For some fans, historians, and fellow fighters, it ranks as one of the greatest fights in the sport’s history. For many, the Roberto Duran vs. Sugar Ray Leonard fight of June 20th, 1980, ranks as the greatest fight in the celebrated ‘Four Kings’ rivalry. It was 44 years ago today when former lightweight king Duran took on defending WBC welterweight champion Leonard in Montreal, Canada.

We didn’t know it then, but over the next ten years, Duran, Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler would get busy fighting each other, in some cases more than once, with the entire world being thrilled, stunned, and thoroughly entertained.

Duran’s close but completely deserved 15-round unanimous decision win over the sport’s latest glamour superstar came after both legends had dug in and fought harder than hard. Duran, having got under Leonard’s skin in the lead-up to the fight – the fearsome Panamanian who reminded Ray Charles Leonard of the infamous Charles Manson having hurled insults at Leonard and his wife – fought his fight. At the same time, he made Ray fight the wrong fight.

The fans benefited, the action was red-hot, and the leather trading was savage at times. Hurt early, Leonard was perhaps facing the absolute peak: Roberto Duran, the best version the world ever saw of “Hands of Stone.” Duran showed power, sheer, naked aggression, and seemingly limitless stamina. Leonard, fighting up close and personal with Duran instead of boxing and moving, showed great heart, a superb chin, and a truckload of guts and desire.

It was a back-and-forth classic in every sense of the word when describing a truly great prize fight. There were no knockdowns and very few clinches or lulls in the action, and Duran, 71-1(56) coming in, had built up a lead over the first three-quarters of the fight. Leonard, 27-0(18) before the opening bell, displayed what he had inside, with him coming on in the later rounds, the younger man making some adjustments.

But Duran was still snarling, throwing, and vicious at the final bell. Most in the huge crowd had barely sat down during the entire 15 rounds of warfare. There was no embrace at the end, Leonard’s attempt at a handshake shoved away sharply by the still-raging Duran. It was close on the cards at 148-147, 145-144, and 146-144, but Duran was the no-arguments winner.

However, Duran’s victory had come from some truly bizarre scoring. Often forgotten is that this epic fight suffered from some very strange scores – as handed in by judge Angelo Poletti, who somehow saw no less than 10 rounds, yes, 10 rounds, even! Poletti, who had the fight 148-147, got there by scoring just three rounds for Duran, with two for Leonard, and those ten even rounds. In the grand scheme of things, this odd scorecard didn’t change anything, but, boy, has ANY other fight in history had so many rounds scored even?

This footnote aside, the world had seen two special fighters give their all. The watching fans also saw the first in a long-running series of super fights, the ‘Four Kings’ going to war in a unique battle for supremacy.

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