ESPN 30 for 30: No Mas (2013)

Directed by Eric Drath

The world of championship boxing has taken a backseat these days to the wonderful world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). MMA is a sport to which I have no interest in at all. There aren’t any interesting stories, and I just don’t take to the bludgeoning nature of the sport. Others, however, obviously do. But there was a time when boxing was the sweet science, where personalities like Muhammed Ali dominated the sporting world, where fight night captured audiences nationwide for a main event like none other. Sugar Ray Leonard was one such personality, but he eventually met his match with Panamanian fighter Roberto Duran.

Leonard was the legend, the American hero, but Duran was the up and comer from a much smaller country, a true underdog. What unfolded between the two became the stuff of legend within the boxing community. They fought just twice in their prime, but each was just as gripping as the other. In 1980, they matched up and went toe to toe with the feisty Duran shocking the world in Montreal. He became a hero in his homeland overnight, taking down the arrogant American, the heavy favorite. But that’s not what this film is about. That’s not what made the rivalry famous. For when they met for the second time, two words would change the boxing world forever. “No mas”.

Amid the biggest fight of his life, his effort to defend the title he won from Leonard in 1980, Roberto Duran inexplicably gave up in the Louisiana Superdome a mere 5 months after he had beaten Leonard. In the middle of the fight, Duran famously turned to the referee and told him “no mas”, no more. Nobody could understand why, as it became one of the biggest disappointments, and one of the biggest controversy’s in sports. The mystery waged on and on, but with this film Eric Drath attempts to make sense of the situation, gaining access to Duran himself, as well as a host of others closely involved and influenced by the fight, including Leonard.

The biggest problem that Drath runs into with this film is that its an issue that has not been in the limelight for some time, and it concerns a sport that has not been in the limelight for some time. To resurrect the story now takes some courage, and depends on an existing base of fans from the 1980s when Duran-Leonard was the talk of the town. With this in mind, the film then proceeds to stumble through the documentary, failing to add anything meaningful to the narrative of the rivalry. After the obligatory recap sequences, which take up much of the film and serve to either bring new fans up to speed or have old ones reminisce, Drath arrives at a problematic conclusion to his film.

In the end, Drath diverts his attention from the meaning of “No Mas”, and why Duran could have possibly of quit, and instead finds an alternate conclusion where Leonard and Duran become friends. Not only is it hardly believable, but it cheats its hypothesis by never having to actually address it in the films conclusion. Drath makes the folly of expecting his viewers not to notice. He tries to make the story sentimental in the end. As we reminisce in the splendor of the mystery, in the glory of the fight, we are meant to sympathize for Duran, to see the tender side of a fighter known for his aggression and to let it go. But for a film that sets out to answer the question “why?” such a conclusion can never be anything more than a disappointment likened to “No Mas”.

** 1/2 – Average

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