Originally Posted by Duodenum
Wow, good question! Naturally, this brings to mind the fact that Henry Armstrong went from Featherweight Champion, to drawing for the MW Title against an opponent he'd previously defeated in defending the WW Title. (Imagine Danny Lopez drawing with Carlos Monzon for the MW Title, after first decisioning Monzon in a previous encounter.) I think much of SRR's P4P reputation is rooted in Armstrong's gushing praise of Robby after their 1943 ten rounder. (Just think. Robby went from WW II to Vietnam. Duran went from Vietnam to the brink of 9/11, and was only stopped by a car accident.)
I believe that what Duran actually achieved in his career was, in fact, too much to ask of any mortal. What he did against Hagler surpassed a victory over Nino, regardless of the scorecard verdict. What happened in New Orleans should have destroyed him. Cuevas never recovered from the devastating beating Hearns subjected him to. Yet, when Duran met a similar fate at Tommy's hands, he came back, yet again, against Hearn's former and future conquerer, Barkley.
Duran went from Arguello's conquerer at featherweight, Marcel, to Barkley. He avenged late career losses to current winning cruiserweight Jorge Castro, and was pushing 50 when he avenged his earlier defeat to Pat Lawler. He showed Paz what the canvas looked like, for the first time in Vinnie's career. Joppy was the last of his opponents to stop him, when Roberto was already 47 years old, and had been boxing professionally for over 30 years. The next three boxers to defeat Joppy were Tito, B-Hop, and Bad Intentions.
It's only because SRR was never stopped by an opponent's fists that I consider him a clear number one over Duran. In the area of longevity, Duran did kick Robby's ass, by a good five years.
Could Duran have potentially surpassed Robinson? Yes. If Duran didn't have a weakness for gastronomic delights, if he'd always remained the "Duranimal," who in Ray Arcel's words, "would rather fight than eat," and hadn't been in a career ending car crash five years ago, he would still be boxing and winning today. Robby and Pep were reputedly not that enamoured with the fight game, but Duran loved to fight, and remained on top until after his love of fighting was surpassed by his love of eating. (This was a guy who actually seemed to enjoy getting hit, and freaking out his adversaries when nothing happened. The wolfish sneer he had on his face right before Hearns put him out was utterly maniacal.)
At junior welterweight, I wouldn't put money on the outcome between a peak SRR, and a peak Duran, with both in top condition. (I believe Robby might have pulled out a razor thin points win, with his reach and movement, but once again, I wouldn't bet one thin dime on that outcome.)
Excellent read. For what it's worth, you have recently assumed a place among those posters that I always read.
Duran was a savage whose savagery was harnessed by Brown and to a lesser extent, Ray ARcel. The influence of these two should not be underestimated. Had they never come into the picture, Duran would have been an earlier version of Tony Ayala -a murderous, though one-dimensional, brawler. Buchanan & DeJesus would have beaten him; and Palomino would have as well. Leonard would have taken him apart.
Brown and Arcel were like Greek Philosophers who took an early Roman wolf-child and made him Trajan (in terms of expanding conquests) or Augustus (in terms of longevity -which is always rooted in skill).
I remember reading "Battle of the LEgends" in Ring many years ago and the judges' panel had Duran losing too damn much. All of the naysayers don't see clearly when it comes to Duran and it is his own fault to some extent. Duran showed mortality at his 70th fight
. Leonard had 40 fights total. Ali had what? 60 total?
Had Duran whipped Leonard and was politically savvy enough to deny the rematch indefinitely and then whip Cuevas, Moore, and then challenge Hagler and waited a year to get inspired enough to give Hearns more, he would have been celebrated forevermore. What hurt him was all of the times that he came in like a lazy bum. But let us not forget that he was doing this long after his prime and many pounds away from his natural division!! Can anyone see Barney Ross or Pernell Whitaker fighting 15 rounds in the perimeter against Hagler? Hell no.
But then you have to think about who Duran is. His psychology was such that he had to have something primal motivating him. Without No Mas, he would have had no ashes to rise from. Without death, there is no phoenix rising. Without the Hearns KO, what satisfaction would there have been in fighting and beating Hearns' conquerer in Barkley?
Duran was such that he was never going to be a workman like Hagler or Hopkins. He was the quintessential passion
fighter. I think that after the fires of youth tempered and that testosterone depleted, he had to find fire to inject. It is probably no coincidence that Duran's inconsistency began with a vengeance almost from the moment of his 30th birthday.
Arcel once warned Brown about 'changing' Duran. He knew that Duran was a phenomena whose essential assets should not be tampered with. We as historians and analysts should remember that warning. Duran was Duran and even his glaring faults were flip sides -necessary evils-of the unique greatness that was the Hands of Stone.