How would the great Roberto Duran fare against the skillful wizardry of Floyd Mayweather at 135 pounds? We posed this fantasy match to eight qualified insiders:
Jose Torres (Recently deceased Hall of Fame Light Heavyweight champ): “It’s very hard to make a comparison because I thought that Duran was the best fighter of his time. But I think Mayweather is a helluva fighter. He’s as good as the best of Duran in Duran’s time. So it’s very hard to choose. I would have to study the styles in order for me to have an accurate opinion on who would beat whom. It’s impossible now to imagine a winner. I would have to check like five or six fights from each and the styles. You see? Because they have different styles. But Duran was a very, very smart fighter. And that’s what I like for him.”
Iran Barkley (Former Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champ): “Duran would have got to Mayweather. Because Duran is crafty. He knew how to get to lightweight guys. Not to take anything away from Floyd Mayweather, he’s a phenomenal fighter. But at that caliber of time Duran had speed and power. Floyd got the speed and some power but not as much power as Duran. (How was Duran’s power at 168?) Duran didn’t have power at 168 like he had at lightweight. He had power that I felt. I felt the hits. But they weren’t real crackers. You know what I’m sayin’? At lightweight he was unbelievable the power that he had. He was faster and speedier. He had power and speed. And he would’ve gave Mayweather a tough fight. (Beat Floyd?) I think Duran would…I know Duran would have won the fight. I know that. Mayweather – not to take anything away from him but Duran would have won.”
Carlos Ortiz (Hall of Fame Lightweight champ): “Tough fight. Mayweather is a good boxer. Duran is a rough, aggressive fighter. It would be tough. I would give the advantage a little bit to Mayweather because Mayweather is a better boxer than Duran. And Duran is a comer, he’s an aggressive fighter. He throws a lot of punches. He’s a strong puncher. But it all depends. If Mayweather gets hit, he gets knocked out. If he doesn’t get hit, he wins by decision.”
Don Elbaum (Veteran promoter): “I think Duran is one of the one, two, three greatest lightweights of all time. And Mayweather’s close. But Duran could do whatever – he’d break you in half, he was vicious, he was a killer, could box, could knock you dead. I mean, he could do everything. Duran – up to this point – is a bit better than Mayweather.”
Teddy Atlas (Trainer, author, TV commentator): “It’d be a heckuva fight. I think…Duran. Duran had close to 100 fights. Right now, because of what Duran accomplished – the largeness of that kind of body of work – I’ll go with Duran. If Mayweather decides to fight again, there’s still more we’re gonna find out about Mayweather. He’s terrific and there’s still some more things we may find out. But I know more right now in my life about Duran. And with that kind of knowledge, I’ll take Duran.”
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (Former Light Heavyweight champ and world class trainer): “I would think that would be a helluva fight. You’ve got to realize that Duran was also a great boxer at lightweight. That one I couldn’t call. It’s just too hard. That would be the hardest fight for me to call. To me, Mayweather is the greatest boxer Duran would’ve ever fought, aside from maybe Sugar Ray Leonard. Duran would try to maul him inside to the body. Duran was also a great boxer too. That fight would be a little too hard to call.”
Angelo Dundee (Hall of Fame trainer of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, among many others): “Oh gosh, Duran’s a living legend. And one of the best fighters today is Floyd Mayweather. That would be some fight. I tell you – it would be Floyd Mayweather’s toughest encounter. Duran against a guy with quick hands like Mayweather – he could nullify that. Duran offset quick hands through feints, head feints, foot feints and foot movements. He was a complete fighter. He had all that stuff going for him. Then he nails you. Then he bulls you too. Mayweather would be facing something he never faced before. You’re saying the fight would be at lightweight? I like Duran. Duran was slick, smart, body puncher, made you fall short with punches. At lightweight I would like Duran. He could get under your skin too. He could con you. He had ways to bother you. He was like Muhammad Ali in that way, but he couldn’t speak English. Duran was a real psyche artist.
“It’s tough. Mayweather always rises to the occasion. He impresses the hell out of me. I knew Duran from the inception – he trained at the Fifth Street Gym (Miami). I watched him all the time. A guy I trained, Duran was working with him – Vinnie Curto. A lightweight hurting a middleweight. There was no smarter, cuter fighter than Vinnie Curto. The only thing that bothered Duran was a long, left jab. And Mayweather doesn’t have that. Certain guys give certain guys problems. We haven’t seen what gives Mayweather problems. Are we talking 15 rounds? I like Duran. I like Duran. You’re talking about Mayweather going 15 rounds. Duran was pressure, pressure. He was strong. He could punch. God, he was a great lightweight. He takes advantage of every little thing. And he did it smooth, with grace. Everything was slick and smart. I like Duran.”
Harold Lederman (World-renowned boxing judge): “Duran in his prime vs. Mayweather in his prime…without question, I think it would be no contest. I did see Roberto Duran in his prime. I was in Madison Square Garden the first time he came in he fought Benny Huertas in that incredible one round fight. When he knocked out Benny Huertas. But they went toe-to-toe for the better part of one round. And at the that time Duran made such a big hit that they brought him back after. And I was the judge in that first fight that Roberto Duran ever lost to Esteban DeJesus in Madison Square Garden, where Duran walked into a left hook in the second round and he was sitting on the canvas looking up at DeJesus. And DeJesus just cruised to a ten-round decision. They fought two times after that for the Lightweight championship and Duran won both of them.
“But interestingly enough, Roberto Duran was an aggressive, very, very quick, very, very well trained, very well conditioned fighter. And when you look at Floyd Mayweather’s career, he did have trouble with a big Jose Luis Castillo at lightweight. And I think that, without question, I just don’t think that Mayweather, as good as he is, and he’s a very, very talented fighter, can hold off Duran. I mean, Duran was extremely aggressive. Hit very, very hard. Just an awful guy to beat. I mean, you had to be very, very strong and have a heckuva punch to hold him off. And Mayweather, although he has a good jab, has hand problems. I don’t think he can hit Duran hard enough, jab him hard enough without breaking his hands. And boy, when Mayweather hurts his hands you just know it. Because he starts going straight backwards, like he did with Famoso Hernandez and Victoriano Sosa.
“But with Duran, you had to have a heckuva punch or a heckuva great left jab to keep him off of you. Duran would have hammered him to the body. Eventually probably stopped him in eight or nine rounds.”