Monday, October 23, 2006

Roberto Duran: Living Legend!

What a year it has been for boxing icon Roberto Duran. His biography, Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran, was released earlier this year. He has just been inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in California, and has now been nominated to the International Boxing Hall of Fame for 2007, in Canastota, New York. Duran is a true living legend, a term I do not use lightly, or often.

Duran began his career on February 23, 1968 against Carlos Mendoza, winning his four round debut by unanimous decision. He won the lightweight title from Ken Buchanan in 1972. After dominating the lightweights like no other champion before him, suffering only one loss in seven years, against Esteban de Jesus which he twiced avenged, and outgrowing the lightweight division, Duran would invade the welterweights, beating both Zeferino Gonzales and Carlos Palomino, to set up his title match with "Sugar" Ray Leonard, winning an exciting and hard fought decision over the 1976 Gold Medalist, and never mind that decades old excuse, "Leonard didn't fight his fight". If Sugar Ray didn't "fight his fight", it was because Duran didn't leave him any choice but to fight Duran's fight. Looking back, I think this was Duran's greatest night, the pinnacle of his career, a few months later it would all fall apart for him when he said those two unforgivable words, No Mas", in what would turn out to be the mistake of his life. If the first fight was the pinnacle, then the second was the nadir, Duran not only reached the lowest point in his career, Duran had become the lowest point in boxing. But Duran, if anything would prove to be a tough survivor, and anything but finished. He would win and lose a few more insignificant fights before losing a decision to Wilfredo Benitez, then come back to stop Pepino Cuevas in four rounds at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. He would then stop Junior Middleweight Champ Davey Moore to win his third championship in as many weight divisions. He then challenged Marvin Hagler in 1983 for the Middleweight Championship of the world. Though clearly not the Duran of old, in terms of foxiness and ring craftmanship he came in that night at the top of his game, and if fatiguehad not caught up with him he might have won that night, as it were, he lost a very close decision. A large part of that was due also, to Hagler showing Duran a lot of respect, and it almost cost him the title. Duran was not a fighter to take for granted at any time in his career. The following year Duran suffered a devastating knockout at the hands of "Hit Man" Tommy Hearns. Duran would continue to fight through the eighties, and would close out the eighties with an incredible performence against Middleweight Champ Iran Barkley. Barkley had earlier ko'ed and decisioned Tommy Hearns, so going into the fight Duran was an obvious underdog. This was Duran's last hurrah and he would make the most of it. Throughout the eighties Duran had been chasing the ghost of Sugar Ray Leonard. He was seeking both redemption atonement, and on this night he would find it. The fight was close until the knockdown of Barkley in the 11th round. Duran wanted it more, needed it more than Barkley. He reached back into the past one last time to show Barkley who Roberto Duran was. Even after having been spun around and almost having his head knocked off, Duran never lost heart. He gave his fans one last chance to see the old "Hands of Stone", winning a split decision. Duran fought throughout the nineties and ended his career in the year 2001 with a 12 round unanimous decision loss to Hector Camacho. The following year Duran was in a near fatal accident that effectivly ended his career.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I think Duran, pound for pound, was the greatest, purest fighter that ever lived, rivaled only by Sugar Ray Robinson, and that's pretty good company. His career record stands at W 103 (70 ko's) L 16 D 0 Total 119, they don't make them like that any more. I would like to hear your thoughts on Duran, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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