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Brawl in Montreal was a spine-tingling experience as Roberto Duran torched Sugar Ray Leonard’s unbeaten record


THOSE of us lucky enough to have been ringside at the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila will never forget the experience.

But the Brawl in Montreal surpassed them both for spine-tingling brilliance, boundless courage and superb offensive and defensive skills carried out at mesmerising speed of hand and foot.

SunSport boxing columnist Hart says Duran vs Sugar Ray Leonard was the best fight he has ever seen
Getty Images – Getty

Hart reckons the fight had it all and beat even Ali’s greats such as the Rumble in the Jungle
Getty Images – Getty

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the night Sugar Ray Leonard lost his unbeaten record and world welterweight title to Roberto Duran, after 15 torrid rounds.

It is the greatest fight I’ve ever seen.

There was Leonard, America’s golden boy, charming everyone with his matinee-idol smile and showbiz charisma.

Then there was the snarling, beady-eyed, black-bearded Duran, who looked like a Panamanian mugger.

Duran had been world lightweight champ for seven years and because he was moving up a division to meet a much bigger man, Leonard was the favourite.

He knew he had to try and level the playing field, so he delved into the gutter to psychologically unsettle Leonard with a repulsive verbal assault on his family.

And his main target was Sugar Ray’s pretty wife, Juanita.

With my East London background, I’m not easily shocked but I found Duran’s vitriolic attack nauseating.

At the final press conference, he yelled at Juanita: “I’m going to kill your husband!”

And his parting shot at Leonard was: “I’m going to screw you, then I’m going to screw your wife!”

Duran’s strategy worked a treat as he’d won the fight several days before they climbed into the ring.

All Leonard could think of was ramming his obscene insults down his throat.

He foolishly decided he would go toe-to-toe with Duran, which played straight into his rival’s ‘Hands of Stone.’

As soon as the first bell sounded, they flew at each other.

Amazingly, there were no knockdowns and hardly a drop of blood spilled, yet everyone there knew they had witnessed an all-time classic.

The three judges just gave Duran the edge and, typically, Leonard – who failed to sell his amazing £42million mansion – gracefully accepted the unanimous decision.

He told me: “He had got into my head. It bothered me as a man. You don’t insult a guy’s wife.”

Five months later, in New Orleans, Sugar Ray got sweet revenge and his title back in the infamous “No Mas” fiasco when Duran quit in the eighth.

The animosity has evaporated and they have met socially on many occasions.

Leonard added: “We give each other hugs now instead of punches and I’m proud to call him a friend.”

Last week Floyd Mayweather Jr boasted he was the greatest fighter who ever lived.

But he never came up against Leonard or Duran. I rest my case.


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