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“I Am Duran” Director Mat Hodgson: “I Wanted To Push The Parameters”


By: Sean Crose

“Roberto Duran sort of came my way rather than the other way around,” says film maker Mat Hodgson, director of the new acclaimed documentary “I Am Duran,” the focus of which is famed Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran. Although he had met Duran previously, Hodgson’s discussions about Panama with a friend who had Panamanian roots led to his ultimately creating a movie about that nation’s most famous son. “We were talking about Duran,” he says. “I couldn’t believe the drama of Panama’s history.”

Duran was raised in dire poverty near Panama’s “Canal Zone,” a then American territory which was the source of much hostility and strife. In the fiery Duran, Panamanians saw an athlete, feared and admired, who, despite his flaws, could represent his nation. Hodgson, a passionate, engaging individual, eventually found himself talking to many of Duran’s countrymen, who claimed the now 67 year old got his country “through some dark times.” It was a topic too good for Hodgson not to delve into.

Yet the director wanted to do more than simply tell the story of a fighter. “I wanted to push the parameters,” he says. Watching the film, it’s clear he’s done so. There’s an intimacy to some of the many interviews in “I Am Duran” that at times is almost jarring. The fact that the subjects of many of these interviews are international stars only adds to the impact. “I decided early on,” Hodgson says, “that I wanted all the interviews to be right down the barrel, straight down the lens.”

Hodgson arranged sessions so that the subjects would be staring at his reflection while looking at the camera lens, a technique which presents a sense of immediacy and urgency. The director employed another effective strategy with which to present Duran’s infamous “No Mas” fight with fellow boxing legend “Sugar” Ray Leonard (whose keen insights are the highlight of the film). Hodgson showed both Duran and Leonard the abrupt end of the bout in order to get their reactions. “They are genuinely watching the fight,” says Hodgson of that moment of film. The impact, eerie and profound, will stay with the viewer long after this documentary has ended.

It might be argued that such film making could only come from a true fan of boxing, someone who understands what a powerful, lonely endeavor the sport can be. And Hodgson is a true devotee of the sweet science – an expert in his own right (he has also made the documentary “Night Of The Fight: Hatton’s Last Stand”). “I love boxing,” he says. “It’s the most complicated, simple sport there is.” Like boxing itself, Duran’s story is complicated, yet simple. On the surface, it’s a tale of a poor boy who makes good, then falls from on high, only to pick himself back up again. There’s a lot more to Duran than that, however. For the man has a history of being charming, admirable, cruel, arrogant, loyal, and generous. Such a subject requires a director who knows his craft. Hodgson, needless to say, is steeped in the world of film.

“I’m heavily influenced by so many styles, and films, and film makers,” says Hodgson. “John Carpenter is one of my favorites.” Hodgson also claims he wanted “I Am Duran” to have a kind of retro feel. “I wanted to give it an 80s vibe,” he says. Considering Duran peaked, fell, and peaked again in the 80s, it all makes perfect sense. Still, Hodgson is interested in more than style and flash. “I really get a kick out of films that make people think,” he claims. “Sport is such a basis for drama anyway, but it’s not enough, is it?” In other words, depth, complexity, and a genuine sense of humanity are required. This documentary of Duran: prizefighter, celebrity, husband, father, national icon, friend, and opponent, contains all of those things, along with some quite startling moments.

Rather than resting on his laurels, Hodgson is currently making plans for the future. “Some of them,” he says, “are quite ambitious.” Manchester United and the famed Eric Cantona may well be subjects on the horizon. For now, however, Hodgson can appreciate the fact those long ago conversations with a friend of Panamanian stock led to a noteworthy film. It’s also worth noting that Hodgson’s friend impacted more than just his career. “She’s now my wife,” the film maker says.

Perhaps she’ll lead him to some more film-worthy ideas.

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Film Review: There’s A Lot To Like About “I Am Duran”


By: Sean Crose

While watching Mat Hodgson’s new documentary, I Am Duran, I found myself wondering how the director of such films as The Four Year Plan and Night Of The Fight: Hatton’s Last Stand had arrived at some of his creative decisions. There was an awful lot going on in this film, I thought. Perhaps too much. Then something strange happened. The movie stayed in my head after it had ended…and not in the bad way some films do, either. No, I Am Duran remained lodged in my mind because it gave me a fuller understanding of someone I had been aware of my entire life, an outrageous, talented, complex individual who left an indelible mark, not only in his native Panama, but on the worlds of boxing and popular culture, as well.

