Roberto Duran Beats Ray Leonard This Day June 20, 1980
Roberto Duran takes 15 Round decision from Ray Leonard and wins the welterweight crown
Sugar Ray Leonard 145 lbs
Roberto Duran 145½ lbs
UD in round 15 of 15
Location: Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Referee: Carlos Padilla
Judge: Harry Gibbs 144-145
Judge: Angelo Poletti 147-148
Judge: Raymond Baldeyrou 144-146
Unofficial AP scorecard: 144-141 Duran
Unofficial New York Times scorecard: 144-142 Leonard
WBC Welterweight Championship (2nd defense by Leonard)
The fight was co-promoted by Bob Arum and Don King.
This was Leonard’s return to Montreal, the site of his Olympic Gold Medal victory in 1976.
Duran would earn $1.5 million, by far his biggest payday ever, while Leonard stood to make between $7.5 million and $10 million, more money than any man had ever collected for a fight. Leonard would receive the $3.5 million paid by the Olympic Installations Board to stage the fight, plus all the money for the delayed home television broadcast rights—between $500,000 and $800,000. Leonard would also get 80% of the $500,000 to $700,000 from the sale of foreign TV rights, with the promoters getting the rest. Finally, Leonard would receive 80% of the closed circuit TV revenues—with the promoters getting the remaining 20%—after the first $2.5 million of those revenues came off the top. From that $2.5 million, Duran would get his $1.5 million, and the remaining $1 million would go to the promoters to cover expenses. All in all, the package virtually assured Leonard more than $7.5 million.
Duran’s health caused concern when, three days before the fight, he was forced to spend two hours having his heart checked. After an EKG had revealed an abnormality in his heartbeat, Dr. Bernard Chaitman, a cardiologist at the Montreal Heart Institute, was called in. “His EKG showed some findings that, in a normal person, might be interpreted as coronary artery disease,” Chaitman said. “This is narrowing of the arteries of the heart. However, this type of EKG pattern is often seen in highly trained athletes. In a well-trained athlete, the heart muscle may be slightly thicker than in an average individual, giving rise to an unusual type of EKG pattern. What happened in Duran’s case is his pattern was slightly more marked than in the average boxer.” So Duran underwent another exam. “Everything was within normal limits,” Chaitman said. “He was cleared for the fight.”
Leonard was a 9 to 5 favorite.
In a UPI poll of 30 sportswriters, 16 picked Duran to win by knockout and one picked him to win by decision. Of the 13 who went with Leonard, eight thought he would stop Duran.
The fight was shown on closed circuit television in 310 locations in the United States and Canada and on pay-per-view cable systems in Los Angeles, California, and Columbus, Ohio.
The fight was shown by ABC on Wide World of Sports on July 29, 1980.
46,317 fans attended the fight at Olympic Stadium.
As Duran was entering the ring, Joe Frazier, who was ringside for the fight, was asked by New York Times columnist Dave Anderson if Duran reminded him of anybody. It was a leading question, for Anderson thought that Duran’s ferocity would remind Frazier of himself. “Yeah,” Frazier replied. “He reminds me of Charles Manson.”
Last Friday night, in a chilly, rain-soaked stadium in Canada, the two men met and fought with uncommon courage, in a way that honored them both. The French Canadians billed the fight as Le Face-a-Face Historique. A historic face-to-face, that was to match perhaps the two finest fighters in the world today, and over the 15 rounds the bout was every bit of that. It was historic, all right—a magnificent, memorable combat between a boxer, Leonard, and a brawler, Duran. Literally, it was face to face, too, for that is exactly how these two champions stood for almost all of the 45 minutes as they flailed at one another—a four-fisted, toe-to-toe epic that swept like a malevolent wind from corner to corner and along the ropes, drifting only occasionally to the center of the ring. It was a fight that round after round brought the crowd of 46,317 to its feet, roaring.
Duran averaged 60 thrown punches per round and 21 connects, while Leonard averaged 50 thrown punches and 18 connects.
Duran was incorrectly announced in the ring as a majority decision winner. Italian judge Angelo Poletti’s scorecard had been inaccurately tabulated as 147-147. After the mistake was discovered, the result was announced as a unanimous decision for Duran at the post-fight press conference. In rounds, judge Raymond Baldeyrou of France scored it 6-4-5, judge Harry Gibbs of England saw it 6-5-4, and Poletti had it 3-2-10. William Nack called Polatti’s scorecard “a monument to indecision.”
Roberto Duran: “He is the best I have fought. He hit me hard a couple of times, but I was never in bad shape. He was pretty good, but he had to be because he was fighting me.”
Ray Arcel, Duran’s trainer: “Leonard surprised me taking some of the punches he did.”
Sugar Ray Leonard: “I said I would fight Duran flat-footed and I did. I had no alternative. I wouldn’t change if I had to do it all over again. People questioned whether I could take the big punch. I showed them. I have to give Duran a lot of credit. He is the toughest man I’ve ever fought.”
Angelo Dundee, Leonard’s trainer: “You never fight to a guy’s strength. You try to offset it, and Ray didn’t. He tried to out strong the guy. Duran was being Duran, and Ray was going with him.”