler could switch from a right hand to a lefty in a second and had tnt in both hands! Plus very discipline fighter!

  2. The Fight Film Collector 09:08am, 10/29/2013

    Thank for this review, Christian.  Great informative and entertaining documentary, though perhaps 20 years too late.  It’s a great story, but with everything we know about what lead up to the rematch, and how complicated and out of control Roberto’s life had become, it’s ridiculous to expect Roberto to provide a simple explanation.  I appreciated seeing Leonard visit Duran and talk with him.  It looked like they’d both get to air some unfinished business and give us some new insight.  The film doesn’t provide that.  Instead we get a staged, game-show like setup with the two men standing in an empty ring with Leonard essentially asking, “Please tell me why you let me win so easy”.

    The most powerful message of the film, which I’m sure the filmmakers didn’t intend, is the high standard we once expected from championship boxing, and the fallout when the fighters failed to live up to those standards.  What a contrast that is from today, when for example, a champion can sucker punch a challenger and walk away with $25 million dollars.

  3. FrankinDallas 05:29pm, 10/28/2013

    Duran-Leonard III was a joke and a ripoff. Those two
    danced around with no real intention of throwing a meaningful
    punch until about 30 seconds from the of the fight when
    Duran landed a right hand over Leonards’ left eye and busted it
    open. Otherwise it meant losing a $20 bill for the closed circuit show
    that I’ll never see again.

  4. Anonymous 08:05am, 10/28/2013

    Seems like a pattern there

  5. Don from Prov 06:22am, 10/28/2013

    I admired Leonard in the ring, Ted

    All time whiners: Chavez Sr. and Marquez, but Duran had the whine gene

  6. Eric 02:41pm, 10/27/2013

    @Ted… AGREE 100% about PAYING for an autograph. I won’t pay for any athlete, actor, singer, or whoever’s autograph. THEY should feel honored that someone wants THEIR scribbling.

  7. Ted 01:50pm, 10/27/2013

    I like humble. I like Old School. I liked Jerry Quarry. I like GGG.

  8. Ted 01:48pm, 10/27/2013

    The stories I heard about Duran have been almost inspirational. He is a very giving person and always had room for kids who were challenged. Went out of his way for them. I have some great stories about him.

    As for SRL, that Contender routine was as phony as a 7 dollar bill and his book and the molestation part seemed to be a tad opportunistic, though the guy he accused did have an unsavory rep.

    In this regard, Duran gets my nod by a long shot. I recall years ago It was very difficult to get near Ray at the Hall. He was a STAR. Some of these guys forget that without fans, you don’t have stars. Course it works the other as well. .

    The day I pay for a boxer’s autograph will be the day they spread my ashes over the North Pole.

  9. Eric 01:42pm, 10/27/2013

    I always favored the humble, quiet, dignified type of fighters, i.e., Marciano, Patterson, Frazier. At least they were that way in public, have no idea whether it was genuine or manufactured. A great deal of Leonard’s act I believe is totally manufactured for the public, while I think Duran is just Duran. Never went for the Duran or Leonard personality type. Just personal taste.

  10. Eric 01:38pm, 10/27/2013

    I rate both in my top 10 P4P all-time rankings but give Duran a slight nod over Leonard pound for pound. Duran never had any business fighting above 147lbs and still he would go on to take another two world titles at 154 and 160lbs. Probably will never see the likes of these two again in my lifetime. Both great fighters regardless of whoever you favor.

  11. Ted 01:28pm, 10/27/2013

    Eric, can’t really argue with any of that. I just liked the way SRL could close a fight once he had his man stunned. Never saw anyone do that better. He was like an assassin. Baby-faced killer. Duran never stayed in the right kind of shape to suit me and you never knew what you were going to get. Still, I rate them about even in my top ten with SRL getting a close edge.

    Both have grown old with grace and that’s a good thing.

