I'll start my writeup with a cliché: "Boxing is a sport of controversy". It is also one of the most
thankless sports when it
comes to the athletes that practice it (yes, I consider boxers athletes).
If a boxer comes from humble uneducated origins, it is not uncommon to see him
drift to oblivion when his prime is past, specially when he is not in a division
that grants heavy purses or if the boxer is not popular enough to draw the kind
of crowds that decide how much profit is to be made by selling tickets and pay-per-view rights. Some ride the wave to the top only to succumb to the
evils of drugs, alcohol and a lifestyle that ruins them financially.
Others tend to hang on to the only thing they know how to do well. With
a few counted exceptions, the lifetime of a boxer's professional career is
really short. After all, if it is taxing on a young body, an old one will
only go to waste when faced with an opponent ten to fifteen years his junior.
Roberto "Manos de Piedra" Duran is perhaps the greatest boxer ever
to come out of Panama, he gave his country glory, fame and
entertainment. The population was paralyzed whenever he was fighting. The two biggest sports
in Panama are boxing and baseball (in recent years football has been gaining
ground but it's still a long way from being a crowd stopper).
Born in Guararé, province of Los Santos, on June 16, 1951, Duran had a brief
amateur career turning pro at the age of 16 and was quickly recognized by the
media and the public for his explosive style of boxing with a winning streak of
21 fights. He was contracted then by Carlos Eleta who hired Ray Arcel and
Freddie Brown to refine his style.
He won that year his first title, WBA Lightweight, after defeating Ken
Buchanan in the 13th round and defended it successfully twelve times and also
won the WBC version of the title. After that, he moved on to the welterweight
division where he was to match against Sugar Ray Leonard, in a fight that was
expected and watched by the world. Duran gave Leonard his first taste of defeat.
Five months later, in the most infamous fight of his career, Duran suddenly
gave up after seven rounds in the rematch against Leonard. No coherent
reason was given for this, except a vague excuse of stomach pains.
In 1983 he won the WBC Jr. Middleweight title against Davey Moore in New
York City by K.O. in the 8th round. He lost that title aginst Marvin
Hagler in Las Vegas in a close decision after 15 rounds.
In 1989 he fought Iran Barkley winning by decision the WBC Middlewight.
The long anticipated rematch with Leonard came up that year and it was by all
accounts a letdown. Duran lost by decision, but it was generally agreed
that the fight was unexpectacular, neither boxer going much out of his way to
defeat the other. It was more of an obligatory spectacle. Both
fighters were past their prime.
Everybody was of the opinion that Duran should at least consider retiring,
but he decided to press on. He had his eyes set in one more title, which
he won in the year 2000 against Pat Lawlor. It was his NBA Super
Middlewieght title. He had one last fight against Hector
"Macho" Camacho losing his title by decision.
In 2001, Duran suffered a car accident in Argentina that left him
hospitalized for a long time. He announced his final decision to retire
from the sport in 2002. His career spanned five decades.
Between his loss in 1989 against Leonard and his final retirement, he made a
couple of attempts to retire, always returning to the ring. The public
that cheered him on in the past was now urging him caution, he was no longer
a young man, still, whenever he fought everyone stopped to watch. There
was much talk of financial difficulties and household problems.
Nevertheless, Duran gave his country its greatest sport hero and gave the world
of boxing his life. He is without doubt one of the greatest athletes in
this marvelous sport.
The Official Site of Roberto Duran. http://www.cmgww.com/sports/duran/bio.html
Duran's Career Boxing Record: http://www.latinosportslegends.com/stats/boxing/Duran_career_boxing_record.htm