The film focuses on one of the greatest fighters of all time, Roberto Duran, a Panamanian legend who rose from poverty to the pinnacle of the sporting world, only to crash and return. Angry, bullying, charming, impressive, and admirable all at the same time, Duran captivated the public in his homeland, and well beyond in the course of an incredible career that lasted from 1968 to 2001. During that time, the fighter picked up major titles in the lightweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight divisions – an impressive feat under any circumstances, much less in the star studded era that Duran plied his trade in. The fact Duran’s career saw him face the likes of Ken Buchanan, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Iran Barkley, Davey Moore and many other notables only serves to add a sense of wonder to the man’s achievements (as well as a sense of disappointment to the risk adverse boxers who currently dominate the sport). Ultimately, however, I Am Duran isn’t a movie about boxing. Boxing, in a sense, only serves as its backdrop.

“In this story there is only one legend,” Duran himself says early in the film. “That’s me.” And, sure enough, Hodgson strives to give as complete a picture of the man as possible. Some of the bigger names one could imagine appear to discuss the enigmatic fighter known as “Manos de Piedra (Hands of Stone)” Aside from boxing royalty like Leonard and Hagler recalling their old foil at length, the movie presents Duran’s wife, Felicidad, actor Robert DeNiro (who played Ray Arcel, Duran’s famed trainer in the film “Hands of Stone,”) and – perhaps, most surprisingly – former Panamanian strong man Manuel Noriega (who admits he tried to cheat while battling Duran at pool). What these and other notables from various walks of life do for the film is paint a portrait of a man consumed by a relentless drive.

The source of that drive – the brutal poverty of Duran’s youth in Panama, near the famous Canal Zone – is well documented, giving the viewer an understanding as to why and how this grinding, sneering, ultimately brilliant athlete was formed. Yet Hodgson doesn’t ignore his subject’s less than savory behavior. The movie shows its subject’s dark side, starting with the lead up to Duran’s first 1980 superfight with American icon Leonard. In order to get into the former Olympian’s head, Duran targeted Leonard’s wife for harassment. The strategy may have had the desired effect, as Leonard lost the bout by decision because he decided to brawl with Duran. Yet no great victory can clean away the repulsiveness of Duran’s actions at the time. Having the drive to win is admirable. When that drive leads to harassing an innocent woman, it’s repulsive.

Of course, as any sports fan who was alive at the time can recall, Duran got his comeuppance a few months later when, in their rematch, Leonard decided to outbox and humiliate his foe to the point where Duran actually quit the fight. Hodgson handles the moment well, showcasing Duran’s fall from grace, not only in the worlds of sports and popular culture, but particularly among his countrymen in Panama. A great warrior, after behaving horribly, had been made to look like a punk – something no homeland would appreciate, especially one going through the turmoil Panama was in at the time.

Yet, as Hodgson makes clear, people don’t have to be defined by their worst moments. Duran did indeed find the gumption to return to ring glory (the fighter’s time voluntarily training himself back into shape in a penal colony is particularly notable in the film). The movie also shows how, over time, Duran has matured as a person. He’s made peace with Leonard, for instance (they’re now genuine friends), and is a more gracious star than he was decades ago. Interestingly enough, one gets the feeling these positive developments may have had more than a bit to do with Felicidad, a fascinating individual who may well be the strong one in the relationship. Indeed, it’s the moments which focus on those from Duran’s past and present that make this movie strong. Hagler, and especially Leonard, are the high points of the film. They explain their first hand accounts of famous fights with a novelist’s clarity and flair.

And then, of course, there’s Duran himself, still outspoken and in-your-face, but at the same time charming and in possession of dignity and – yes – decency. The man is nothing if not worthy of the attention he receives here. As is Panama. Yet, although Duran and Panama are synonymous, Hodgson tends at times to try to mirror the story of Duran with the story of his homeland. Unfortunately, the chronologies don’t always run in sync. The first act of the film, in particular, is impacted by this miscalculation. Like it’s subject, though, I Am Duran refuses to be kept down. There’s a lot to like here, a lot of gems to be found – in particular an eerie moment where Hodgson cuts from Duran quitting the Leonard rematch to Duran and Leonard in the present day. Each man is silent. It’s a masterfully done, powerful example of fine film making, more jarring than an entire CGI infused summer blockbuster.