  12. Eric 01:20pm, 10/27/2013

    @Ted…I really don’t like Duran or Leonard as human beings but I did love Duran as a fighter in the ring. I always favor sluggers, brawlers, etc. over boxers, that is just my preference, even though Leonard was the harder puncher at welterweight and beyond than Duran. Duran, of course was a great boxer, and his defensive skills were every bit as good as Leonard, but Duran’s style was more suited to my taste. As you noted Leonard certainly PROVED his dominance over his chief competition by losing only to Duran officially and losing to Hearns unofficially in their rematch. Leonard was man enough to admit that Hearns did indeed deserve the decision in the rematch. As I stated earlier, say what you will about Leonard but he was a gracious loser. For all his ferocity in the ring, Duran does come across as a whiner and a sore loser. Leonard’s record against Duran, Hearns, Hagler and Benitez cements his legacy as one of the GOAT. However, never really liked him as a person and I’m from his Maryland. Rooted against Leonard when he fought Benitez, Duran(all three fights) and Hagler. Loved Hagler and Duran as fighters. Even Hagler had a little bit of whiner in him, i.e., Antuofermo I and Leonard. Leonard won the Hagler fight convincingly IMO, and I never could see what all the controversy was about, just as Duran flat out gave Leonard a butt whipping in their first bout, and really wasn’t doing that bad in the rematch before quitting. The first Duran-Leonard bout wasn’t near as close as the scoring just as the first Leonard-Hearns bout was being won by Leonard convincingly. If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t Leonard behind on the scorecards of Leonard-Hearns I before the tko? No way is that scoring accurate either.

  13. Ted 12:13pm, 10/27/2013

    Am I the only one who likes SRL?

  14. Ted 08:02am, 10/27/2013

    Great as you are, Prov, I ‘ll remember your pettiness for remembering SRL’s pettiness. How about Duran’s whining?

  15. Don from Prov 04:57am, 10/27/2013

    What sticks with me is Leonard saying that he refused Duran the rematch—


    “because I could”: Leonard wouldn’t grant Hearns a second fight until Hearns admitted he was fully whupped.  Small-minded, petty—Marquez before there Marquez: Great as he was the pettiness is a thing I’ll always remember of SRL

  16. Eric 11:47am, 10/26/2013

    @Pete The Sneak….Never thought about it that way, but Duran could indeed be playing Leonard instead of vice versa. Heehee. That would be brilliant on Duran’s part to keep stringing egomaniac Leonard along and never giving him the satisfaction of a clear cut victory in their second match. Always thought Leonard was “playing” Duran for a fool, but maybe “Stone Hands” is enjoying making Leonard squirm. teehee. Good for Duran. Sort of getting even for making Duran wait nearly a decade for a return bout.

  17. Pete The Sneak 08:21am, 10/26/2013

    Eric, that’s a great Post…I got the same impression as well in watching this pretty damn good documentary. Leonard pretty much said so when Duran asked him why it took 10 Years to get the 3rd Fight. Leonard said something along the lines of “well, that was me messing with you psychologically.” To this day, I think he still is. But for all intents and purposes, the documentary was indeed a winner. But yeah, Duran should have just come clean this time, however he will not ever give Leonard that satisfaction of admitting it publicly. Peace.

  18. Eric 07:12pm, 10/25/2013

    I was rooting for Duran in three of his fights against Leonard and it nearly made me physically ill when I heard he quit. I was behind Duran in his comeback and hated when he lost to Benitez, but was overjoyed when he beat Cuevas and Moore. Rooted for him against Hagler, Hearns, Barkley, Paz, Camacho, etc. But when looking at this video from a completely neutral point of view I can’t help but notice how good Leonard comes off and how whiny and childish Duran comes off. Sure, Leonard is a big PHONY and that little boy scout act is manufactured, but Duran would look a helluva lot better if he at least just admitted he simply QUIT out of frustration and he would later regret that decision. Hell, we’ve all done things in the spur of the moment that we wish we could take back, the only difference is that Duran’s mistake was made in front of millions. Leonard is an egomaniac and he is eating this all up. Leonard is enjoying making a fool of Duran all over again.

  19. bikermike 06:51pm, 10/25/2013

    Schmiddy…..I’d like to have seen Duran sucker punch the little prick…and bust up about sixteen thousand dollars worth of dental work

    But…they handled it well…..and that there was such an event…shows just how much Duran meant to the Boxing community

  20. bikermike 05:42pm, 10/25/2013

    Christian

    Thank you for a very well written and informed article about one of the top fights in my time

  21. bikermike 05:34pm, 10/25/2013

    here’s the thing….

