The 3rd and final battle between golden era of boxing legends Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran was as equally epic as the first two….scintillating and riveting….but on this final battlefield, Leonard dominated a tired old Manos de Piedras…..who didn’t have the skills anymore to throw those hands of stone with any sort of significance.
The fight was announced on July 31….with the newest resort on the Las Vegas strip to be built in the prior 15 years….Steve Wynn’s Mirage, a $630 million hotel and casino opened on November 22, 1989. Leonard’s attorney and the fight’s co-promoter, Mike Trainer, said that The Mirage and Trump Plaza offered site fees in excess of $8 million. “The money was about the same. It came down to intangibles,” Trainer said. “Ray liked the idea of opening this new hotel.”….as Trainer’s Victory Promotions and Bob Arum’s Top Rank promoted the fight. The match was billed as “Uno Mas,” meaning “one more” in Spanish….which was in reference to the second fight between Leonard and Duran….the “No Mas” fight, in which Duran quit. Leonard was the WBC Super Middleweight Champion….and Duran was the WBC Middleweight Champion.
The fight was shown live on closed circuit television at approximately 1,200 locations and on pay-per-view, which was available to an estimated 13 million homes in the United States….as HBO paid $3 million for the delayed rights….with a sellout crowd of 16,305 producing a gate of $9 million….for ticket prices were $800, $600, $500, $300, $200 and $100.
Leonard made at least $15 million and Duran $7.6 million….as Leonard’s purse from this fight made him the first boxer to earn over $100 million in his career….cuz Sugar Ray, along with many other great boxers during the golden age of boxing (1964 – 1995)….were in the game at the right time and place when TV money made its way into the ring.
Leonard was a 9 to 5 favorite….as the fight was held in an outdoor arena. It was a chilly night, and Leonard’s seconds wrapped a blanket around him between rounds. Leonard suffered three cuts during the fight: A headbutt in the fourth round cut his lower lip (it required 10 stitches), a right in the 11th cut his right eyebrow (it required 30 stitches) and a left in the 12th cut his left eyelid (it required 20 stitches).
Sports Illustrated boxing writer Pat Putnam wrote about the fight saying ….”Leonard’s fight plan could have been devised by Sun Tzu….the man who wrote the bible of military strategy, The Art of War in 500 B.C….describing his tactics as textbook perfect”…..as Leonard said after his lopsided victory….”that display was what you try to teach young fighters.” The 12-round bout had all the beauty of a bullfight, but without the expected horror of the kill….still, the fans didn’t like it; Leonard gave them artistic perfection when they wanted heated battle…..so the booed vociferously throughout the fight. Most fight fans would not spend a dime to watch Van Gogh paint Sunflowers, but they would fill Yankee Stadium to see him cut off his ear.
Only in the 11th round….after thoroughly dominating the bewildered Duran….did Leonard give the fans what they asked for….blood….but it was his own. In the last 30 seconds of the round, he met Duran toe-to-toe….as both men fired right hands….in which Duran’s chopped the gash over Leonard’s left eye. With Leonard moving quickly away and seemingly thinking to himself….”to hell with that”…..since his mouth already was bleeding from a head-butt in the fourth round….then very late in the final round….a Duran hook sliced Leonard’s right eyebrow….which finished a night where Duran landed only 84 of 588 punches….but opened cuts with two of those….whereas in contrast….Leonard landed 227 of 438 punches. His unceasing lateral movement kept Duran in a constant state of befuddlement…..as his attacks came behind a merciless jab….and his combinations were swift with a mean purity. For one last time Sugar Ray Leonard gave the world Sugar Ray Leonard. The judges’ cards read 119-109, 120-110, 116-111, all for Leonard…..and for the 2nd time out of 3 epic battles between these two legends of the golden age of boxing (1964-1995)…..Sugar Ray showed that he was indeed the better of the two legends of the ring on December 7, 1989.