The Living Legend

Roberto "Manos de Piedra" Duran: "There is only one legend, and that is me."

By Esteban M. Blis
Published on LatinoLA: October 15, 2009

The Living Legend

"I am not an animal in my personal life. But in the ring there is an animal inside me. Sometimes it roars when the first bell rights. Sometimes it springs out later in a fight. But I can always feel it there, driving me and pushing me forward. It is what makes me win. It makes me enjoy fighting."
-- Roberto Duran--

Some fighters have been, some never will be and some are always remember as great fighters. Several fighters are remember by their generation of fight fans, then forgotten, or perhaps better known as 'the guy who fought so and so' But every so often a man will transcend generations of fight fans, some fighters will always be considered great, some fighters are simply legends and heroes. Such fighter is the most well known man ever to come out of Panama; he is my friend and hero of course Roberto Duran!
--Esteban M Blis--

Roberto "Hands of Stone " Duran, was born on June 16, 1951, in El Chorrillo, Panama, one the poorest slums of Panama city, Panama. Since early age, Roberto shined shoes and sold newspapers to do anything he could to bring money to his mother to help the family. At age 13 he was forced to leave school. Legend has it that he punched a lad down a flight of stairs, and surprisingly, he wasn't asked back! Duran was the 2nd of 9 children and effectively the bread winner for his family.

His father, a Mexican citizen, left him when he was very young. He would often raid the local mango plantation of this future manager for food, and inevitably he turned to fighting to make a living. After a brief 16 fight amateur career and after fighting pretty much anyone who would fight him on the beach, Duran turned professional aged at just 16. Fighting at either end of Panama City, Duran was simply unbeatable; he fought professionally 15 times in Panama before leaving for the 1st time to fight in Mexico.

In 1971, Duran debuted at The Madison Square Garden against the Puerto Rican Benny Huertas. His big Garden debut lasted 66 seconds and Duran was the winner by KO, just three fights later Duran was back at the Garden. His opponent was Ken Buchanan, the lightweight champion of the world. In what was to be a classic, Duran and Buchanan tore into each other.

The newly nicknamed 'Manos De Piedra' was ferocious in his assault and fought with his usual aggression and liberal interpretation of the rule book. Duran was winning the fight, but Buchanan was hanging in there, and causing Duran a few problems.

The controversy of the fight came at the end of the 13th round; on the bell Duran threw a full power left hook which hit the champion square in the groin. Unable to continue, the championship was handed to Duran, who to be fair was winning the fight at this moment.

The 1st mark on Duran's record came against Esteban De Jesus. In this non-title bout Duran was floored on the way to losing a 10 round decision. After this fight Duran went on a 32 fight winning streak. He accumulated a spectacular 25 KO's. During this winning streak he defended his title 13 times and in his last fight as a light weight he added the WBC version of the title to his WBA belt. In this fight Duran Knocked out his old adversary, De Jesus, for the second time and won the trilogy between them 2-1.

Duran was king. No one at lightweight could handle Duran's power; he was simply a knockout artist with crippling power in either hand. This, combined with his style set him apart from the rest of the pack. His reign as lightweight champion is on which his legacy would be based. No one can argue that Duran is one of the best light weights of all time. But this wasn't enough. One man stood above all in boxing. He was fast, slick, a gold medalist comparable to the great Muhammad Ali in many ways.

'Sugar' Ray Leonard, the king of the welterweights.

Despite winning two world titles since the infamous 'No Mas' incident it was still a monkey on Duran's back. By now it seemed that Duran truly hated Leonard and was determined to prove himself against him. The fight would take place at super middleweight. Duran was 38 years old and fighting a good 25 lb. above his prime weight. The trilogy went Leonard's way. He won a unanimous decision over Duran in what was a below average performance for Duran. He did, however, leave Leonard a reminder of Montreal. In the final round Duran cut Sugar Ray's eye with an overhand right. After this fight Duran continued, he fought 6 more times for world titles, losing 5 of them and winning a minor title at super middle weight.

Duran fought his last fight to date against Hector Camacho. He lost a 12 round unanimous decision. The very fact that Duran fought 12 rounds against Camacho is a feat in itself, especially when you consider Duran was nearly 50 years old. Ironically it was also Camacho who ended the career of Sugar Ray Leonard.

Duran fought in one of the best eras of all time. Duran, Hagler, Hearns and Leonard made up a generation of fighters known as the fabulous four. They fought each other 9 times and between them had some real classic fights.

In my opinion the only era of boxing that ranks as highly is the heavyweights of the 70's where we saw Ali, Frazier and Foreman in some epic battles.

The one fighter that represents the era of the 80's for me is Roberto Duran. A legend at light weight who won titles at as far up as super middle weight. He had a great habit of causing upsets and marking fighter's careers, both on paper and in the ring. His dedication to the sport led him on a career that lasted 34years and 119 fights. He knocked out had 70 of his 103 victims. His 70 wins by knockout place him in exclusive group of boxers who have won 50 or more fights by knockout.

From a boy of 13 years old in Panama City he was a born fighter, his sheer power in his 'hands of stone' led him to a glorious lightweight career and the epic night in Montreal and beyond. Duran has exorcised the demons of 'No Mas' by winning another 2 major world titles. A fighter all his life he perhaps described his career best when he said "There is only one legend, and that is me."

On October 14, 2006, Duran was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Riverside, California, and on June 10, 2007, into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.

Ricardo Borbua, a former journalist from Panama, is considered Roberto Duran's real biographer, He followed Roberto Duran's career since 1967 and finish the book and is pending to be published in the United States.

About Esteban M. Blis:
Esteban M. Blis, from Panama, is close friend of Roberto "Hands of Stone"" Duran
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