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Duran Should Never Again Answer Why He Quit Leonard Rematch

Frank Lotierzo

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Having watched the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “No Mas” I was disappointed that nothing new regarding the circumstances surrounding why Roberto Duran resigned during the eighth round of his rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard and relinquished his WBC welterweight title belt was exposed.

However, it was great to see during the show that Duran has lost weight and lives a very comfortable life with his legacy intact. Leonard has aged well and still has the charm and charisma that made him boxing’s biggest star during the 1980’s. And watching the “No Mas” special brought back memories of just how great and complete both Leonard and Duran were as fighters.

After beating the undefeated Leonard in June of 1980, it was highly publicized that Duran was partying, drinking and eating as if New Year’s eve were a three-month holiday. Having defeated the fighter who was the darling of the America media, Roberto was relishing the sweet taste of victory like he never had before. Duran’s tenacity during the first Leonard bout was incredible and only rivaled by “Smokin” Joe Frazier’s refusal to be denied during his first meeting with the superstar of the 1960’s and 1970’s, Muhammad Ali.

To Leonard’s credit he couldn’t handle being defeated and having Duran rub it in his face and sought a rematch as soon as possible. And as it was pointed out during the film, Duran was all about getting more money than Leonard in the rematch, and Ray’s money man, Mike Trainer, knew it. So they threw millions at Duran and scheduled the fight quickly knowing that there was no way he could get in phenomenal shape and gain the psychological advantage over Leonard he had the first time.

The rematch took place five months and five days after the first fight. Everybody saw from the onset of the second bout that Leonard wasn’t going to be lured into a street fight with Duran this time. He used his foot speed like he never had before and had Duran following and chasing him all over the ring. After seven rounds Leonard was leading on the scorecards 68-66 twice and 67-66. I had it 4-3 Leonard in rounds watching it live that Tuesday night as a 21 year old amateur middleweight golden glove champ fighting out of Philadelphia. It wasn’t as if Duran was being taken apart by Leonard after seven rounds and the fight was still yet to be decided. Leonard was having a good eighth round and landed some terrific body shots and counter rights to Roberto’s head, not to mention he was at his showboating best. Then with 15 seconds left in the round Duran turned his back and waved Leonard off with his right hand and resigned from the fight, thus handing Leonard an eighth round TKO victory.

The speculation as to why Duran quit during a round in which he didn’t appear to be hurt and wasn’t being beat up or punched around hasn’t quelled in the 33 years since the fight. Yes, immediately after the fight Duran said he had stomach cramps and felt weak. To Leonard’s surprise this is something he again endorsed during the documentary with both of them standing face to face in the middle of a ring in Panama. Leonard acted as if he took Duran at his word and later implied that he didn’t think Roberto was being truthful regarding why he quit during the fight. And you know what, nobody believed Duran on 11/26/80 and no one believes him today. And that’s why Roberto Duran should never again as long as he lives, answer the question why he quit during the second bout versus Sugar Ray Leonard.

Duran is in a no win predicament. There’s nothing he can say that anyone would believe. People and especially die-hard fans believe whatever they want to believe and oftentimes facts never cloud their judgment or beliefs. Depending on whom you were rooting for that night or who you are a bigger fan of, that determines what one deems plausible as to the reason for Duran withdrawing from the fight. Depending on what reason makes their man look better drives what many believe.

For instance….

If you’re a big fan of Leonard and were rooting for him to win, you want to believe that Ray was handling Roberto so thoroughly that Duran feared he was going to get knocked out and quit so he could deny Leonard a clean victory over him. If you’re a Leonard guy that fits your perfect world perfectly. However, if Duran came out and said he quit because he feared Leonard was going to stop him, you wouldn’t believe that either. You’d rationalize that by reminding yourself how fearless and tough Duran was and never backed down from anyone.

If you’re a big fan of Duran and were rooting for him to win, you rationalize his action due to the fact that Leonard wasn’t really fighting him. You tell yourself that Leonard was running around the ring, not boxing, and was more interested in mocking Roberto than actually beating him up. Then you’d justify that by telling yourself that after the first war they had, Leonard didn’t want any part of that again. And once Duran figured that out in the eighth round he said, “screw it, if you want to fight like a girl, you can have the title. I’ll taint Leonard’s victory and kick his ass in our third fight when I’m really in shape.” If you’re a Duran guy that fits your perfect world perfectly.

