East Side Guru
Join Date: Feb 2012
Re: Somebody School Me On Roberto Duran.
Duran has been very under-rated defensively by some analysts. He had good head movement, slipped punches, and got angles on his opponent’s inside. When he slipped those punches he would always be in punching position to land power shots with full balance and leverage. When he was hit he would usually roll with the punch to reduce its effectiveness. He would usually parry an opponent’s jab when he was going to rush inside. Duran was also a master at feinting. He would feint with the lead right and if his opponent’s would lean back, which is a popular tactic amongst modern boxers, they would expose their body and Duran would cleverly switch his attack with a left hook counter to the liver.
Duran beat former welterweight champion Carlos Palomino, who was a solid 147-pound fighter, on a 10 round decision on June 22, 1979. Palomino commented (SI Jun. 16, 1980), “He’s good inside, very good, strong physically. The one thing that surprised me the most was his quickness. And his defensive ability. He moves his head a lot, feints a lot. He’s not an easy man to hit.”
Duran’s trainer Ray Arcel noted, “Duran knew how to fight. He knew what to do. If he looked at the corner the only thing I ever had to do was pretend to jab, once he was using his jab I knew he’d have no trouble. Even more important he knew how to think. When you talk about great fighters, always remember there was a guy named Roberto Duran. He was never given the opportunity to really display his wares because at his peak, he was overshadowed by Muhammad Ali.”
Duran’s biggest victory was his brilliant title winning effort against then unbeaten Sugar Ray Leonard for the world welterweight championship. In a bout that featured ferocious infighting by both men Duran outworked, out-hustled and yes, out-boxed Ray Leonard. The June 30, 1980 Sports Illustrated reported, “It was, from almost the opening salvo, a fight that belonged to Roberto Duran. The Panamanian seized the evening and gave it what shape and momentum it had. He took control, attacking and driving Leonard to the ropes, bulling him back, hitting him with lefts and rights to the body as he maneuvered the champion against the ropes from corner to corner.” Duran was relentless as he pressured, mauled, and pounded his way to a unanimous decision.
The one aberration on Duran’s record is the infamous “No Mas” fight in his rematch against Ray Leonard. It was highly controversial; many believing Duran threw the fight for an 8 million dollar payday. He resigned unhurt in the eighth round. Leonard was fast on his feet and mocking Duran when Roberto mysteriously quit claiming stomach cramps. Ray Arcel said, “That’s nonsense. I just think Duran couldn’t accept Leonard’s clowning, that Leonard got his goat and he couldn’t handle it. Between rounds I kept telling Duran, “If you crowd him, you can keep him from going through all these motions.” That’s what Duran had done in Montreal, and I kept reminding him, “Remember Montreal, shove him, push him.” If anybody would have told Duran another fighter would make him quit, he’d have got a gun and killed him. I never worked with Duran again. When he finally fought Leonard a third time I thought he’d be more aggressive but he tried to outbox him.”
Duran was disgraced after the 2nd Leonard fight and he struggled to regain his form losing a decision to the speedy and clever triple crown champion Wilfred Benitez and then was upset by Kirkland Liang. It looked like his career might be finished. Then Duran then did what the great ones do; he started a successful comeback. Duran knocked out former WBA welterweight champion and left hook artist Pipino Cuevas in 4 rounds. He then got a chance at the WBA Jr. Middleweight championship against undefeated Davey Moore. This fight was a classic example of why the old-timers were better than modern era fighters. Moore was bigger, faster, and more athletically talented than Duran. Moore had a long and successful amateur career, was unbeaten as a pro and came in as a 3-1 favorite over the Panamanian challenger. But it all amounted to nothing over the vastly more experienced Duran. Roberto administered such a one sided beating to the champion as to nearly finish Moore’s career. The fight was mercifully stopped in the eighth round and Duran, redeemed, was a champion again.
Duran last great performance was his bout against WBC Middleweight champion Iran Barkley, a fight that Duran described as “the greatest of my life.” It was a truly outstanding performance by a 37-year- old veteran master against a much bigger, stronger and more powerful champion. Barkley was fresh off his devastating title winning performance against Thomas Hearns; the only man to ever knockout the real Duran back in 1984. Duran used boxing skill, slick defense, and clever inside fighting to offset Barkley’s greater size and power. Gil Clancy commenting at ringside said, “Duran just slipped 6 punches in a row” to which Al Bernstein, replied, “Duran has always been the master of defense that is one of his trademarks.” In the 7th round Barkley nailed Duran with his best double hook to the chin. Duran was hurt but forced a clinch. In the eighth Barkley nailed Duran hard again with a powerful left hook that caused Roberto to spin from the force of the blow, but he fought back. “It was his heart,” Barkley said later, “It just wouldn’t go.” Duran’s punches were doing damage as well; by the 9th round Barkley’s left eye was swelling from Duran’s right hand counters. Duran said, “Barkley was paying for every punch he threw.” The last rounds were all Duran as he boxed beautifully inside. In the 11th Duran landed one of the best combinations of his career, a smashing right counter, followed by a hammering left hook, another right, then he feinted a left hook and hammered a pile driver right that sent Barkley crashing to the canvas. Barkley survived and they fought evenly in the last round. It was a tough, great fight but Duran won a deserved split-decision and the 160-pound title.
Even at an old age, well into his 40’s, Duran was still smart enough as a boxer to give all but the topnotch fighters a lot of trouble. He lost controversial decisions to Vinny Pazienza in their first fight, flooring him in the process and to Hector Camacho Sr. in their first fight, a decision so bad that Sugar Ray Leonard called it “an early Christmas gift.”
Herbert Goldman in his 1987 ratings ranked Duran as the # 3 all time lightweight. The 1996 Ring Almanac rated Duran as the number one all time lightweight in its “All Time Divisional Ratings”. Gerald Suster, author of “Lightning Strikes: The lives and times of boxing’s lightweight heroes,” also rated Duran as the greatest lightweight ever. The AP named Duran among the 10 greatest fighters of the 20th Century in 1999. The 2002 Ring Annual (Vol. 2) rates Duran # 5 among the 80 Greatest Fighters of the last 80 years. Cox’s Corner considers Duran the # 3 all time lightweight and among the 10 greatest fighters of all time.