Middleweight beltholder Peter Quillin could soon defend his WBO title against promotional stablemate Danny Jacobs.
10: Best memories of lifelong boxing fan
Page 2 of 11
Date: March 16, 1974.
Time: Late afternoon.
Place: The living room.
Significance: The first fight I ever saw.
At age nine, I was like a lot of other boys. I was active, competitive, willful and curious about the world around me. I was intensely interested in astronomy, math, matters of faith and meteorology. I spent many hours riding my bicycle on the circular dirt track in my neighbor's yard and playing Whiffle Ball, croquet, basketball, football and Frisbee with my friends.
I followed sports casually; although I was a Pirates fan I loved the way Pete Rose hustled for the Cincinnati Reds. "The Steel Curtain" Steelers were (and still are) my favorite NFL team but as far as basketball went, my affection for the Philadelphia 76ers wouldn't bloom until after Doctor J's arrival in 1976. I didn't spend countless hours memorizing rosters or devoting brain space to trivia answers. I just wanted to be a kid.
That all changed one fateful Saturday afternoon. By chance, I changed the channel selector (remember, this was before remotes were invented) to our area's only ABC affiliate, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, which was broadcasting the second fight between lightweight champion Roberto Duran and Esteban DeJesus. Howard Cosell's distinctive inflections kept me from switching to the next channel, especially after he painted the scene.
"We cut in because we're about to start the lightweight title fight – Duran against DeJesus – Duran the defending champion," he began. "You're listening to the ring announcer in one of the most frenzied and potentially unruly scenes I have ever witnessed. The fight is being fought in an area called Gimnasio Nueva Panama, and there are 15,300 people or thereabouts in this steam bath, temperatures in the mid-90s."
I soon learned that Duran was facing the only man to have beaten him to this point and that vengeance was heavily on his mind. I sensed an intense feeling of conflict as the crowd buzzed in anticipation and as Duran pointed his glove at DeJesus moments before the opening bell. I had no idea who these men were, but I thought something significant was about to unfold.
Did it ever.
Less than 90 seconds after the opening bell, DeJesus put Duran on the seat of his trunks with a gorgeous hook to the jaw, duplicating the scenario that unfolded in their first fight 16 months earlier. The possibility of a dramatic title change was very real, so this kid decided to stick around and see what would happen next.
The next four rounds remain among the most breathtaking I've yet seen. Duran and DeJesus whipped in punches with a fervor that was nothing short of electrifying. The intense heat, and Duran's savage punches, eventually took their toll on DeJesus as he suffered a seventh-round knockdown and an 11th-round TKO.
As Duran reveled in his victory, he couldn't have known he created a brand new boxing fan. I was so pumped by what I had just seen that I raced into my sister's bedroom, started throwing punches in the air and shouted "Look at me! Look at me! I'm Duran! I'm Duran!" She did what any normal 10-year-old girl would do in this situation – she looked at me as if I were nuts.
Indeed I was. I was nuts for boxing. Duran-DeJesus II lit a fire within me that still burns to this day. As you will come to learn, that fire manifested itself in many different ways but it also propelled me toward fulfilling my dreams, dreams that seemed a universe away for someone from a town of 130 people. My affinity for boxing would dictate how I reacted in certain situations, established my overall mindset and influenced me in terms of which direction I wanted to go during my college years.
In other words, Duran-DeJesus II changed me forever.