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The best of all time A to Z: Duran
This is the fourth in a 26-part series in which RingTV.com endeavors to name the best boxers of all time based on last name – A to Z. We’ll post one letter each day for 26 days. Our criteria in making the selections were fairly simple: Accomplishments in the ring, with heavy emphasis on strength of opposition, as well as impact on the sport. This wasn’t easy, as our first installment –- the letter “A” (Armstrong vs. Ali) -– demonstrates. However, we’re confident that our choices are arguably the best. We also are including five more fighters for each letter to indicate others that were considered. Also, noted author and boxing historian Bert Sugar -– who provided input –- tells us where he ranks our choices among the greatest fighters pound-for-pound and gives us a thought on each selection. And, finally, we’d love to get your thoughts on the project. Here goes … today’s letter: “D.”
D: ROBERTO DURAN
Hometown: Panama City, Panama
Record: 103-16 (70 KOs)
Weight classes: Junior featherweight to light heavyweight
Titles: Lightweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight
Sugar’s ranking: No. 8
The thought process: This choice wasn’t as easy as it might seem. Jack Dempsey was Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan rolled into one in his day, an icon perhaps second only to Babe Ruth in the 1920s. And he was a beast, the kind of knockout-seeking warrior we expect our heavyweight champion to be. Sugar said that Dempsey recorded 60 first-round knockouts, including exhibitions. But Duran was better - and, coincidentally, a lot like Dempsey in terms of his unusual ferocity. Some argue that the Panamanian is the greatest lightweight of all time, even better than the great Benny Leonard. And he went on to win titles against legitimate opponents at welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight. He might’ve been the greatest fighter since Ray Robinson. Duran started as primarily a brawler but refined his boxing skills -– including his underrated defensive ability -- under legendary trainer Ray Arcel. Thus, when he beat Ken Buchanan to win the lightweight title in 1972, he was a complete fighting machine. He would successfully defend 12 times and lose only one non-title fight (to Esteban De Jesus) until 1980, when he had two unforgettable fights against Sugar Ray Leonard. Duran handed the U.S. Olympic gold medalist his first defeat in the first fight but suffered the humiliating “No Mas” loss in the rematch, a disgrace that haunted him for a time. He had other triumphs and setbacks, including a victory over Iran Barkley at 37 to win the middleweight title and a brutal knockout loss to Thomas Hearns. However, when his career was finally over in 2001, we were able to look back and marvel at Duran’s ability to be so good over so many weight classes for so long. Arcel said it best: “When you talk about great fighters, always remember there was a guy named Roberto Duran. He was never given the opportunity to really display his wares because at his peak, he was overshadowed by Muhammad Ali.”
Five more (alphabetical order): Jack Dempsey, Jack Dillon, George Dixon, Jim Driscoll and Johnny Dundee.
Sugar Quote: "Duran is the greatest Latino fighter ever, a killer in the ring.”
A: Armstrong: http://www.ringtv.com/blog/2203/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_armstrong/
B: Burley: http://www.ringtv.com/blog/2204/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_burley/
C: Charles: http://www.ringtv.com/blog/2205/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_charles/