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Hands of stone – the legend of Roberto Duran

 

Some fighters become legends, Roberto Duran is one such fighter.

Roberto Duran

He is viewed as the greatest lightweight of all time, but he won championships in four weight classes:  lightweight (1972–79), welterweight (1980), junior middleweight (1983–84) and middleweight (1989). The belts and championships only tell a tiny fraction of the force of nature that was “Manos de Piedra” or hands of stone.

Roberto Duran Lightweight Champion

Duran was a tough guy both inside the ring and outside. Raised in the streets of Panama he fought his way out of poverty – literally fighting for meals. His legend started early with a remarkable story of a young Duran knocking a horse with a single punch. Whether that story is pure urban legend it hardly matters but it emphasises the remarkable strength that Duran possessed in both hands.

Duran’s fighting style had it all – pure machismo in action, brawling, in fighting, taking shots and constantly coming forward to walk his man down. His actual boxing skills and technical ability are too often overlooked in favour of his tough guy style. Duran benefited from existing in an era of greats – Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler to name just three in the middleweight golden age of the 1980’s.Roberto Duran Training

Duran’s brutal contest with Leonard – where he took Sugar Ray out of his slick boxing game plan and brought him to a street fight was a classic, but it was their rematch got all the intention though. Leonard refused that time to be drawn into a slug fest and punched and moved to the total disgust of Duran. The eventual “no mas” where Duran turned his back on Leonard and walked out of the fight created criticism that dogged Duran for many years. To Duran though the macho side of boxing was the most important part – he refused to engage Leonard in a slick boxing skills contest – he came to fight, to go to war. He meant it.

Duran fought on well past his prime, packed on weight between fights in a way that Ricky Hatton would emulate years later. He was written off many times but flashes of his brilliance still remained. One such night was June 6, 1983: when he brutalised then knocked out Davey Moore in the eighth round to win the WBA Junior Middleweight Championship. This was at a time when Duran was considered by all to be past his best and frankly washed up. You can see some of that fight in the video below.

I think Duran’s own quote sums his up best:

“There’s only one legend. That’s me.”
— Roberto Duran

The perfect punch Volume 2 – left hook to the body

My personal favorite punch in boxing – the left hook to the body. Sometimes known as the left to the liver this is a punch that if applied correctly is a show stopper.

Hatton Castillo

Ricky Hatton delivers a left hook to the liver

Pioneered by latin fighters who favour body punches – that weaken and drain an opponent, the left hook to the body is a classic but a hard punch to land to perfection as it relies on pin point accuracy, foot work and power all combined in an instant.

Ricky Hatton delivered such a punch in his fight with Mexican Jose Luis Castillo. The Hitman Hatton – known as the Manchester Mexican for his love of body punches destroyed Castillo in the 4th round of their Vegas fight on June 23, 2007 with the left hook to the liver – the perfect punch as it was called afterwards.

Hatton Castillo

Hatton's Perfect Punch

Bob Arum the legendary boxing promoter said after the fight  “In 42 years of boxing, I’ve seen that punch land maybe 5 times”.

This punch is a show stopper, Castillo said he was unable to breath after it. One look at his face tells you just how potent the effect is.

Watch for yourselves the full 4th round of Hatton Castillo and see the work that goes into positioning the punch – its no lucky shot!

The perfect punch Volume 1 – the left hook

What makes the perfect punch?

For a start it should result in a knockout. That is after all the desired result – one punch landing in spectacular fashion to render its recipient inert on the canvas.

Fullmer goes to the canvas after a left hook from Ray Robinson

Fullmer goes to the canvas after a left hook from Ray Robinson

The punch itself could be a matter of personal choice – the upper cut, left or right hook or perhaps for some of you the Mexican special left to the body. In the coming weeks I will give my choice of some of the best examples of all of these and more besides.

Picture perfect left hook

Frozen in time - the perfect left hook

To get the ball rolling though here is a purists or as Lennox Lewis used to say a “pugilist specialists” choice – the wonderful Sugar Ray Robinson delivering a perfect left hook to Gene Fullmer’s chin in their second fight. Enjoy.

Sweet as sugar, Ray Robinson the greatest fighter of all time

Think of boxing superstars and you probably think of Muhammad Ali. When you think of Ali what is it that sticks in your mind? The Ali shuffle? The public persona? It’s no secret that Ali took more than just a touch of inspiration from a certain Walker Smith Jnr, better known as Sugar Ray Robinson calling him “The king, the master, my idol”. 

So what is so special about Sugar Ray, why all the fuss? 

Sugar Ray Robinson

Sugar Ray Robinson

Put simply he personified the sweet science  – knockout power in both hands, dazzling hand speed, stunning footwork, brash super confidence, he knew every punch in the booking text-book and could throw them all, from any angle at any time with explosive power. 

He was so good the whole notion of a pound for pound best boxer was created just for Sugar Ray – that’s how special he was. 

If you have seen the great film Raging Bull you may remember Robinson’s epic battles with Jake laMotta, they actually fought six times, with Sugar Ray winning five of the six battles. 

Robinson retired from boxing with a record of 175-19-6 with 110 knockouts in 200 professional bouts. If you compare that to todays great fighters who tend to retire after around 50 professional fights that will give you some context to this achievement. 

I genuinely struggle to put into words how good Sugar Ray Robinson was, to watch him in action is to see something that perhaps only comes around once in history. 

Words like genius and legend are banded around so often these days that they have lost their impact, but Sugar Ray really personified both traits. 

Watch this video – really do watch it – if you’ve never seen him in action before you are in for something very special indeed:

Edwin Valero – an introduction to the Venezuelan knockout artist

Edwin ValeroPerhaps the most devastating force in world boxing today, Edwin Valero stands on the cusp of mainstream success despite career setbacks that would have derailed lesser fighters.  

In 2001 Valero riding a motorbike without a helmet was involved in an accident that resulted in a fractured skull and surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. Cleared by a Venezuelan doctor to fight, in January 2004 he failed a brain scan for an upcoming fight with American network HBO and was banned from fighting in the US.  

Forced to fight wherever would take him – and he spent much of his early career fighting in Japan. His southpaw stance, ultra aggressive style – walking his opponent down, cutting the ring off combined with his disregard for boxing basics – he keeps his guard low, head straight up and his chin exposed, mouth open as he punches, continues to bring a raw charm to this fighter.  

A few facts and figures – he has won all 27 of his fights by knockout. 19 of those knockouts in the first round. That is devastating power.  

In his last outing Valero added previously hidden boxing skills to the power and aggression that are his trademark – forcing the highly regarded Antiono De Marco to be pulled out by his corner at the end of the ninth round. Valero suffered a deep cut to the forehead in this fight (caused by an accidental elbow) – the WBC in its infinite wisdom has now made him “Lightweight champion in recess” while he recovers. A rumoured move to light welterweight – the territory of Amir Khan, Ricky Hatton and Timothy Bradley could and should propel this fighter to boxing mainstream.  

Edwin Valero

Edwin Valero

If he could carry the power up two weight divisions to  welterweight – as Manny Pacquiao has done, then big pay days in Vegas could lie ahead. Texas has now cleared Valero to fight there – a US audience and following is vital in today’s market. 

So what are your thoughts? Does Valero have the boxing skills to compete in the hardest weight classes in boxing? Will his explosive power move up with him? Will the brain scan scupper mainstream US fights? Is there anyone out there better? 

Here’s a little taste of him in action: