Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 September 2010 01:37
Written by Alexander Zammit
Tuesday, 14 September 2010 01:35
It is said that some men are born to be fighters and if this is true – than surely one fighter who would fit this profile would be Roberto Duran, the Panamanian with the "Hands of Stone” ("Manos de piedra").
Many consider him as the greatest lightweight of all time. He held world titles at four different weights—lightweight (1972–79), welterweight (1980), junior middleweight (1983–84) and middleweight (1989). He was the second boxer to have fought in five different decades and was still winning fights at almost the age of 50.
Duran’s First official fight was on the 23 – February – 1968 against Carlos Mendoza and his last fight was on the 14 – July – 2001 against Héctor Camacho.
In 2002, he was chosen by The Ring to be the 5th greatest fighter of the last 80 years. Bert Randolph Sugar the boxing historian rates him as the 8th greatest fighter of all-time His 70 wins by knockout place him in an exclusive group of boxers who have won 50 or more fights by knockout. He was ranked number 28 on The Ring's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.
On October 14, 2006, Durán was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Riverside, California, and on June 10, 2007, into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.
The man with the “Hands of Stone was born on the 16 of June, 1951 Panama, in the slums of El Chorrillo in a place called "La Casa de Piedra" (The House of Stone).
At age 13 Roberto Duran was forced to leave school, legend has it that he punched a lad down a flight of stairs, and was expelled, Duran was the 2nd of 9 children and effectively the bread winner for his family. He would often resort to raiding the local mango plantation in his quest for food and he turned to fighting to make a living. After a brief 16 fight amateur career and after fighting pretty much anyone who would fight him on the beach, Duran turned professional aged just 16.
Duran drew crowds and racked up a 21-0 record, most of those wins coming by knockout. It was at this point that Duran attracted the attention of a wealthy local landowner, Carlos Eleta. Eleta bought Duran's professional contract for a mere $300, and engaged the services of trainers Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown. Soon Duran's punches were shortened, he learned deceptively simple-but-effective defensive techniques, and overall complemented his fierce aggression with sound technique. Duran was getting ready for the big time.
Under the guidance of Eleta, Arcel, and Brown, Duran began a campaign for a world championship. His first major opponent was former 130lbs champion Hiroshi Kobayashi of Japan, who Duran disposed of with left-right combination to the head, knocking Kobayashi out in the 7th. By June 1972, Duran was ready to challenge Ken Buchannan for the WBA lightweight (135lbs) title at Madison Square Garden. Buchanan was an established British Commonwealth and European lightweight champion, making the third defense of his world title. It was a very dirty bout, with Duran still showing a lot of his rough and tumble experience in his fighting style.
Durán was ahead on all three cards at the end of the 13th round, at which time the fighters spent an additional 20 seconds punching each other. Buchanan was knocked down writhing in pain from a groin injury, that Buchanan's trainer, Gil Clancy, said was caused by a knee to the groin. Referee Johnny LoBianco awarded the fight to Durán, insisting that the blow that took down Buchanan was "in the abdomen, not any lower" and that he felt that Buchanan would be unable to continue fighting.
Duran followed up on his title winning performance with several non-title matches. Later that year, in another non-title bout, he lost a ten round decision to Esteban De Jesús. Duran got back on track with successful title defenses against Jimmy Robertson, Hector Thompson, and future lightweight champion Guts Ishimatsu. In 1974, Durán would avenge his loss to De Jesus with a brutal eleventh round knock out. In 1976, he defeated future light welterweight champion Saoul Mamby. Overall Durán made twelve successful defenses of his title (eleven coming by knock out) and amassed a record of 62-1, his last defense coming in 1978 where Durán fought a third fight with De Jesus, a unification match where Durán once again knocked out De Jesus and captured his WBC lightweight belt. Durán would give up the unified lightweight title in February 1979.
After such an incredible career at lightweight, Duran moved up to join the welterweight division. Duran wanted to take on the king of the welterweights ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard.
The two meet in what will forever be known as ‘The Brawl in Montreal’ It was a great clash of styles, the brawling aggressive Duran vs. the slick boxing of Ray Leonard; at least that is what it should have been. From the bell Duran forced Leonard to fight on his terms. Duran was simply great that night, he out worked Leonard on the inside and didn’t let Leonard box. In the end there was only going to be one winner, Roberto Duran had done the impossible, he moved up to welterweight and dethroned its king. Duran returned home to the people of Panama lining the streets to welcome their hero.
Loss in rematch - In the November rematch, Durán shockingly quit.
