Lightweight – Roberto Duran vs. Alexis Arguello
Best time to make this fight: July of 1978
Reasons: When Arguello – then the WBC’s 130-pound champion – met Vilomar Fernandez on July 26, 1978 there was talk that the next fight would be against Duran, who in January unified the 135-pound belts by stopping Esteban DeJesus in their rubber match. Duran followed with a non-title 10-round win over Adolfo Viruet in April, meaning he would’ve had three months to prepare for Arguello.
Coming into the Fernandez fight, Arguello had defended the super featherweight title twice by knockout, and combined with his featherweight reign and visibility in the U.S. he already had enough cache to fight Duran without establishing a rating (after all, when haven’t the sanctioning bodies bent the rules to create a financial bonanza?) Why not remove Fernandez from the equation and instead put “Manos de Piedra” in the other corner?
Why this fight made the list: Both were ensconced in the mythical pound-for-pound ratings. Duran was a swarthy, swaggering, snarling beast who had held the lightweight title for nearly six years while the taller Arguello’s pulverizing power was delivered with unusual artfulness. While both were proud men their personalities couldn’t have been more different. The Spanish-speaking Duran was volatile and passionate while the bilingual Arguello was reserved and eager to please. But the bottom line was their records; Arguello would have been 56-4 (47 KOs) while Duran was an eye-popping 64-1 (52).
What might have happened: An inspired Duran – especially at lightweight – was an unbeatable Duran, even for a fighter as great as Arguello. “El Flaco Explosivo” might have exploited Duran’s vulnerability to left hooks early as DeJesus had on two occasions but once Duran warmed up he ran white-hot. No lightweight on earth – past or present – could have dealt with this Panamanian monster. Arguello would have gotten some licks in, but not enough to hold back the avalanche. Duran by late-round TKO.
Honorable mentions: Shane Mosley vs. Floyd Mayweather (circa 1999), Pernell Whitaker vs. Jeff Fenech, Ray Mancini vs. Harry Arroyo