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