The man who prided himself on being a tough fighter with no quit uttered the infamous words ‘No mas’ and the fight would forever be remembered for those two words. The fight wasn’t going as Duran would have hoped Leonard was boxing, and taunting Duran. In the 8th round, Roberto Duran raised his arms and uttered the infamous words and walked to his corner. Ray Leonard had avenged the only lose on his career and with it delivered a blow that Duran would never really recover from. When Duran returned home, there weren’t the people of Panama lining the streets; there was nobody there for Duran.
Duran came back and his return to glory came at another weight, despite losing to Wilfred Benetiz for the WBC light middle weight title and then losing a huge upset in his next fight. Duran was matched against Pipino Cuevas. Well, if anyone thought Duran was shot he silenced a lot of people that night. He destroyed Cuevas in four rounds, his best display since beating Leonard in Montreal.
The fight earned him another shot at the light middleweight title. His opponent, the unbeaten Davey Moore.
The WBA title bout took place at Madison Square Garden on June 16, 1983, which also happened to be Durán's 32nd birthday. Duran was a 5-2 underdog going into the fight. Duran dominated the fight and he was better than Moore in every department, he hammered Moore at will and when Moore hit Duran he walked through the shots and proceeded to hammer home hard lefts and rights.
For 8 rounds Moore had taken horrific beating, his right eye swelled completely shut. In the 8th Duran unleashed a vicious combination and Moore finally crumpled to the canvas but he beat the count and got up to receive more punishment. Duran looked to the ref, as he dealt out more blows to Morre , but it continued. Duran landed a huge right hand straight down the middle that sagged Moore against the rope and finally. The doctor at ringside got on the apron and called it off, the beating Moore received should have been ended much earlier, before Duran broke his nose and dealt out one of the worst beatings in a prize ring. Duran had returned to the top of the pile in a third weight division. Not content with this, he challenged the reigning middleweight champion, none less than “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.
Durán later fought for the World middleweight title, meeting Marvin Hagler in Las Vegas in November 1983, but losing in a competitive fight that went the full fifteen rounds. Despite the loss, Durán was the first fighter to go the full distance with the great middleweight champion in one of his defenses.
In June 1984, Duran was stripped of his junior middleweight title when the WBA did not approve of his fight with WBC world champion Thomas "Hitman" Hearns, and took away recognition of Durán as world champion the moment Durán stepped into the ring to box Hearns. Durán lost the fight after a vicious second round knock-out by Hearns.
Durán did not contend another title fight until 1989, but made the shot count when he won the WBC middleweight title from Iran Barkley in February. The fight is considered one of Duran's greatest achievements, as the 38 year old former lightweight champion took the middleweight crown, his fourth title. In a tough, back and forth fight, Durán knocked Barkley down in the eleventh round and won a close decision. The bout was named the 1989 "Fight of the Year" by The Ring. His reign was short lived once again as Duran moved up to super middleweight (although both fighters weighed in at the middleweight limit) for a third clash with Sugar Ray Leonard in December (a fight dubbed Uno Más--One More—by promoters), but lost in a decision. Duran seemed to be in decline after the fight, he attempted to win further middleweight titles in 1994, 1995 and 1996 (fighting for the minor IBC belt).
In 1996, he challenged Héctor Camacho for the vacant IBC Middleweight title but lost via unanimous decision. In 1997, Durán was defeated by former champion Jorge Castro. Durán fought Castro in a rematch bout and won via unanimous decision.
In 1998, at the age of 47, he challenged 28 year old WBA middleweight champion William Joppy. Joppy, a trim, quick-fisted fighter, battered Durán to defeat in just 3 rounds. It was Duran's most emphatic loss since the Hearns fight, over a decade earlier. Durán then announced his retirement in August 1998, but was back fighting in 1999. In June 2000, he avenged a previous loss to Pat Lawlor and claimed the NBA Super Middleweight title, but he lost the title to Héctor Camacho in a rematch bout.
In 2001, Durán traveled to Argentina to promote a salsa music CD that he had just released. While there, he was involved in a car crash and required life-saving surgery. After that incident, he announced his retirement from boxing at the age of 50.
Durán's first appearance in a movie was in the 1979 sequel Rocky II as a lightning fast sparring partner for Rocky Balboa.
Duran fought in one of the best eras of all time. Duran, Hagler, Hearns and Leonard made up a generation of fighters known as the fabulous four.
Roberto Duran the fighter that represents and defines boxing in the 80’s era.
A boxing career that spanned a total of 34years and endured 119 fights of which he won 70 of his 103 victories by Ko's.