Or perhaps even a knockout blow from a world class fighter.

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Boxing Insider Interview with Stitch Duran, Part 2


By: Henry Deleon

In the depths of telling us what it’s like to be a Cutman, Jacob “Stitch” Duran also caught up with Boxing Insider about the upcoming film “Creed 2 “and his role in it. Here’s what the legendary Stitch had to share:

Boxing Insider: Stitch, what was your role in this movie?

Stitch: Well you take a guess brother, I was the Cutman! (he says laughing) they brought me in to be part of the Creed legacy. When I did the first creed film, I told Ryan Coogler “Ryan if I see something that’s not authentic to the game I’ll bring it to your attention.” Ryan then said, “Stitch that’s why we brought you in here.” So, on that aspect I thought that was a very strong thing for him to say. It was pretty awesome actually and you know throughout the whole 1st Creed movie, and now this movie, not only was I the Cutman, but I was also an advisor to the judges around ringside, the referees, all the inspectors and everything. I helped and guided them in doing the right things. You guys will see when you watch the movie, you’ll notice that, what we put together, is pretty awesome!

Boxing Insider: We were there for the premier and to see the outcome of what you guys put together was extraordinary. To see how the audience in the cinema engaged with it, as if it was a real fight, was phenomenal. With your expertise in combat sports, did you have an input into how the fights were choreographed?

Stitch: Not so much in the fighting scenes. There were guys there who choreographed everything. With Michael B. Jordan though I helped keep him in that “fighter mode”. I remember when we did the first movie, I spent like 6 weeks one-on-one with Michael, which was tremendous. I would spend quality time with him in his dressing room, wrapping his hands so we would talk. I was just so impressed with him one day that I said “Michael, you’ve done such a great job in being a fighter that I am going to knight you as a fighter. You are an official fighter now”. Based on the first movie and on the second movie you can see his skill level has gotten so much better! Michael has done such a great, great job!

You talk about the psychological aspect, going back to one of your earlier questions. In the last scene where he’s fighting Viktor Drago, both Florian and Michael are just exhausted! They’re just doing take after take so they’re tired. I remember Florian sitting on the stool and Michael is down on the Canvas with Steven Caple, the Director, on his knees talking to Michael. I’m also down on my knees listening to the conversation. I hear Steven telling Michael “we have to get everything out of you for this last scene. You have to be exhausted Michael. You have to get everything out of you, I need everything out of you”. I’m over here thinking to myself “wow, what a great Director”. I see that Michael was exhausted. I tell him “Michael, this is where the Lion takes over”. I helped him get back up and they went on to finish that final scene.

Boxing Insider: Were there any moments, behind the scenes, where you had to stitch someone up or something because of accidental contact during the making of those fight scenes?

Stitch: Not so much stitching guys up, but you know Michael and Florian, they couldn’t help not making contact with each other. There was a moment, and you’ll be one of the first to know about this, that Michael showed me his knee and he has a lot of water built up in it. Michael asked me what I thought about it and I told him “Michael you’re going to have to get this drained”. That was on a Friday, and these guys worked their asses off. So, I get back to set that following Monday, Michael comes over and tells me that he got his knee drained and showed me the video of it. It’s things like that where they appreciate your knowledge and those are moments you just don’t forget.

Boxing Insider: How was it working with all these Boxing professionals on a movie set where everything is more choreographed?

Stitch: It was great! Andre Ward, you know, I’ve been working with him ever since he became a Pro. It was nice seeing him do all the acting parts and all that. All the other guys that were involved in the movie were just so excited to be part of this legacy. You look at them, you work with them, and a lot of those guys I wrapped them up behind the scenes. To see those guys, do what they do, I know when they see the movie they’re going to be super proud that they were part of this legacy.

Boxing Insider: To be a part of the Creed and Rocky legacy, it must feel like such an amazing honor.