Then there’s the possibility alleged by a minority that Duran took a dive so there could be a third fight with Leonard. But what if Duran looked Leonard in the eye during the filming of the documentary and said, “Ray, I bet on you to win our second fight, but I couldn’t lay down and act as if I were being counted out with you standing over me defiantly looking down, that’s why I did what I did.” Who’d believe that? Nobody, other than maybe some rabid Duran fans.

The point is, there’s nothing that Duran can say, the truth, whatever it may be, or anything else that’ll satisfy boxing fans. People/fans will believe what they want to believe as long as it makes their guy look good. Nobody will ever take Duran at his word regardless of how plausible or crazy they think it is. The minds of boxing fans were made up the morning following the fight. They’ll never change regardless of what comes out or is said by either Roberto or Ray.

No, we’ll never be satisfied with the reason that Duran gives for his abrupt action on the night of November 25th, 1980, so why bother to answer the question again for the millionth time? And if forced to do so, he should say he bet on Leonard as he smiles and walks away. After giving fans over 30 years of the best boxing in most of our lifetimes, Duran doesn’t owe the public anything.

POSTSCRIPT: On the night that Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran met for the second time, I was pulling for Leonard to win heading into the bout. During the first seven rounds I felt Leonard had a slight lead in the fight, but was a little disappointed that he wasn’t engaging with Duran more. He damn near fought him to a stand still fighting Roberto’s fight the first time. Sure, I was glad that he was winning but inside I was a little disenchanted that Ray didn’t try to put some real hurt on Duran. My initial instinct when Duran turned his back and waved Leonard off was, Duran is disgusted that Leonard won’t fight him like the warrior he did the first time they fought. And if he’s going to hit and move away, he doesn’t want to fight, so can have the title.

In my opinion based on no inside knowledge, just my experience of partaking in ring combat, I believe Duran felt that Leonard was running and not trying to fight him. I think Roberto felt that Leonard was more intent on winning the show and making an ass out of him than he was proving he was the better and tougher fighter. Duran felt humiliated during the seventh and eighth rounds and fighters fear being embarrassed more than they do getting knocked out. I believe Duran sensed that with the tactics Leonard was employing, he was never going to pull the fight out and decided to resign instead being further humiliated by Leonard for another seven rounds. Being a fighter who saw himself as a 165 pound Ray Mancini, I almost rationalized at the time why Duran said the hell with it and walked away. It’s no fun chasing quick guys around the ring who are mocking you in the process while you can’t get a hold of them or hit them cleanly. Duran was frustrated that Leonard wouldn’t let him beat him up, not because Leonard was beating him up. So in what was a terrible impulsive reaction, Duran said screw it and bailed, figuring he’d kick Leonard’s ass in the rubber match. The problem was that due to Duran making a mockery out of the fight, he was blackballed from getting a third fight with Leonard for nine years.

I’m not sure there’s anything Duran could say or reveal that would change my mind. That’s why Duran should never address it again because I’m not the only one whose mind most likely can’t be changed.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Is There a “Peck’s Bad Boy” in Boxing Today?

Ted Sares

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Henry “Hennery” Peck, popularly known as Peck’s Bad Boy, is a fictional character created by George Wilbur Peck (1840–1916). “Peck’s Bad Boy” has been defined as one whose bad behavior is a source of embarrassment or annoyance, but to many it refers to a mischievous prankster. The answer probably is somewhere in the middle with the label referring to anyone whose mischievous or bad behavior leads to annoyance or embarrassment.

In boxing, no one seemed to better epitomize the expression than Muhammad Ali. When Howard Cosell asked Ali why he was being truculent during an interview. Ali fired back, “I don’t know what truculent means, but if it’s good, I’m that.”

It was high camp and anyone who took Ali or his perceived arrogance seriously missed the tongue-in-cheek quality of what was going on. To this writer, he was 98 percent mischievous and maybe 2 percent annoying.

