Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Old Foes Can Be Old Friends, Too

The legendary Roberto Duran as he appears today. 'Hands of Stone' likes to bang away on the bongo drums as much as he once liked to bang away on the heads of his opponents.

MANCHESTER, N.H. - Old foes and old friends sometimes turn up in the most unlikely of places and tonight proved that as legends Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and trainer Angelo Dundee teamed up at the 7th annual 'Fight to Educate' benefit card held here at the Verizon Wireless Arena. At one time you would have been more likely to have seen the worldly trio in opposing corners at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas or at Madison Square Garden in New York City but tonight they were in New Hampshire - as friends.

Hearns, Duran and Dundee appeared together to chat with the crowd, sign autographs and have their picture taken in order to raise money for local charitable causes.

Duran, accompanied by his son, Roberto, Jr., warmed up the crowd and got into the ring to address the fans. "Were it not for that car accident in Argentina I'd still be fighting," chuckled Duran, who was seriously injured in the 2001 wreck.

The 57 year old Duran said, "I first came to to America when I was 17 years old and I couldn't speak any English. My friends only taught me two phrases: 'Where are the women women and how much will it cost me?'

Angelo Dundee, the 87 year old Hall of Fame trainer who has been the chief second for over twenty world champions from Carmen Basilio to Muhammad Ali to 'Sugar' Ray Leonard also addressed the crowd. Dundee, who looks nowhere near his age said that, "If Duran had been a heavyweight he would have been the richest fighter in boxing history. He was a great, great fighter."

For his part, Duran told me that he wished he had been born a heavyweight, "So I could have kicked Muhammad Ali's ass!" he laughed.

Hearns and Leonard during their first fight at Caesars Palace. Up until that time it was the highest grossing fight in boxing history.

Hearns, who fought 'Sugar' Ray Leonard for the first time almost 27 years ago to the day - September 16, 1981 - was also here to mingle with the crowd and support his son, Ronald, who fought Alexander Quiroz in the co-featured bout. 'The Hitman' who was impeccably attired in a cream colored, pin-striped suit with matching snake-skin shoes and a powder blue tie, was mobbed by autograph seekers.

"When my son fights, I'm more nervous than if I were fighting," said Hearns, who, at age 49, still has a trim frame and said he weighs "around 190." Hearns, who won titles in four weight divisions looks as though he'd still have no trouble in going a few rounds. He last fought in 2006, and when asked if he'd fight again said, "I think I'll leave the fighting to Ronald."

Dundee was in the corner with 'Sugar' Ray when Leonard stopped Hearns in the 14th round in a ring set up in the parking lot at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Angelo said, "It was one of the best fights I've ever been a part of." The legend that is Dundee legend grew even larger that night when he was able to rally Leonard to a win when he didn't mince words with his charge in the corner.

"You're blowing it son! You're blowing it!" urged Dundee, and Leonard stormed out from his corner with a right eye that was nearly swollen shut and unleashed a vicious offensive assault that forced referee Davey Pearl to call a halt to Hearns' night.

The masterful Dundee at work in the corner with 'Sugar' Ray in the first Hearns fight. Angelo was able to motivate Leonard to an electrifying victory.

For their part, Hearns and Duran only shared a few minutes in the ring with one another in June 1984. 'The Motor City Cobra' destroyed 'Hands of Stone' in two one-sided rounds.

When asked what he recalled about that fight, Duran said, "It was hot!" as he laughed. That might not be a fair question to have asked Duran because after Hearns knocked him out with one of the most famous right hand punches to ever land, when they got Duran to his feet he could be seen asking, "What happened?"

Tonight, 24 years after the fact, a heavier, more easygoing Duran gestured his finger in Hearns' direction, pointed at his own chin, and said, "He got lucky, he got lucky."

Tonight, the younger Hearns went to 20-0 (16)KO's with a sensational first-round knockout of Colombian challenger Alexander Quiroz. He scored two knockdowns and with the fight-ender he landed a right hand that was reminiscent of the one his Dad landed against Pipino Cuevas to lift the WBA welterweight title in Detroit in 1980.

The ending made Dad happy, as after the referee waived it off Hearns clapped his hands together and did a little jumping celebration of his own. When asked what the main piece of advice he gives his son is the relieved father said, "To stay alert and keep his hands up." Hearns never wanted his son to take up boxing.

Next up for the younger Hearns, who said afterwards that, "When I first saw boxing on T.V. as a kid, something came alive in me, it gave me a feeling all over" is Paul Clavette in Montreal and then John Duddy in January. Hearns says he thinks he'll be ready for anyone in the 154-pound division next year. He says promoter Lou DiBella is making all the right moves for him. DiBella also told me the Montreal fight is a definite go.

All in all the night had a family feeling to it. With the Durans and Hearns' in attendance it was as though the Hatfields and McCoys have finally buried the hatchets. And we had Angelo here to keep an eye on them all.

September 2008

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