Stitch: It definitely is! And you know Henry when we did the first Creed movie, it was like the 3rd or 4th week and I remember telling Sly (Sylvester Stallone) “Sly you know I can’t sleep at night. I’m in my room and I keep asking myself what am I doing here?” and he tells me “Stitch, you earned it”. There was another moment when I got the script for the 1st movie and my name on the script was Marcel. “Marcel?” I questioned. I didn’t even know anyone by the name of “marcel” let alone any Cutman. So, I said I was going to try and change my character’s name. then Sly being the professional that he is, when it was time for him to introduce us to Adonis (Michael B. Jordan’s character) he introduces me as “Stitch, the best Cutman in Philadelphia” and oh man, deep inside Henry I was screaming “Yes!”. The next day, I thanked him and once again Sly being such a professional says “Well it has to feel authentic”. So many props to him for understanding what makes a great movie.

Boxing Insider: For all those who are still waiting for the movie to be released in theaters, is there any last words you’d like to say to them?

Stitch: Henry you saw the movie, I saw the movie. It’s going to be great! The story line between Ivan Drago and his son Viktor Drago is a great storyline. To be able to see the side of the opponent, in all these boxing movies you never really get to see that side. Its only the star of the movie who we learn about. In this movie, we have a few stars. We have Florian who obviously fights Michael B. Jordan and then we have Dulph Lundgren that was, and continues to be Ivan Drago. So now he’s back in the movie so it was nice to rekindle his legacy and then to see the side of his son. Even the storyline with Michael and Tessa Thompson who plays “Bianca” Michael’s wife is a great storyline. Obviously “Rocky” he’s always going to be respected in whatever position he’s in, so expect to see a great movie. Also, the soundtrack is pretty amazing, I was really excited about that.

I spoke to Florian at the after-party of the movie premier and I told him how proud I am of him. Now Florian is the only one to get away with calling me “Stitchy” I remember telling him on set “Florian, if you weren’t so big I’d kick your ass” but that’s just the cariño (“affection” in Spanish)
So, I say to him “I’m so proud of you man, you’re going to be a star” he then says “Stitchy, I’ve read your articles and appreciate your kind words. I’m starting to get all kinds of offers now and you know what Stitchy? Now I can call my shots on these”. So, expect to see more of Florian Munteanu’s face, because he’s definitely going to be a star. Michael B. Jordan, the things that he has been doing! He’s the new “Denzel Washington” of the modern age. I’m so proud to be part of his team. So, check out the movie, it’s going to be tremendous!

Stitch grew up as a farmworker in the Central Valley of California. He still considers himself that humble little Chicano who grew up in the San Joaquin Valley. When he came to New York for the premiere, he was in disbelief that he was here with all these top actors. “Everyone is treating me like an actor, and calling me a legend. It’s a mind-blowing experience!” he says.
“That’s why I like to tell people especially the Latinos that “si se puede” which means it can be done. It’s all perseverance. Go out there and do what your heart tells you to do and even if you don’t reach the highest level, you’ll still be at a higher level than where you are today”.

Creed 2 hits theaters November 21st, 2018. This is a fight you won’t want to miss!

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Boxing Insider Interview with Stitch Duran: A Cutman’s Insight Part 1


By: Henry Deleon

With all the excitement and anticipation going on for the new movie Creed 2, Boxing Insider had the great honor of interviewing one of combat sports highly praised Cutman, Jacob “Stitch” Duran. Stitch ,who plays Adonis Creed’s Cutman in Creed 2, shared some insight on what it’s really like to be a Cutman. Here’s what he had to say:


Photo Credit: @stitchduran twitter account

Just for the people who might not know who you are can you tell us a little about yourself?

Stitch: Well as “Stitch” goes, I am a Cutman for fighters. I work all Combat events, Boxing, MMA down to the Bare Knuckle fights and I’ve done kickboxing before. So that’s what I do but the bottom line is for me to take care of the fighters. I’ll wrap their hands, help them get ready to go to battle. During the fights they get swelling, they get cuts and my job is to make sure they are okay, which is number one and help give them every opportunity to win the fights.

Boxing Insider: what inspired you to choose this profession?

Stitch: It actually just happened. I was in the air force back in 1974 during the Vietnam War. They sent me to Thailand and I saw my first Muay Thai fight so I ended up getting addicted to that and I started training that whole year I was there. When I got back I live in Oakland and I went to Kings Gym which is where Andre Ward trains at. I started learning how to box to improve my hands. My elbows, knees were already all good but from there I started training Amateur boxers and down the road I ended up opening up my own school of kickboxing which was A.S.K, the American School of Kickboxing. There I trained fighters, managed them, and just for economical purposes having learned all trades of combat, I started wrapping hands and working cuts and that just floated to the top. So 23 years ago I picked up my family, I moved from the Bay Area to Las Vegas to be a Cutman only and so I’ve been there ever since.

