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'I Am Still A Pistol'
William Hack
November 07, 1983
So says Roberto Duran, who three years after "no más" is challenging Marvin Hagler for his fourth world title
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November 07, 1983

'i Am Still A Pistol'

So says Roberto Duran, who three years after "no más" is challenging Marvin Hagler for his fourth world title

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If Leonard's gestures offended the purists in attendance—the original Sugarman, Ray Robinson, never mocked an opponent in the ring—there were, nonetheless, snickers from the crowd, laughter at the fool that Leonard was making Duran out to be. Three minutes later Duran quit on his feet, $3 million richer but far poorer for his evening's activities.

Notes from two nights of discussion in Duran's room at his Palm Springs, Calif. training site for the Hagler bout. The subject, the neon flashings of his mind regarding no más:

•I was sick. The pain got worse. Then I began to feel weaker. I couldn't lift my arms. I felt sick. I couldn't breathe, and each time I threw a punch it hurt and I felt weakness in my arms. If I couldn't go on and he was most likely going to give me a beating or mess me up, why did I want to be like that?

•I couldn't throw any punches, and I would have received undeserved punishment. Leonard knew I had nothing.... He was running and clowning because he knew I couldn't do anything. He wanted to show the public he was doing a big thing, but he wasn't doing crap. The first thing that entered my mind was, "If I was well, I would knock him out. It's a pity I can't do it." Leonard didn't punish me. He wasn't hitting me. I was messed up.

•I thought, "If I'm sick, I'm sick. If Leonard can't knock me out, why should I let myself be knocked out?" I could have died in the ring; gotten hurt, cut badly, or something could have burst in my stomach. Why should I continue to force myself? Why should I get hurt unnecessarily? So he should find an opening and I could become blind? Take a shot to the jaw and become paralyzed? I can't die to please the public, leaving my wife and children abandoned. Why [should I go on]? To please a fan?

•Well, there you have Sugar Ray Leonard now. What good is he? He got in with Thomas Hearns. There he is, all messed up, and if he fights, he can't see. But I'm still a pistol! And I've been recrowned a champion again.

So Duran was ill and didn't want to die; he was out of shape and didn't want his face busted up; he was weak and didn't want to be paralyzed. But why such abject surrender? One more question: Don't you think that the way you lost, the way you quit, was a way that the Panamanians or Latin Americans could not accept?

"Yes, that is true," Duran says, "but also I wasn't going to let myself get knocked out and look ridiculous in the ring."

To be made to look ridiculous, to be made a fool, was for Duran to yield unconditionally to Leonard. Instead, he chose to surrender on his own terms. "He knew he couldn't go 15 rounds," says Eleta. "He knew, he knew. He was too orgulloso—too proud of himself. He was afraid of what people would say of him. What he did was so much worse, but he didn't think about that."

A footnote: Late on the night of the fight, Duran threw a big party in his suite at the Hyatt Regency hotel, while alone in a room outside Panama City his mother, Clara Esther Samaniego, prayed to a statue of the Virgin Mary as someone stoned her house.

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