TV Review: ESPN’s 30 for 30 Doc ‘No Mas’

"No Mas" ESPN "30 for 30"

Fascinating look at Leonard-Duran 'No Mas' fight makes one near-fatal misstep

The Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fights in 1980 launched the phrase “No mas” into the global lexicon, while triggering what amounted to a mystery about what could inspire one of the scariest boxers on the planet to quit in the middle of a fight. “No Mas,” ESPN’s latest “30 for 30” documentary explores that question, doing a bang-up job of revisiting those events, before committing a serious misstep by reuniting the two fighters in what feels like a reality-TV stunt. Producer-director Eric Drath’s film is still worth seeing, but unlike Leonard, this one bit of showboating nearly results in a technical knockout.

As the film makes clear, boxing was riding high in the late 1970s, thanks to the combination of the stable of fighters introduced by the 1976 Olympics and the movie “Rocky.” Of those Olympians who quickly became stars in the professional ranks, nobody shone brighter than Leonard, who mixed flash and showmanship with a dazzling set of skills.

Still looking remarkably fit, Leonard and a slew of analysts and participants recount his first faceoff with Duran, whose bruising style and swaggering machismo made the normal pre-fight posturing unusually personal and pointed. “I hated that sonofabitch,” Leonard recalls, while Duran — whose hostile gestures included flipping off Leonard’s then-wife — is shown in an interview saying he “wanted to break him into pieces.”

The first bout was a war, with Leonard choosing to go toe to toe with Duran instead of out-boxing him, and losing in a decision. “He hurt me to the body,” Leonard marvels. “Nobody hurt me to the body.”

That sets up the rematch, where Duran — after being dominated and humiliated by Leonard in the early rounds — simply threw up his hands and quit.

That inexplicable act dogged both men, casting a pall over Leonard’s victory and making Duran a pariah in his native Panama, after his previous victory had turned him a national hero.

So far, so good. But the filmmakers arrange (or at least agree to film) an awkward meeting between the two in Panama, made even more silly by staging the meeting in a boxing ring. It’s an unnecessarily theatrical touch, particularly since the present-day Duran — exhibiting little evidence of the eye of the tiger he once possessed — doesn’t come across as someone prone to much in the way of introspection, second-guessing or confessionals.

It’s too bad, since until then, “No Mas” (Spanish for “No more,” a phrase Duran insists he never uttered, blaming Howard Cosell) does a terrific job of capturing that era, when big fights could still seemingly bring the world to a stop, creating big personalities and an gladiatorial quality around the sport’s epic pairings.

By contrast, the film’s glaring flaw is clearly a product of its current time, once again demonstrating how in today’s age of media overkill, a little less is often mas.

TV Review: ESPN's 30 for 30 Doc 'No Mas'

(Documentary; ESPN. Tue. Oct. 15, 8 p.m. ET)


Produced by Live Star Entertainment.


Executive producers, Eric Drath, Peter E. Bennett; producer-director, Drath; camera, James Fideler; editor, Alison Shurman. 90 MIN.

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  1. Coppertree648 says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. I felt the story line of Sugar Ray going to Panama made the doc interesting and helped it move along, and to see these two great fighters in the ring today was extremely compelling and interesting. This was be of the better “30 for 30″‘s to come along in a long time.
    Personally, my theory as to why Duran quit is that when Roberto realized that he couldn’t beat Sugar, and was being mocked and ridiculed by him in the later rounds, he couldn’t suffer the indignity of also being knocked out by him. It would be too much to let that crowd, and Sugar Ray, gloat over his defeat. Pride and his ego made him throw in the towel. I’m convinced of it…

  2. Jim Martin says:

    I felt the middle of the film was weak, and was surprised they built up to this reunion, only to not show it…rather showing them emerge on a stage together to pose for the cameras.

    The story telling was one sided, as it was the directors meeting with Leonard that prompted the idea for the film, and subsequent visit. That said, I did enjoy the ending of the film, and the sense of closure each principal attained

  3. Ryan says:

    I agree, it was good until the meeting in the ring. But what was really disappointing was they didn’t even let Duran talk and allow us to listen to his “truth”. It made us waste an hour and twenty minutes to never let us hear the ending. I think that is why most people watched this one, was to hear the truth from his own mouth, and they spoke over it and made it about being friends. We want the truth, the end!

    • Terryl says:

      They did let Duran talk at the end and he stuck with his food/cramps story and failed to give Sugar Ray his due. It wasn’t the film makers that robbed us of the truth we wanted, it was Duran. Too bad because it could have been a healing experience for both of them and so many more people. Sugar Ray came off as the more evolved person and a bigger winner outside of the ring.

      • bill tomalin says:

        Ryan is right . They stopped translating what Duran was saying and had Leonard saying his thoughts. Watch it again.

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