“…“Floyd Patterson was dull, quiet, and sad … and Sonny Liston was twice as bad… The fight game was dying… promoters were crying…” — Cassius Clay

I said I was ‘The Greatest,’ I never said I was the smartest! — Muhammad Ali

Ricardo Mayorga

Later, an especially nasty Nicaraguan provocateur came along by the name of Ricardo “The Matador” Mayorga, but the nastiness was more pre-fight hype than anything else and after his fights, he could be seen hugging his opponents. Often he was seen smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer before leaving the ring and that in itself was pretty unique. He soon established an infamous reputation and used this to sell tickets. Mayorga won world titles at welterweight and junior middleweight, playing the villain to Shane Mosley, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, and Miguel Cotto, among others.

Despite being savaged by Trinidad, Ricardo showed that he was not lacking in heart. Against De La Hoya, he said, “I hate bitches and I’m going to make you my little bitch…” He was again savaged.

He caused a stir when he slapped Shane Mosley’s girlfriend on the butt at a press conference, triggering turmoil. In the fight, Mosley avenged her butt by sending The Matador to Bullfighter Heaven with a beautiful left hook launched after a slight head fake to the right.

He told Cory Spinks, “I want to sew a pair of nuts on you so you can stand and fight in front of me next time like a man.”

As writer Jimmy Tobin put it: “Sure, he [Mayorga] was upset at the Spinks decision, but Mayorga understood public expectations of him and had to push the envelope to ensure expectations were met. However enraged he might appear, the vitriol felt fabricated, rehearsed, a gimmick. That gimmick would soon be all Mayorga had left.”

And that really says it all about the Matador. Manufactured and well-timed outrage and faux insults. No serious fan ever really bought into it. Mischievous? Hype? Absolutely.

Mayorga was good at running his mouth but he was no Peck’s Bad Boy.

Today we wish him well as he struggles with substance abuse issues.

Tyson Fury

“I haven’t seen a fighter with that much charisma since Muhammad Ali”– Bob Arum

There is at least two Tyson Furys. The first one possessed a classic Irish wit and was rarely lost for words, constantly seeking attention including impromptu singing. However, keen observers sensed he was putting everybody on half the time, and it was all a joke with him.

Heavyweight boxing hadn’t had this type in a long time—not since Ali. Heck, the Gypsy King was a showman. Many thought his temperament might be a big problem and that he should be more self-deprecating, but he couldn’t care less what others thought about him. All the rhetoric and loud mouthing was likely a load of blarney and he knew it better than anyone. While he surely could have taken himself more seriously and embraced humility, that simply wasn’t what the early Fury was all about.

Fury was more like a Peck’s Bad Boy than anyone since Ali. But much of what he said along the way was embarrassing and vicious. He denounced homosexuals and Jews, among others. This was hardly viewed as amusing, but perhaps it was a byproduct of fighting a number of different demons including severe weight gain, substance abuse, and mental health issues.

After reaching the heights, he stumbled badly off the stage. However, he made a remarkable comeback and this time around he was clean and sober and showed a great desire to help his fellow man.

“I said some things which may have hurt some people, which as a Christian man is not something I would ever want to do,” Fury said in a May 2016 interview for the BBC. “Though it is not an excuse, sometimes the heightened media scrutiny has caused me to act out in public and then my words can get taken out of context. I mean no harm or disrespect to anyone and I know more is expected of me as an ambassador of British boxing and I promise in future to hold myself up to the highest possible standard.”

The 6’9” giant is currently an ambassador for the Frank Bruno Foundation, a mental health charity.

Interestingly, the title to Fury’s autobiography is “Behind the Mask and that suggests that the current Fury is the real Fury.

He has been called the UK’s answer to Ricardo Mayorga. Maybe in terms of early nastiness, but the current Tyson Fury (Batman suit and all) is more Ali than Mayorga.

Adrien Broner

“I came into town, and I got his belt and his girl.” – Adrien Broner referring to Paulie Malignaggi

A few might argue that Adrien Broner is the quintessential Peck’s Bad Boy, but frankly, “The Problem” has never really appeared amusing or mischievous. Yes, he has some substance in the ring, but Broner has in large part been seen as a hyped gimmick projecting ignorance, a man that can’t back up his foul mouth. He has now become a curiosity as fans speculate as to who will finally knock him out and shut him up.

