ROBERTO DURAN, the man they called Stone Fists, the man in whom burned a cold, merciless desire for victory, astounded the boxing world by turning human in the New Orleans Superdome.
He was not hurt, not bleeding, not out of the fight. He just lost his temper and quit.
Duran announced his retirement afterwards. “I will never fight again,” he said. “I am retiring from boxing now.”
The Louisiana State Commission voted unanimously to withhold all of Duran’s $8m purse and also ordered that he be medically examined.
A distressed Duran said he had cramps in his stomach and right arm. Throughout the seventh round Leonard had taunted him, dropping his hands and inviting him to throw a punch, winding up his right hand and jolting Duran with a left jab.
It was designed to send the champion into a rage, but not even Leonard could imagine the effect it could have. Suddenly the Panamanian stopped bobbing and weaving, straightened up and waved his glove in a dismissive gesture.
He half turned away and Leonard drove in a right to the body and left to the side.
Referee Octavio Meyran jumped between the two, and – as if he couldn’t believe it either – hesitated and invited Duran to continue.
But the 29–year-old champ turned his back again, scowling and gesticulating. Leonard raved across the ring and leapt on the ropes in a neutral corner with his arms raised in triumph.
Duran made a belated show of wanting to resume the battle but by this time the ring was filled with assorted hangers on. Duran trudged back to his corner. Physically, there seemed nothing wrong.
As for Leonard, the future is bright again. At 24 he has an apparently dazzling and lucrative career ahead. Only rival champ Thomas Hearns would offer the slightest threat to his supremacy now.
Helped by a large ring, Leonard danced around and picked Duran off from the start. His was a classy display of boxing on the move and off the ropes. The results re-instate him as one of the modern greats.
Leonard turned in a good opening round before they both upped the pace in the second. Duran raced in and scored with two hard rights, one of which sent Leonard back.
The challenger kept on the move catching Duran with one flashing right hand as the champion’s lead fell short. Shortly before the bell, another left hook landed solidly on Duran’s bearded jaw.
As he came off his stool for the third Duran seemed to be enjoying himself. The satisfied, menacing smile emphasised that he was doing what he loved best.
He barged Leonard into the ropes and pounded away, but Leonard sunk a hard left to the head. It was a good round for Duran.
He managed to pin Leonard on the ropes for long spells and despite the challenger’s eye-catching flurries, punched away to head and body. Leonard wrapped his left glove around Duran’s neck to keep him from doing too much damage.
In the fourth, Leonard was again forced into the ropes, but moved off them to catch Duran with a left hook to the waist line. The challenger suddenly put his punches together in a typical burst and Duran took them in midring.
Duran’s shots were falling short but it was also difficult to tell how many of Leonard’s counters were landing solidly. Duran missed with a charge near Leonard’s corner and ended up half way through the ropes on his knees.
In the fifth, the challenger’s work rate dropped but he got on his toes and moved around the ring well in the early part of the round.
Duran cracked home a right hand, but Leonard took it well. Duran pushed him over quite spectacularly in the American’s own corner and suddenly the champion’s pressure threatened to give him control.
Leonard ended the round backed against the ropes in a neutral corner with Duran using his weight and powering away with both hands.
But Leonard took over again in round six, boxing well behind a stinging left jab. He caught Duran with a good right and left hook in mid-ring. Although the champion kept up the chase he was landing fewer punches.
Then came the dramatic seventh when Leonard simply stood and taunted his man. He dropped his hands, swayed from side to side, shrugged his shoulders and wobbled his legs.
Duran seemed bemused. Leonard produced his most outrageous act of disrespect by winding up the right hand – Ali style – then suddenly snapping left jabs into Duran’s face.
The eighth saw Leonard in control behind a sharp left jab. Duran was still tossing punches; but was caught by a good right hook just before the final, mid-ring exchange which was interrupted by his sudden decision to quit.