Orville Higgins | Duran, Sugar Ray, and Axeman's surrender
In November 1980, I was a mere child, but that boxing match between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard, when Duran was reported to say, "No m·s, no m·s" (Spanish for no more, no more), will stay with me always. Those were the golden days of boxing, and I can still remember the legions of people packed in my living room in Westmoreland.
Interestingly, Duran himself claims that he never said any such words. He has been quoted as saying he was mumbling to himself, "No sigo, no sigo," which roughly translates to "I am not going any further". He claims it was legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell who came up with the term "no m·s, no m·s." Interestingly, I have read where Duran said what he said was "no peleo," meaning " I won't fight." As an aside, it doesn't seem to me to make much difference between "no m·s" and "no sigo" and "no peleo.'' The man quit, mumbling something to the effect that he didn't want to continue. That is clear.
Duran had quit at the end of the eighth round, turning his back on Leonard and waving his glove to referee Octavio Meyran that he had had enough. It was a surprising end to what was a keenly contested fight. Interestingly, if you look back at the scores on the fight card up to the point where Duran quit, Leonard was leading by razor-thin margins, 68-66, 68-66 and 67-66, on the scorecard of the three judges. Leonard was ahead, but only just. Maybe it wasn't the mere blows that got to Duran. At one point in the seventh round, Sugar Ray was openly showboating and taunting Duran, wheeling his right hand, and generally behaving as if this was mere fun. Maybe Duran's pride was hurt just as much as his body.
What is significant is what Duran said after the fight. The fight was, of course, the second of three meetings between the two. Duran had beaten Leonard by unanimous decision to capture the welterweight crown, and the rematch was arranged as the public apparently wanted more. Duran, in an interview earlier this year, said: "I beat Leonard and then I got really fat. I had to lose too much weight. I got cramps. I didn't have strength for anything ... Eleta (his manager) was supposed to give me way, way more time to prepare myself the right way. I was too fat."
Jamaica's Nicholas Walters was born in January 1986, which means that the famous "no m·s" fight took place six years before he was even born, and yet there is an eerie similarity with his fight against Vasyl Lomachenko on Saturday and that Leonard-Duran classic. In both cases, Duran and the Axeman had issues making the weight, and in both cases, they argued that they needed more time to prepare. Axeman called it quits before the eighth. Duran had started the eighth and couldn't finish. History has joined both Duran and Walters in a way that is not complimentary to both.
Boxing experts did ask if Duran was ready for that rematch with Sugar Ray, the same questions that are being asked now.
A former fourth division world champion summed it up: "This boy ain't fought in 342 days and you put him in the biggest fight of his life. And he is crazy because at first he said it wouldn't bother him. But you can't say that it wont bother you but then use it as an excuse when it does happen."
Nicholas Walters, who, prior to now, was seen as a brash, confident, tough- talking Jamaican has lost face here. I heard Leroy Brown on radio saying that he will virtually have to restart his career. Jones himself said, "He has lost a lot of credibility by quitting ... ; people are not listening to what he is saying."
Duran himself did manage to make some sort of a comeback after the "no m·s" fight. He schooled then WBA champion Davey Moore in 1983 to take the title and restored some of the pride he lost three years earlier. He did lose to both Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray after, and although he lost both fights, they did go the distance, and he did get to recover some of his reputation. In 2002, Duran was voted by the Ring Magazine as the fifth-greatest fighter of the last 80 years.
Nicholas Walters, therefore, is not finished. He can come back. It will not be easy, but if he is as determined as I know he can be, he can re-earn the respect he once had. After all, his ring record is still impressive. He has lost only once. It would be tragic if this is how he is remembered. For his sake, I hope he makes a sterling comeback.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.