ROBERTO DURAN’S LAST STAND AS CHAMPION!
by Pedro Fernandez
Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran
San Francisco, CA- Although we will be going back in time with the great Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran to early 1989, this story and segment of Duran’s career really begins in 1986. Roberto’s ex-manager Hector Martinez and I were on our way to Palm Springs, CA and the Palm Canyon Hotel where Duran is conducting a training camp. Boarding in San Francisco a flight to Palm Springs with a unannounced stop in Ontario, CA, this was PSA Airlines, AKA the Southwest of yesteryear.
PASSENGERS SCREAMING, “GOD HELP US”
Martinez and I, friends for decades, we have had our shall we say experiences traveling. First of all, we were both scared to death of flying at this time. This fear came from a rough flight out of Las Vegas in 1981, the morning after Salvador Sanchez, Mexico’s greatest fighter had drilled unbeaten Wilfredo Gomez of Puerto Rico. The plane hit air pockets, the worst in the 21 years the lead flight attendant had ever been in, and the plane was dropping for split seconds at a time. People remained composed at first, but when the plane started dropping more often and for longer intervals of time, people began screaming and panic had set in!
NO DRINKING OR CAROUSING PRE-BOARDING THIS TIME
Having had jets pull away from the gate on us as we either ate, drank, were bull s*itting, or all three, Hector and I presented our boarding passes and sat down in assigned seats. The plane starts to roll out of the jetway and that’s when when they announce we are going to “Ontario.” My ticket says “Palm Springs.” When I got the attention of the flight attendant, while she admitted it was the fault of the airline, some printing problems with the boarding passes and gates numbers, there was no way the plane was going back to the gate. “May as well relax, you’re spending the night in Ontario.”
FREE BOOZE, HOTEL & SPENDING MONEY TOO!
As if we needed the free booze, by the time we hit Ontario, the flight attendant said the airline would cover a hotel and give us some money for food as the next flight to Palm Springs was tomorrow morning. After tearing up Ontario in a rented car until the wee hours, PSA gets us to Palm Springs about noon. The airport in Palm Springs in 1986 looked like a 1960’s motel. You drove up, got out, gave your bag to the skycap and you figuratively just walked to your plane. Quite a different world it was prior to 9-11 when it came to air travel.
“LATE GREAT” IRVING RUDD WAS THE ON-SITE PUBLICIST
Roberto was training with Barry McGuigan, then World featherweight champ, they were sharing a giant tent the hotel put up for them. Barry, who would lose to Steve Cruz, imploding in the 100′+ heat. McGuigan, a likable guy who is now a TV broadcaster of note, his coming from Ireland, he never encountered this kind of heat. His being taken to and fro around the desert resort in a golf cart, the only time Barry was outside was to train in the afternoon and run in the pre-morning darkness. That and a broken eardrum led to his being beaten on points by Cruz in 15 rounds.
PUNDITS AGREE THAT DURAN IS FINISHED AFTER LOSS
Duran was training for Robbie Sims, the stepbrother of then middleweight king Marvin Hagler, whom Duran had went the route with three years earlier. Having little respect for Sims, Duran trained accordingly. One night, Hector and I were leaving his room when a man with a small sheet cake from a local bakery was coming in. Training on cake and cutting weight at the end, Sims would out point Roberto over ten very forgettable rounds. Duran, the man who said “No Mas” (no more) to Ray Leonard in 1980, was he finally done? Having been knocked out by Tommy Hearns in June 1984 after extending Hagler six months earlier, Roberto Duran had just been beaten by an average fighter.
BOXING HISTORY YOU MUST ACKNOWLEDGE
MAYBE NO GREATER FIGHTER THAN ROBERTO
San Francisco, CA- We are picking up the story up here in Part II: Roberto Duran’s Last Stand. That being the case, I suggest you read Part I right now by clicking on this link. Click for Part I: Duran's Last Stand As Champ. Duran had just lost a ten round decision to Martvin Hagler’s stepbrother Robbie Sims. in June 1986. Fleshy and unmotivated, Duran takes 11 months off before ring smart promoters Mike Acri and Luis De Cubas put him in with middle of the road type Victor Claudio in May 1987 in Miami, FL, which was now Roberto’s second home.
AN OLD “GREAT QUEER” STOPS BY NOT!
Claudio was beaten widely on points and the funniest thing I remember about this night involved the late Marty Cohen, manager and advisor to many stars like Michael Dokes and Hector Camacho. Marty came into Duran’s dressing room afterwards to offer his congrats. Duran sees him, grabs him by the arm and introduces him to everybody as “el gran merry-cone,” which translates to “the great queer” in Spanish. But it sounded so close to Marty Cohen with Duran repeating it several times. Marty, the butt of the joke was eating it up as we all laughed at him!
THINKING DURAN WAS EASY, GIMENEZ LOSES WORLD RATING
Roberto’s next fight was in Miami some five months later with Juan Carlos Gimenez, a world rated fighter at 160 lbs. This was the time when Duran’s ex-manager Hector Martinez and I were drinking cocktails at SFO as our “red eye” flight to Miami rolled away from the gate. Unfazed, we had another cocktail and ended up watching the fight the following night at a Daly City pizza parlor that had a satellite dish on it’s roof the size of Rhode Island. Duran beats Juan Carlos on points and is now ranked at 160. Problem for Duran is that Tommy Hearns is the WBC champion, and Tommy who beat Roberto in two, because of size I think would always beat Roberto at any weight above 147, for at ‘54 & ‘60, Tommy was a beast!
ROBERTO BLOWING WIND IN WINDY CITY!
The next stop on the “Rebuilding Roberto” tour takes us to Chicago. Always a party town, Hector and I hit the ground running as Duran was set to fight local Jeff Lanas. This was the beginning of the online-dating on the Internet, Roberto, after two decent showings, besting both Ricky Stackhouse and Paul Thorn, appears unmotivated as the days approach. Winning a controversial ten round decision over Lanas, with only the great Denny Moyer voting for Lanas who probably won the fight, “Duran Escapes The Windy City with Undeserved Win” is what the headlines should have read the following AM.
“ALTHOUGH MY NAME IS I-RAN, I NEVER DID”
In the meantime, Tommy Hearns was beating Iran Barkely (the above quote is what he said to me as I introduced myself) so bad, you could hear “The Blade’s” reacting in pain as Tommy hit Iran with punches that could level a building. But the biggest middleweight in history (that I saw physically) he roared back, threw/landed a right hand and Tommy was as “done” like a burnt steak! Seeing Duran looked lackluster against Lanas, and Barkely withstood the punches that felled Roberto from Hearns, Barkely would be a big betting favorite for a fight vs. Roberto that eventually took place in February 1889. But before the fight can happen Iran has to undergo surgery over both of his eyes for the removal of metal particles that were in the Monsel solution illegally applied to his cuts by the late cut man, Eddie “The Clot” Alliano.
PART III LATE MONDAY NIGHT FOR TUESDAY MORNING!
Didn’t think this was going to be a three-parter, but I needed to water the plant enough for you the reader to get on the same mindset as myself. Come back to RingTalk.com for Part III, late Monday night for tomorrow morning.