FIGHTING the feelings of complacency and sluggishness that you usually get at this time of year, I thought I would write you piece on Roberto Duran, my favorite boxer.
I had a real boxer’s Christmas this year. The present I got from my parents, which I asked for, was a pair of Cleto Reyes gloves.
Reyes are the king of all boxing gloves. Something special happens when you put them on.
You feel like one of the Mexican warriors of old, your presence changes in the same way that it does when you make that walk to the ring.
I was also surprised with a book about Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns.
As well as chronicling the lives and careers of boxers I am inspired by, ‘Four Kings’ is written by a writer I am inspired by, George Kimball.
Kimball also wrote an incredible piece in a book called ‘The Hurt Business’ which I actually used in writing my dissertation.
I didn’t return to the boxing game until a good while later but it was probably a big part of why I did.
I’ve been reading about the life and times of these great welterweights who competed in some of the greatest boxing bouts of all time.
I also went out and bought the documentary, ‘I Am Duran’. Watching that documentary and reading ‘Four Kings’ has made me truly appreciate Duran’s greatness.
I always appreciated his fighting style and how game he was but I never knew how much adversity he had to battle outside of the ring.
I never knew he had such a strong spirit and an unconditional love for his people. At one low point in his career, he had lost some of the fire and was criticised for his performances.
However, he saw the plight of his people in Panama as they endured under a despotic ruler. Duran decided they needed a hero again.
Duran’s win over Iran Barkley on February 24 1989 was a symbolic victory for the people of Panama, giving them hope.
Duran, like his Panamanian people had endured hard times, been knocked down and got back up.
He slugged through a gritty fight with a much bigger man in Barkley despite the middleweight champion rocking Duran with a hellacious hook.
Duran out-pointed Barkley, capturing the WBC middleweight title, despite starting his career as a lightweight.
He was a special athlete, trainer Ray Arcel simply had to help him strategise because most of the skills were inherent.
The documentary features a lot of footage of Duran’s fights and something that is clear is that he was a special fighter. That is obvious from his champion’s aura, but specifically, he performs regardless of how he looks physically, or where his health is before the fight.
There were times when Duran was a lean mean fighting machine, but there were also times when he cut too much weight too quickly and was suffering from the weight cut.
There were times when he had moved up in weight but hadn’t put the right kind of weight on, he looked a bit spongy and unfit.
What is so amazing about Duran though, is that even those times when he wasn’t at his physical peak, he created fireworks in the ring. He carried that brutal punching perfection and relentless pace through the weight classes.
He was still a champion because he wasn’t just a show pony, it was what he had inside that counts.
So if you are feeling a little sluggish and unmotivated after the festivities of Christmas and New Year, get up and go. You’ve still got it.