By: Ken Hissner
The boxing world knew that both Roberto “Hands of Stone” and Antonio “Kid Pambele” Cervantes would be IBHOF inductees someday and they were right.
Duran ruled the lightweights after his defeat of Scotland’s Ken Buchanan on June 26th 1972 at Madison Square Garden. He was 31-0 when he suffered his first loss that to Puerto Rico’s Esteban “Vita” DeJesus, 31-1 (only loss to Antonio Gomez), at Madison Square Garden in a super lightweight match. Duran was knocked down in the first round and lost by scores of 5-4, 6-3 and 6-2.
DeJesus would drop down to lightweight and win the NABF title from Ray Lampkin, 19-0-1, in his next fight. It took until March 16th 1974 in Panama City to get his rematch with Duran and got knocked out in the 11th round. Like in their first match Duran was knocked down in the first round. Duran would sometimes get up to 200 pounds between fights. By then DeJesus was 42-1 and Duran 41-1.
Duran would win 4 non-title bouts coming in at 139 three times and 140 once. In December of 1974 Duran in a title defense scored a first round knockout over Japan’s lightweight champion Masataka Takayama, 21-5-1. In March of 1975 in his next defense it was his turn to defeat Lampkin, 29-3-1, stopping him in the 14th round. Lampkin’s was rushed to a hospital afterwards.
Duran won four more non-title bouts before defending against Mexico’s champion Leoncio Ortiz, 30-5-2, knocking him out at 2:30 of the 15th and final round. In his next fight he defeated former WBA Super lightweight champion Saoul Mamby, 18-8. Just 19 days later he was in Erie, PA, dropping 6 pounds and defeating the local boxer Lou Bizzaro, 22-0, knocking him out in the 14th round.
In October Duran scored a 1st round knockout over Alvaro Rojas, 15-7, of Costa Rica. In January of 1977 he knocked out Vilomar Fernandez, 19-5-1, in the 13th round. Two more non-title wins and in Philadelphia in September in a “grudge match” he defeated Edwin Viruet, 22-2, over 15 rounds. This writer got a picture with him prior to the fight. I have never seen anyone skip rope better than Duran.
Next up would be his final defense at lightweight in a “rubber match” with DeJesus, 52-3, stopping him in the 12th round at Caesers Palace in Las Vegas also capturing the WBC title in addition to keeping his WBA title.
Duran would go onto win 8 non-title bouts coming in as high as 151 in one of them. In June of 1980 he won the WBC World welterweight title from “Sugar” Ray Leonard, 27-1, at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. In the rematch in November came the humiliating loss to Leonard at the Superdome in New Orleans quitting in the 8th round.
Duran would go 4-2 before winning the WBA Super welterweight title stopping Davey Moore, 12-0, for his title in the 8th round in June of 1983. In his next fight he stepped in with WBA, WBC & IBF Middleweight champion “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, 57-2-2, losing a close 15 round decision by scores of 144-142, 146-145 and 144-143.
In Duran’s next fight in June of 1984 he suffered a devastating loss to former welter and super welter champion Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, 38-1, in the second round. In February of 1989 he would win the WBC Middleweight title that Iran “The Blade” Barkley, 25-4, held by split decision at the Convention Hall, in Atlantic City, NJ. He had Barkley down in the 11th round. He would end up his career in July of 2001 with a record of 103-16 with 70 by stoppage at age 50.
Now let’s look at Cervantes. In December of 1981 he got his first title shot against Argentina’s Nicolino “El Intocable” Loche, 103-2-14, losing every round for the WBA World super lightweight title. In October of 1972 Cervantes would win the same title from Panama’s Alfonso Fraser, 30-4-1, at Panama City with a 10th round knockout. It was just four months after Duran defeated Buchanan. That’s about as close as they met.
In Cervantes next fight and first defense he won a split decision in San Juan, Puerto Rico, over Josue Marquez, 26-5-1. Just a month later, he got his revenge defeating Loche, 110-3-14, who couldn’t come out for the 10th round due to a cut. Just two months later he gave Fraser a rematch, 31-5-6, stopping him in the 5th round.
In September of 1973 Cervantes was home in Bogota, Colombia, stopping Argentina’s Carlos Maria Gimenez, 72-2-3, in the 5th round. On December 5th he was back in Panama stopping Japan’s Lion Furuyama, 30-5-2, over 15 rounds. Just two days prior to this in Panama Duran was winning a non-title bout knocking out Tony Garcia, 13-2-4.
Cervantes would win three more title defenses starting with Chang-Kil Lee, 22-1, with a 6th round knockout in March of 1974. In July he would knockout in 2 rounds Victor Ortiz, 25-6. In October in Japan he would knockout Shinichi Kadota, 35-7, in 8 rounds.
In May of 1975 it was Cervantes’ time to meet DeJesus, 45-2, knocking him down in the 1st, 12th and 15th rounds winning a lopsided decision in Panama. In November back in Panama he would stop Australia’s Hector Thompson, 55-4-2 in the 7th round. Duran the following month was in Puerto Rico defending against Mexico’s Ortiz. Cervantes was 5-0 in Panama and maybe that is why Duran never challenged him with either he or his people seeing how good Cervantes was.
In March of 1976 Cervantes in his eleventh title defense would lose his title to 17 year-old Wilfred Benitez, 25-0, by split decision in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Cervantes never got a return match. In January of 1982 Benitez then the WBC World Super champion would defeat Duran. After five wins Cervantes would get another shot at the vacant WBA title in June of 1977 in a rematch with Gimenez, 98-8-4, stopping him in the 4th round.
After a pair of title defenses Cervantes would go to South Africa and stop Norman Sekgapane, 51-6-1, in the 9th round. He had another three defenses including two against Miguel Montilla, 33-4-3, stopping him in the second one. In between those two defenses he was in South Korea defeating Kwang Min Kim, 15-0-1, by split decision. That gave Cervantes sixteen defenses.
Next up in August of 1980 for Cervantes would be future Hall of Famer Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, 24-0, stopping Cervantes in the fourth round at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum. The hanger-on’s swarmed Pryor to the point he couldn’t get interviewed. Cervantes would go onto win his next four fights before losing his final one in December of 1983. His final record was 93-12-3 (45), while Duran ended up 103-16 70). Both would become IBHOF inductees. What a fight that would have been if they ever met. Duran vacated his lightweight title in January of 1979 after defeating DeJesus in their third fight. He would “skip” super lightweight and go onto welterweight eventually winning that title, the super welter and middleweight titles. He never challenged Cervantes for the super lightweight title. What a match that would be between Cervantes and Duran.
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