“No Más. No Más!” If you’re a boxing fan, those words have been etched on your psyche since you discovered the noble art. “No Más” is the sound of a man quitting in the ring. “No Más” is the sound of one of the G.O.A.T.’s turning his back on his opponent because he’s had enough. “No Más” is the sound of a man not even going out on his stool in between rounds, but flat out refusing to take any more punishment at the hands of someone he can’t get close enough to, even to hit. “No Más” is the sound of a quitter.
Or is it?
The second Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard fight has gone down in infamy as the night that a legend was broken at the hands of a superior competitor. From that, another legend sprung up that convinced us all that Duran was too afraid to carry on. At the time—November 25, 1980—when it was reported that Duran had uttered the fateful words, nobody even thought to question the validity of it as it came from the lips of Howard Cosell, but Duran always denied he said “No Más!” to referee Octavio Meyran and accused Cosell of making the whole thing up.
So: did he?
Did one of the most respected commentators in the history of boxing make up something that would stain the reputation of Duran for the rest of his days? Was it a simple case of miscommunication? And why did Roberto Duran decide that in the 8th round of the WBC World Welterweight Championship to just call it a day?
No Más Or To Not No Más
Straight off the bat, I should tell you I believe Roberto Duran. I don’t for one second think that he uttered the words “No Más” at any point and that what he actually said—which is what he claimed he said—was “No sigo, no sigo, no sigo”, which means “I’m not carrying on.” He also claimed that he was speaking to himself and I also have no reason to doubt the words of anyone called The Hands of Stone, even if they are now 71, as he could very easily hunt me down and batter the crap out of me if he so chose to. Yet, the fact of the matter is that even if said “No sigo”, he’d already decided that enough was enough and he was throwing in the towel. So why?
Watching the fight over again as I’m typing, there are a few very obvious reasons as to why Duran decided that enough was enough on that fateful night. First off, it had only been five months since the two had met originally. That bout is still one of the hardest-hitting and brutal contests to ever grace the squared circle, and it would see both men pretty much stand in the middle of the ring and beat the ever-loving crap out of each other for 15 rounds. When it went to the cards, Duran won a very, very close decision and even though he’d walk away with the title, both would also take a lot of damage out of the ring with them as well. Less than half a year later they were going to go at it again, but this time coming in it seemed as if Duran wasn’t prepared and Sugar Ray looked like a million dollars.
Duran couldn’t get anywhere near his opponent. For eight rounds Sugar Ray Leonard toys with him, seemingly picking his spots and his punches at will, and when towards the latter stages he starts winding up shots like he’s in an old Warner Brothers cartoon, it’s obvious that Duran just isn’t prepared for a war that saw one man dance around like Muhammad Ali in his prime, while the other lumbered forward like something from the Night of the Living Dead. Duran is out of shape. Duran is carrying a shoulder injury from the first fight. Duran just isn’t ready.
He may never have said “No Más”, but you can sure as hell see him thinking it.
There are a ton of crazy conspiracy theories as to why Duran quit, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, but my favourite one is that Duran reasoned that he’d get a third crack at Leonard if he just turned his back and walked away. The premise is that he’d offered Ray another shot at the title after their first match, so Leonard would feel obliged to do the same, but instead, after the “No Más” incident, Sugar Ray Leonard realized that he’d gotten lucky and denied Duran a re-match and would wait the best part of a decade before facing a broken down version of the man he’d made quit in the ring.
To quote Jules from Pulp Fiction;
I like that. But that shit ain’t the truth.”
The facts are that after “No Más”, Duran’s long-time trainer, Ray Arcel, quit. In fact, he was so disgusted at Duran’s action that he walked away from boxing altogether for a very long time. Duran himself was urged to retire by his own manager and his promoter abandoned him completely. But considering his promoter was Don King—a man who’d abandon a newborn baby in a parking lot if he thought he could sell tickets to people so they could watch him do it—that should come as no f*cking surprise.
No, “No Más” did far more damage to the career and legacy of Roberto Duran than anything has ever and could ever have done to any boxer that’s stepped through the ropes. Here was a man whose whole persona was hardcore machismo. Someone who would walk through the fires of hell if it meant beating his opponent. He took no prisoners and asked nothing in return except to go out on his shield if that was what God intended.
And yet, in the 8th round, he uttered those fateful words and it was all gone in the blink of an eye.
Or did Howard Cosell make the whole thing up?
In fairness, I don’t think anyone will ever know. There are plenty of copies of the fight available to watch online—hell, just type “No Más” Fight into YouTube and you’ll find about 100 full-length versions—but because it was the start of the 80s, the quality is always terrible and you genuinely can’t hear what Duran says in the closing stages of round 8. Still, as far as I’m concerned that is neither here nor there.
Sugar Ray Leonard so utterly dominated his opponent from the opening bell that he felt compelled to just give up, either through frustration, stomach cramps, a shoulder injury, or just not being fight ready, and that should say more about the “No Más” fight than anything.
It’s not the fact that Duran walked away that people should focus on; it’s the fact that Sugar Ray Leonard made him do that.
As Ray himself said;
I made him quit. To make a man quit, to make Roberto Durán quit, was better than knocking him out.”