Aside from a stupid hair combing routine before his fights, nothing Adrien does seems to conjure up even a shred of amusement. Au contraire, his boorish antics outside the ring, such as throwing cash down a toilet and performing a sexual act with a sweaty dancer at a strip club, not to mention his frequent brushes with the law and court appearances, suggest the possibility of a self-destructive bent

The “Problem” will not be solved; it’s a story that likely will not have a happy ending.

Today

Fury fits the bill but he has become more temperate and balanced. Still, he remains a promotor’s dream. Enjoy him while you can.

Can you think of any others in today’s scene? Yesterday’s?

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Debacle in Atlanta, Fedosov’s Big Upset and More

Arne K. Lang

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Last night’s “Triller” pay-per-view from Atlanta provided a wealth of material for Sunday Morning Quarterbacks. Overshadowing the actual fights was the performance, as it were, of Oscar De La Hoya.

De La Hoya joined the telecast for the 6-round bout between 39-fight veteran Steve Cunningham and boxing novice Frank Mir. Oscar was conspicuously sloshed; he was a train wreck.

Some thought that Oscar’s screeching was hilarious, the highlight of the show. Others found it hard to watch. “I don’t find humor in a man battling substance abuse,” said a person in response to the snarky comments appearing on the message board of a rival web site.

De La Hoya, 48, reiterated that he will return to the ring in July. He has targeted the date of July 3. Oscar was just a boy when he first stepped into the ring. He had more than 200 amateur fights before turning pro. Boxers that take too many punches, say the experts, are prone to developing conditions beyond what are apparent to the naked eye. A common symptom is poor choices.

—-

Also catching flack for his commentary was boxing sportscaster Ray Flores. His transgression was trying too hard to be cool. Flores, 34, was at Wembley Stadium in London in 2017, moderating the final leg of the pre-fight promotional tour for the Mayweather-McGregor megafight. He called that experience his personal Super Bowl. One wonders where he will rate last night’s sideshow in Atlanta?

Lance Pugmire, who left the LA Times to join the impressive team of writers at The Athletic, was measured in his criticism, faulting the telecast for “scattered commentary and forced swearing.” Pugmire was being diplomatic. He wasn’t about to come down hard on Triller as his friend and colleague Mike Coppinger was part of the broadcasting crew.

The only legitimate fight on the card (no disrespect to the combatants in the two early prelims) matched former WBA/IBF 140-pound world champion Regis Prograis against Ivan Redkach. From Los Angeles by way of the Ukraine, Redkach, who brought a 23-5-1 record, wasn’t expected to win but he was expected to at least make it interesting, as had been the case in his most recent bout, a 12-rounder with Danny Garcia.

Prograis was dominant from the start. The bout ended in the sixth frame after Redkach absorbed a sweeping right hook to the body and fell to the canvas clutching his groin. After initially starting his count, the referee gave Redkach, who was writhing in pain, or an imitation thereof, the benefit of the doubt and allowed him five minutes to recover. A doctor was called into the ring to examine him, he decided that Redkach was unfit to continue, and the boxer was removed the ring on a stretcher. There has been no update on his condition.

The replays showed that the punch was legal, clearly landing above the beltline. Moreover, it did not appear that the blow arrived with any significant force. Redkach was lambasted on social media on the grounds that he was faking it, thereby robbing the victorious Prograis of adding another KO to his record. There have been cries for the Georgia Commission to withhold Redkach’s purse.

We have seen boxers greatly distressed after taking a punch in the solar plexus region that did not appear to be a particularly hard punch. Micky Ward’s “electrocution” of Alfonso Sanchez comes quickly to mind. So, perhaps we should give Redkach the benefit of the doubt. However, this reporter couldn’t help but laugh when a blogger explained away the mysterious happenstance by writing that during the heat of battle, the unfortunate Redkach caught a hernia.

There was a huge upset on the Andrade-Williams card in Florida when Azerbaijan heavyweight Mahammadrasul Majidov was stopped in the opening round by Andrey Fedosov.

Majidov had only three pro fights under his belt, but he won all three inside the distance against opponents with winning records and before turning pro he had a long and productive amateur career highlighted by a win over Anthony Joshua.