    Duran…moved up from Lightweight Champion….to challenge the darling of USA…Gold medal winner in the Olympics…and then Welterweight Champion (still lots of graffiti about that Hearns thing)..leonard had. enough dental work to make his smile…worth a million dollars…
    Duran handed ‘smile’ his ass…his head…..his mouth…
    Duran simply beat that pretty boy into the ground…..!!  Duran wasn’t some Sunday school teacher…..he used his head…his shoulders…his elbows…and stepped on ‘smile’s’ feet more than once….

    Duran showed ‘smile’ all about professional boxing that night.  Duran came to Montreal….who had a crowd that was very box smart…...and Duran won that crowd over ..by ruffing up ‘smile’...all night long.
    When the final bell rang…DURAN WANTED ‘smile’ to GO ANOTHER ROUND !!!!


    Now…‘smile’ has some smart folks who have protected ‘smile’ ever since….....the rematch with Duran was a calculated effort from ‘smile’s ’ braintrust….

    Duran could not read nor write…and his braintrust only saw dollar signs…

    Had Duran left ‘smile’ to wait .....like ‘smile’ made Hearns and Hagler..wait…..who knows what would have been…

    ‘smile’ was good for USA BOXING…but a better contract negotiator…than a fighter

  22. Ted 04:40pm, 10/25/2013

    Eric , GREAT POINT. Duran was like Chavez Sr. (and Jr) and like JMM in that respect. A whinier and a sore loser.

    And the fact is SRL IS:

    2-1 Against Duran
    1-0 Against Hagler
    1-0-1 Against Hearns
    1-0   Against Benitez.

    Numbers don’t lie. SRL is the man!

  23. Brad 04:12pm, 10/25/2013

    Great piece Chris….Love that move. The scenes of Duran in Panama only reenforce my position that Duran is the man, not Leonard.

  24. Eric 02:54pm, 10/25/2013

    Good vid. Duran is still making excuses. As cocky as Leonard was, he was always a gracious loser. Duran never did learn how to lose. Kind of ironic that he stated he thought that Leonard thought he was some kind of “God” or “Superman,” sounds like Duran was self reflecting to me.

  25. Eric 01:56pm, 10/25/2013

    The “Brawl In Montreal” was an exciting fight, but the rematch was relatively dull up to the infamous “no mas” incident. The third match was a snooze fest. Duran was never the same after the first Leonard fight and although I rank him as one of the greatest fighters ever, he also became one of boxing’s all-time biggest whiners. Duran was never a gracious loser and was always full of excuses every time he would lose. I guess prior to the “no mas” bout, Duran never had to deal with losing other than the one loss to DeJesus. Funny thing about Duran, even though he had the usual lists of excuses after Thomas Hearns nearly decapitated him, he never clamored for a rematch with the “Hitman.” Duran did have a lot of the mentality and makeup of a bully in him.

  26. Clarence George 01:52pm, 10/25/2013

    I can’t resist the compulsion to sneak in an objection (which I expect to have sustained with extreme prejudice, or whatever the legal mumbo jumbo is):  The Duran-Leonard era was not “the golden age of boxing.”  What an idea!

    I’ll close by observing that Duran is one of my all-time faves, while Leonard annoys me on sight.

    Thank you.

  27. Mike Schmidt 01:39pm, 10/25/2013

    Sorry, that was the death of boxer Cleveland Denny. Adios for now.

  28. Mike Schmidt 01:37pm, 10/25/2013

    Good day Sir—Schmidty checking in and trust all is well. Beautiful write up.  I loved when they were both in the ring at Roberto Duran Stadium which is one of my all time favorite locals for a big fight—pure electricity. The look in Duran’s eyes during that ring meeting all these years later spoke many words. In the end result your are 100% correct in that Duran is treated as he should be by the majority in his lovely home country. He is treated as a National Treasure and he is very truthful in the comment made that he is an ambassador for his country. I loved this ESPN doc. The first fight was huge with cover coverage including Time mag and Newsweek. 40,000 plus fans that night. Of course lost in the aftermath was the tragedy of the undercard. Thanks for a great write up Sir

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