If I were to say “Thrilla in Manilla”, I imagine most boxing fans would immediately know what I was talking about. If I were to say “the Rumble in the Jungle” the same thing would happen. If I were to mention “the Fight of the Century” there may be a brief moment of confusion while a fan pondered whether I was discussing Jack Johnson vs James Jeffries, Joe Louis vs Max Schmelling or Joe Frazier vs Muhammed Ali but once it was clear which of the bouts I was referring to, I imagine most boxing fans… and many casual fans… would know the bout. Boxing is a sport built on iconic moments in iconic bouts between iconic fighters.
And arguably none of them are quite as iconic as “No Mas”.
I don’t intend to focus heavily on the Roberto Duran vs Ray Leonard bout itself. There is a staggering amount of excellent journalism and writing on the topic for any fan wishing to enlighten themselves (I’m a particular fan of Sports Illustrated’s articles on the subject). ESPN recently made it the subject of one of their (generally excellent) 30 for 30 documentaries. And you can go onto virtually any boxing forum, blog or website and see it discussed somewhere (often at considerable length).
To give the very basics; five months after Duran had defeated Leonard in their narrow first bout (where Leonard stood his ground and brawled with Duran) the pair had a rematch. This time Leonard moved extensively, repeatedly landing sharp punches on Duran who struggled to keep up or catch him. By the seventh round Leonard was openly playing to the crowd and as the eighth round came to a close Duran turned his back on Leonard and supposedly said to the referee Octavio Meyran “No mas” (No more)… although I note there has been some controversy about whether those words were actually said by Duran.
There have been many theories and suggestions put forward about why Duran, a man up to that point known for his machismo and unwavering will to win, decided to call it a night. Perhaps the most common is that he was suffering from severe stomach cramps, a result of him ballooning up in the size between the first and second bouts with Leonard and having to lose a vast amount of weight in a very short period. Others have suggested a shoulder injury. Some of the more unkind commentators have suggested that Duran was simply frustrated that he couldn’t track down, trap or hit Leonard and he quit in little more than a fit of pique. They’re not the theories I want to look at.