The contest wasn’t quite a minute old when Fedosov nailed Majidov with a hard combination that put him on the deck. Majidov landed awkwardly and twisted or broke his right ankle. He beat the count, but was reduced to a one-legged fighter and when Fedorov put him down again, the ref moved in and stopped it.

It was all over in 84 seconds, but this was no fluke knockout. It’s uncertain whether Majidov could have survived if he hadn’t injured his ankle. Fedosov, a 35-year-old Russian, has an excellent record, now 32-3 (26), but had become the forgotten man in the heavyweight division after sitting out all of 2019 and 2020.

There have been a lot of upsets lately and there were two more on Saturday. Light-hitting James Martin (7-2, 0 KOs), saddled 18-year-old phenom Vito Mielnicki Jr with his first pro loss, winning a well-deserved majority decision in an 8-round junior middleweight contest underneath Harrison-Perrella in LA. Mielnicki entered the bout with an 8-0 record.

On the Matchroom show in Florida, in another 8-rounder, lightweight Jorge Castaneda scored an upset over former U.S. amateur standout Otha Jones III, winning a majority decision. Castaneda brought a 13-1 record, but all of his previous fights save for one  trip to Mexico were held in his hometown of  Laredo, Texas.

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Harrison and Perrella Fight to a Draw in LA: Prograis TD6 Redkach in Atlanta

Arne K. Lang

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On a day replete with upsets, Florida southpaw Bryant Perrella almost pulled off another, but at the end had to settle for a draw with former WBC 154-pound title holder Tony Harrison. The match was the headline attraction of a PBC show at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Center in Los Angeles.

Perrella (17-3-1) was moving up from welterweight and making his first start for new trainer Roy Jones Jr.  Harrison (28-3-1), a third-generation boxer from Detroit, was making his first start since the death of his father/trainer Ali Salaam at age 59. Both boxers were coming off a loss. The first man to defeat Jermell Charlo, Harrison lost the rematch. In Perrella’s last fight, he was stopped with one second to go in the 10th and final round by Abel Ramos in a fight that he was winning.

Harrison fought a measured fight, but fought without a sense of urgency. Perrella fought mostly off his back foot, but was somewhat busier. The scores were 117-111 Perrella, 116-112 Harrison, and `114-114.

Other Bouts

In a cruiserweight fight that was competitive only on paper, previously undefeated Deon Nicholson had no answer for Efetobar Apochi who blew him away in a fight that was over at the 1:12 mark of round three. Nicholson was down in the waning moments of the second round and knocked down again in the third before the referee rescued him from further punishment.

The 33-year-old Apochi, who captained the Nigerian National Boxing Team before moving to Houston where is trained by Ronnie Shields, improved to 11-0 with his 11th knockout. Nicholson, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, came in undefeated with`13 knockouts in 14 opportunities, nine coming in the opening round. but his record was fashioned against very soft opposition. The victory boosts Apochi into a match with Arsen Goulamarian who holds a version of the WBA cruiserweight title.

Omar Juarez, a 21-year-old super bantamweight from Brownsville, Texas, improved to 11-0 (5) with a 10-round unanimous decision over Elias Damian Araujo (21-3), a 33-year-old Argentine now residing in Fresno. The scores were 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

In an upset, Philadelphia’s James Martin scored a majority decision over Vito “White Magic” Mielnicki Jr in an 8-round super welterweight contest. The scores were 79-73, 77-75, and 76-76.

Martin, who improved to 7-2, is the son of former light heavyweight contender Jerry Martin. It was the first pro loss for hot prospect Mielnicki, age 18, who entered the contest with an 8-0 record.

Atlanta

In the first noteworthy boxing match ever staged at Atlanta’s NFL Stadium, former WBA/WBC 140-pound champion Regis “Rougarou” Prograis (26-1, 22 KOs) was awarded a technical decision over Ivan Redkach (25-6-1) who collapsed in the sixth round complaining of a low blow and was carted from the ring on a stretcher. Replays showed that it was clearly a legal punch. The fight went to the scorecards and Prograis won comfortably: 59-54 and 60-54 twice.

The bizarre ending was somehow fitting as the entire event was bizarre, not merely the fights but the camera work and the commentary. The word sophomoric comes to mind. For the record, in the main go Jake Paul stopped Ben Askren in the opening round.

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