Roberto 'Hands of Stone' Duran fought professionally from 1968 all the way to 2001...38 years long and during 5 different decades. During this period he piled up wins that have made him one of the greatest fighters of all time.
His first significant victory was over future featherweight champion Ernesto Marcel at 130lbs, when he was only 18 years old. Marcel would get a questionable draw against WBC featherweight champ Kuniaki Shibata the following year, and would officially become WBA featherweight champ by beating Antonio Gomez in 1972. Marcel would further go on to beat the legendary Alexis Arguello before retiring.
Before winning the lightweight crown in 1972, Duran would also knockout Hiroshi Kobayashi in 7 rounds. Kobayashi was considered the best fighter at 130lbs(and lineal champ) less than 3 months before Duran wiped him out at 135lbs.
The 28-0 Duran would get his title shot not against just another lightweight champion, but against Ken Buchanan...arguably the greatest fighter to come out of Scotland, and one of the top 20 lightweights of all time. Though the TKO in the 13th round was contoversial because of a punch landed below the belt, Duran had knocked down Buchanan early in the fight and was clearly ahead on the scorecards. Though Buchanan went on to have notable victories over Carlos Ortiz, Jim Watt and Frankie Otero, he would never win back the Lightweight crown, despite a very close fight for the WBC Lightweight title agaisnt Guts Ishimatsu.
Duran didnt start his title run perfectly, and lost for the first time to Esteban DeJesus in a non-title bout. After an unremarkable first title defense over former 140lb ranked Jimmy Robertson, Duran would score a 8th round TKO over Australian challenger Hector Thompson, who would move up in weight and rank in the top 5 at 140lbs for the next 4 years.
Duran's next title defense would come against Ishimatsu Suzuki(aka Guts Ishimatsu), who would win the WBC lightweight title less than 5 months after being knocked out by Duran, and go on to have victories over Ken Buchanan, Rodolfo Gonzalez, and Arturo Pineda.
His first 1974 title defense was against Esteban DeJesus, where he avenged his only loss with an 11th round KO despite being briefly floored in the 1st round. At this time DeJesus was considered the #1 challenger for Duran's title, and after a brief unsuccessful title run against the ATG 140lb champ Antonio Cervantes, DeJesus would beat Guts Ishimatsu to become WBC lightweight champ in 1976.
Duran's next title defense against Masataka Takayama was unsignificant, but in his next defense in 1975 he beat the 2nd best lightweight in the world(behind Duran), Ray Lampkin. Although he gave Duran some brief trouble early, Lampkin was eventually worn down and crushed by a left hook in the 14th round, causing him to be hospitalized for four days after their bout.
In his next defense Duran would face his only southpaw title challenger, Leonicio Ortiz, who was at top 10 fighter at 140lbs. After a brave showing, Ortiz finally had to give in and couldn't make it to the final bell, falling in the 15th and final round.
After a quick decision win against future Light Welterweight champ Saoul Mamby at 140lbs, Duran would rush back into the ring only 19 days afterward to defend his lightweight title against one of the top 5 fighters at 140lbs, Lou Bizzaro. Bizzaro would try running for the duration of the fight, but would be brutally knocked down multiple times late in the fight, causing the stoppage.
After a very quick 1st round destruction against former title challenger Alvaro Rojas, Duran would score a 13th round KO over top 5 rated Vilomar Fernandez, who would go on to surprisingly decision the ATG Alexis Arguello, who hadn't lost since becoming champion.
Nearing the end of his title reign at lightweight, Duran would go 15 rounds with the clever Edwin Viruet, who was considered the 3rd best lightweight in the world, and finish off his lightweight dominance by finishing off his old nemisis Esteban DeJesus, who was considered the 2nd best lightweight in the world and held the WBC lightweight title.
Now out of lightweight, Duran made his first move into Welterweight by beating former ranked 140lb fighters Adolfo Viruet and Monroe Brooks. In his first major win at Welterweight, Duran would dominantly beat former lineal welterweight champ and HOFer Carlos Palomino over 10 rounds, dropping the iron jawed Palomino in the 6th round. Palomino was considered the best welterweight in the world only about 5 months before, when he lost to the great Wilfredo Benitez.
After a quick wipeout of top ten welterweight Joseph Nsubugu, Duran would have his career defining fight against Sugar Ray Leonard, one of the greatest fighters of all time and undoubtedly the best welterweight in the world. After 15 furious high skill rounds, Duran pulled in the much deserved win. Duran's win over Leonard is undoubtedly one of the greatest single wins in the history of boxing, considered how great Leonard was at Welterweight and the fact that Duran actually had to move up in weight to fight him at his best weight class.
After this period the dominance of Duran started to end. He didn't take training nearly as seriously and wasn't as active. After ballooning up in weight, he rematched Leonard in his embaressing 'No Mas' performance. After this Duran's career was very patchy and his performance depended largely on how well he trained.
After some setback losses, Duran would KO the fading former Welterweight destroyer Pipino Cuevas, earning him the right to face 154lb champion Davey Moore. Moore was heavily favoured going into the bout as an 8-1 favorite, but Duran shocked the world by demolishing Moore over 8 brutal rounds, when the ref finally saved the bloody, exhausted Moore from further punishment.
Duran seized this opportunity to face off against middleweight king Marvin Hagler. Despite having moments of success and cutting Hagler late in the fight, he clearly lost over 15 rounds. Duran was the only man to go 15 rounds with Hagler during his championship reign, all of his previous title challengers had been stopped before the 11th.
Duran fell off the map with bad performances against Robbie Sims and Thomas Hearns, but regained life in his career when he got the chance to face WBC middleweight champ Iran Barkley, who was fresh off his KO victory over the legendary Thomas Hearns. Duran came into this fight in shape, and after rallying late in the fight and scoring an 11th round knockdown, Duran walked away with the shocking decision victory.
For the most part Duran's career was over at that point, as he was unpredictable as ever when it came to conditioning. His last hurrah was against top 5 rated and former middleweight champ Jorge Fernando Castro, when Duran was nearly 46 years old. Duran would fight on and even get a last futile effort for a middleweight belt against William Joppy, but his career ended in 2001 against Hector Camacho, going 12 rounds despite being 50 years old.
He ended his career with about 18 or more wins over significant opponents, one of the greatest ever lightweights and one of the best fighters in the history of boxing.
Sugar Ray Leonard
Jorge Fernando Castro