By Scoop Malinowski
Former New York Ranger, Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Rockies defenseman Barry “Bubba” Beck was one of the best and toughest players in the NHL through the late 1970s to late 1980s and he was fortunate to attend one of boxing’s most historic clash of titans, the infamous Roberto Duran vs Ray Leonard “Brawl in Montreal” on June 20, 1980 staged at Olympic Stadium, the home field of Major League Baseball’s Montreal Expos.
Barry Beck tells the story of his memorable experience sitting ringside at Duran vs Leonard…
In late June of 1980 I attended the first fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran in Montreal with New York restaurateur Ken Aretsky and our girlfriends.
It had rained the day of the fight and our ringside seats were still wet by the time the fight rolled around that evening. I was a big fight fan and during that era the welterweight division was stacked.
I used to train at Gleason’s Gym near Madison Square Garden and went to many fights at the Felt Forum.
When you sit at ringside for a big fight there’s a constant buzz and tensions are high. The crowd was split with both Leonard and Duran fans.
Duran took control of the fight from the very beginning and tried to manhandle Leonard. Sugar Ray would counter but Duran kept the intimidation up the whole fight.
At the end of the fight the black contingent thought Leonard had won and the hispanics believed in Duran. The decision took some time with the tension building. I started to get a peculiar feeling in my stomach. I said to Kenny, “We got to get out of here… Now!” He looked at me wide-eyed as he now knew what was going on.
The decision was read with Duran winning as we were cantering up the aisle. When the fistfights broke out we hightailed it to the taxi stand our girlfriends in tow without looking back. Another 30 seconds and we would have been in the middle of it.
I told the story to Canadian boxing friend Donny “The Golden Boy” Lalonde at dinner one night. He said “I wished I could have been there. We would have had fun at ringside by staying!”
He’d get his wish soon enough as he fought Leonard in Las Vegas in the biggest payday of his career ($6m for their 1988 WBC Light Heavyweight/Super Middleweight title fight).