Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mark's Top 40 at 40: 5

Mark Lyons is back with the latest edition of his top 40 favorite fighters list. He'll be counting down the remaining names one by one as he's down to his top five, and has plenty to say about all of them,

If you're now familiar with the style of fighter Mark appreciates, the featured fighter of today's edition should come as no surprise...

5. Roberto Duran

Career Record: 103-16 (70)

Three favorite Fights: Ray Leonard I UD15, Iran Barkley SD12, Esteban DeJesus III TKO12

This is getting fun. With all due respect to Sugar Ray Robinson, Willie Pep, Hank Armstrong and the rest of history's greats, Manos De Piedra was far and away the best damn fighter I have ever seen.

The sneers, the lifting Dejesus off the ground with body shots that inspired Stallone, the full out manhood lesson to Ray Leonard, the 5 punch combo that introduced Iran Barkley to the canvas, and yes, even climbing off the floor after being face planted from Thomas Hearns. If you don't respect Roberto Duran,
your boxing privileges should be revoked.

My first live Duran fight was the night he dismembered Esteban Dejesus in their rubber match like Hannibal Lecter on a death mission. The man didn't just beat you, he took your heart and everything that was attached to it. Watching Manny Pacquiao evolve is truly special, but it's nothing like watching Roberto Duran transform himself from nonstop aggressor to one of the best defensive fighters in the world, with the greatest lead and counter right hand in history.

"He was inconsistent at 54 and above." Get out of here! This after 80+ fights with two losses. Both of the men that beat him could have donated blood from their urine from their victories. I remember watching Duran/Palomino on Closed Circuit TV on the Holmes/Weaver undercard. Carlos was tough as they come, but Duran made him seem like a mouse with his relentless pressure and unparalleled right hand. If you want to watch a near shutout that will thrill you, that's the fight. The round Palomino won preceded a trip to the canvas from the precision nuclear warhead that was Duran's deadly right.

June 20th, 1980. Lets get it on "Sugar". Leonard was a great fighter. He showed true grit in getting manhandled by the Hands of Stone like a redheaded stepchild on that glorious night in Montreal. For those that want to pretend Leonard's "revenge" win mattered, go watch some tennis.

Nothing ever stopped the man and he always came back. Who intimidated Marvin Hagler? Roberto Duran, that's who. He beat Iran Barkley as a 37 year old, but even after that you had to tread lightly around him. Vinnie Pazienza hit the deck hard, and he was still scary enough to bring out some truly feminine displays from Ray Leonard in a laughable third fight at 168. Ray got too close with about 30 seconds left and got his head split open for his brief moment of bravery.

Love him or hate him, you better respect Roberto Duran. He was Ray Leonard's daddy when it mattered. He took Thomas Hearns most explosive missiles and lived to tell about it. He nearly ended Esteban Dejesus life for having the gall to defeat him. He had Davey Moore's hometown sing him happy birthday while he massacred Moore like a doll. It would be my greatest honor to have Roberto Duran gouge my eyes and flatten me with his sword of a right hand.

There may have been greater (though it's damn sure arguable), but nobody ever changed their ways of boxing and became a completely different fighter while remaining effective. The reason why? He was Roberto Duran, and you're not. And that goes for every fighter in my lifetime, the best of the lot and it isn't close. Who really wants to see the Hands of Stone across the ring from them?

Mark's previous entries: Intro, 40-36, 35-31, 30-26, 25-21, 20-16, 15-13, 12-10, 9-8 & 7-6.

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