This Week In Boxing History: 1983 Duran Is Champ Again

By June 16, 1983, Roberto Duran was trying to regain his reputation as a legendary fighter. A reputation he garnered as one of, if not the greatest lightweight that ever was who then jumped up and captured Welterweight gold by defeating the great Sugar Ray Leonard. By June of ’80 Hands of Stone had reached legendary, all-time great, once in a generation fighter level. Much of That reputation that took Duran 29 years of life and 12 years of professional pugilism to build was wiped away in the utterance of one sentence “no mas”. Just five months after reaching legendary status by taking out the bigger Sugar Ray. Duran’s legacy took quite a hit by quitting against Leonard, quitting in the 7th round out of what appeared to be frustration, in a fight that he was still highly competitive in. Down just a single round on the scorecards. In just two words, Duran had gone a long way in erasing much of what he had built, a phrase that became as famous as he was, a phrase that is uttered by fight fans and nonfans alike whenever they no longer want to do something.

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The Davey Moore fight took place three years later on Duran’s 32nd birthday. Duran nearing what one would have thought would be the end of his prime, was trying to rebuild his reputation and wasn’t having great success with that. After the”No Mas” incident Duran lost a close decision to Wilfredo Benitez in an attempt for the WBC’s 154-pound belt and followed the L up with what was supposed to be a tune-up fight against lightly regarded Kirkland Laing. Laing who had just two fights early dropped a decision to a fighter with a record of 9-7-1. Laing scored the upset of the year live on ESPN Promoter Don King stormed into Duran’s dressing room immediately after the fight and screamed at Duran. King told the press: “I’ll not only urge Roberto to retire, I will implore this great man whom I love and understand to go out with the dignity his career deserves.”

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Duran did not obviously retire, something he wouldn’t do for almost two more decades.  Fighting on,  Duran scored two victories following the embarrassing loss including a 4th round stoppage over Pipino Cuevas a dominant performance that put “Hands of Stone” back in position for another shot at a 154-pound strap. This time with WBA champ Davey Moore. Moore was the undefeated champion who was rising to superstardom at breakneck speeds, a speed so quickly it alarmed many of the writers and critics in the boxing community. Moore earned a spot on the 1980 US Olympic Team. Moore’s acceleration was rapid he took on an undefeated Kevin Rooney (15-0) in just his 7th pro fight. Moore won the fight via seventh-round knockout earning him a shot in Japan against undefeated WBA champ Tadashi Mihara. Moore took one more tune-up fight and traveled to Japan, dominated Mihara knocked him out in the sixth round and returned home WBA Jr Middleweight world champion in just his ninth pro bout and just 15 months after turning pro. Moore defended his title four times winning each defense by knockout. The battle with Duran was set to take place in front of the Bronx natives home crowd at MSG and make Moore the sensational superstar he was fast-tracked to be and set him up for mega paydays with the likes of Hearns or Hagler. Unfortunately for Moore, Duran had different plans.

The fight itself was classic old-school Roberto Duran. Showing to be quicker and more aggressive, the Panamanian unleashed an unforgettable body attack on the young New Yorker. Duran controlled the terms throughout putting Moore on the defensive. Duran clearly the smaller man, was not at a power deficit, he caused Moore to double over in pain from his lethal body shots. Duran boxed flawlessly using feints and movement to get inside on the bigger champion and when he did get inside he landed perfect powerful combinations. By the fourth, Moore’s face showed the effects of Duran’s power shots a bloody mess and both eyes swollen as well the champ’s body was wearing down from the ferocious midsection attack. By the seventh, the outcome was academic. Moore was shot and Duran was systematically taking him apart. Duran was landing vicious combination one after another, culminating with a single monstrous right hand that sent Moore crashing to the canvas. Bravely the champ rose and stumbeling like he had chugged a fifth of vodka to his corner as the bell sounded. Moore’s cornermen unwisely allowed Moore out for the eighth. Duran continually pounded Moore all over the ring, for no reason at all the ref allowed the fight to continue and did not call a halt until a white towel was fired into the ring from Moore’s corner and several spectators threatened to storm through the ropes, not until all of that did referee Ernesto Magana do his duty and stop the brutal beat down. Making Duran a three-division world champion.

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The careers of Duran and Moore went in starkly different directions. Duran went back to erase the stain that “no mas” left behind and put on an epic performance in a loss to middleweight champion Marvin Hagler and taking a fourth world title in the middleweight division against Iran Barkley in 1989 at 37 years old, cementing his legacy as one of the best pound for pound champions of his or any era. Unfortunately for Moore, he was never able to get back to that level or fulfill the hype he had created. He did pick up a second-round knockout over Wilfred Benitez before losing via DQ to Louis Acaries and then loosing again in another bid for the 154-pound title to Buster Drayton. Moore lost twice more in 1987 before trying to rebuild and rejuvenate his career in 1988 and picking up two wins in tune-up fights before being tragically killed in a freak car accident incident in June of 1988.

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