Show Must Go On for Duran and Leonard
Uno mas, con gusto? Or, here they go again, ad nauseam.
Sugar Ray Leonard, aka The Show That Never Ends, was back on Broadway Wednesday to explain why, nine years after the fact, he should once again fight Roberto Duran, once known as “Hands of Stone” but now more of a fighting fossil. Appropriately, the affair was held at Roseland, the ancient midtown ballroom frequented by aging hoofers.
“One thing leads to another, years go by, and things change,” Leonard said. “This is indeed a rubber match. Roberto Duran is the only man to ever beat me, and he beat me fair and square. I beat him the second time, but because of the bizarre ending, people thought it was all a setup for a third fight. Now he owes me one and I owe him one.”
Or, as promoter Bob Arum said, “It is unusual in life to get a chance to redeem one’s past mistakes. In November, Roberto Duran will get his chance.”
Arum was careful not to say exactly when or where Duran’s day of redemption will come. As of Wednesday, a bidding war between potential sites was still going on. According to a Top Rank source, the bout was likely to end up in Atlantic City on Nov. 30, bankrolled by Donald Trump. Caesars Palace, which preferred a Nov. 2 date, was insisting on a two-fight package and a third entry, the new Mirage hotel in Las Vegas, wanted to host the fight in December.
Wherever it winds up, Leonard-Duran III, a scheduled 12-rounder for Leonard’s WBC super-middle-weight title, is the latest in a continuing series of overdue grudge matches involving boxing’s Seniors Tour, consisting largely of Leonard (35-1-1), Thomas Hearns, Duran (85-7), and, some still believe, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, who has not fought since Leonard outpointed him in April, 1987. The Leonard-Duran saga appeared to be played out on Nov. 25, 1980, when Duran turned his back on Leonard in the eighth round of their rematch with the words, “No Mas.” Five months earlier, Duran had dealt Leonard the only loss of his career. Now 38, Duran shocked the boxing world in February when he beat Iran Barkley to win the WBC middleweight crown, his fourth world title.
“I’ve waited nine years to get this opportunity,” said a chubby Duran through an interpreter. “I always hoped this fight would come. I always had images of it. I never lost hope that I would get Leonard again.”
Then Duran, who sported a dangling diamond earring in his right earlobe, tried English to get his point across. “For nine years, no happy,” he said. “Me happy now, very, very happy. In November, I be very more happy.”
Leonard and Duran were friendly Wednesday, in contrast to their first two bouts, when Duran grabbed every opportunity to insult Leonard, even going so far as to curse at Leonard’s wife.
“I don’t think any of that’s going to happen this time around,” Leonard said. “We both are older now, a lot older. We need to reserve some energy for the fight.”