Protection is the tradition in the English ring, where there is a clean line to style and penalties for fouls are severe. This preference places far too much import on defense and renders many of the English fighters rigid in the face of improvisation and—as was the case with Duran—wild attack. None of this concern with the niceties infects the grim, fetid gyms of Panama City that lure hundreds of embryo Durans out of stifling tin-roofed shelters. In such surroundings nobody talks about protection.
The complaint by the Scot provokes no credibility or sympathy. The fact is that he was never in this fight, and he dropped his title as if it were a stick of dynamite. Generously, he won two rounds and drew another. Beyond that, it was all Duran as he bared the white of his mouthpiece, not to suck in breath but out of disdain, and chased the Scot into the ropes, a part of the ring's geography that is evil country for a boxer beset by a puncher.
That the Scot looked for the ropes far too readily is only one of the reasons why he is not the champion of the world anymore. His jab—the primary weapon against a free-form fighter like Duran—was not crisp, nor hardly of nuisance value. Duran stayed atop him constantly, whacking him with volumes of right hands. The rights often came from far away, just the kind to be discouraged by quick left hooks, but Buchanan's feet were as slow as his hands; he seemed to be forever stepping into punches. More likely, the punches were there waiting, wherever he stepped.
The eventual claim of foul should not confuse or dwarf the dimensions of Duran's victory. The incident occurred at the end of the 13th round as Buchanan flurried slightly after the bell. Duran responded to the body, his last punch a low-swinging right, and suddenly the Scot was down on his knees. The referee—Johnny LoBianco—stopped the fight. The Scot's cornermen shouted that it was a knee or a low punch that felled Buchanan; they could not seem to make up their minds. It did not matter, for the issue of Buchanan vs. Duran had long been resolved.
Later in the week, slow-motion replays of the television film seemed to convince LoBianco that the Scot was hit below the belt.
"It's a shame," said Carlos Eleta, the new champion's aggrieved manager. "There will be a rematch now. In November."
"Tomorrow," Duran said quietly, waving a small Panamanian flag.
One night later the scene shifted from New York to the neon squalor of Las Vegas, where The Soul Brothers, Muhammad Ali and Bob Foster, were booked against The Brothers Quarry. Except at the casinos, no low blows were struck; Ali and Foster destroyed Jerry and Mike from the chin up.
Before his fight with Ali, Jerry Quarry said, "If Mike could punch as good as me or I could box as good as him, we'd be a hell of a fighter."
Maybe. But even a combination Quarry would have been thumped by the Ali who toyed with the lone Jerry most of this night. When Ali finally went to work in earnest in the sixth round, it was plain for all to see that the old Ali was back, perhaps not better than ever, but so close to the real thing as to be indistinguishable.