Boxing Insider: You mention one of the roles for a Cutman is to wrap a fighters hands. Can you explain a little more on the importance of wrapping a fighters hands properly?

Stitch: It’s extremely important to wrap a fighters hands properly. Frank Mir from the UFC once said and I quote “When I see Stitch walk into the dressing room, my stomach just drops because I know it’s time to fight” but in doing that, the psychology, outside just the mechanics of wrapping a good hand, protecting the knuckles, metacarpals the wrist and the thumb, is extremely important. Because these guys are getting ready to go to battle and you want to make sure their hands are ready and that’s one of the things I’m really good at but basically the bottom line of wrapping a good hand is so you don’t break them.

Boxing Insider: You mention a “psychological aspect” in what you do, do you mind telling us a little more about that, what’s the psychological toll it takes to be a Cutman?

Stitch: Well that’s a great question, Henry because that’s not something you go to school to learn. Because going to school to learn to be a Cutman is non-existent. I’ve done videos to help guys out but on the psychological aspect you have to really have been in the trenches in knowing what these guys are going through on the mental side and on the physical side and it’s how your approach with the psychological aspect that’s makes it important to give these guys confidence. A lot of guys when I wrap their hands you know you can see their confidence levels go up, and you know there’s many times when a guy will give you a hug and a kiss and tell you they love you because they know it’s time to go to battle and they know I’m there to take care of them so psychologically it’s important.

A good story is when Wladimir Klitschko fought Anthony Joshua, Wladimir Klitschko’s last fight. In the dressing room before the weigh in, I put my hand on his shoulder and I said Wladimir, don’t worry about nothing tomorrow, I’m going to take care of you like you’re my son. And he’s been the heavyweight champion of the world for like 12 years.

So during the fight in front of 90,000 screaming British, before Michael Buffer makes the announcement, I’m putting the final Vaseline on Wladimir, and it’s just between him and I and he looks down on me and says “Stitch, you can call me son” and you know, I thought that was extremely important because I knew throughout the night when he was thinking about the fight, that statement I made the day before stayed in his mind, and that’s probably the greatest fight he’s ever had in his career.

And then he calls me like 3 or 4 days after and he’s like “Hey Daddy”, so you know it stood with him.

Boxing Insider: Wow that’s amazing. So you end up developing a strong bond with these fighters you work with. Has there ever been a time in your career where you panicked because of how a cut was? Like how important is it for a Cutman to stay composed in situations like that.

Stitch: Damn that’s another good question. Damn you’re pretty good bro.
It’s extremely important keeping your composure. When people ask me what it takes to be a Cutman, you know the number one thing that goes at the top of the list, is keeping your composure. Obviously having the right tools of the trade, knowing when to use them and how to use them that goes with it but composure is extremely important. Have I ever choked in a situation like that? No I’ve been really good at keeping my composure. And it’s important because a fighter will read you. Mike Pyle, another UFC fighter once said “When I see Stitch walking in, I know I have a cut but I’m not concerned” Even Andre Ward, when he got cut, he said “ I knew I got cut but the first thing that popped in mind was I’m not worried because I have Stitch in my corner.” and those are very strong words.

Boxing Insider: What advice can you give a trainer, in a circumstance where he has an amateur fighter and his fighter gets cut or a swollen eye. What advice can you give him on how to handle the situation, knowing at amateur level you don’t have access to a Cutman in your corner.

Stitch: You’re pretty good bro. You know for all these amateur cultures and actually a lot of them with the pros, especially in the pro’s, because this is the only A level sport where you don’t have to be certified to be a trainer so on that aspect it’s important for them to study other Cutman to get as much information as possible. The common sense for the key element to what we do is if it was you, how would you like for somebody to take care of you. so that’s very important.

Jacob “Stitch” Duran has worked with countless boxing champions like Andre ward, Chris Algeiri, Wladamir Klitchsko and many more. Catch Stitch alongside Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone on November 21, 2018 in Creed 2. Creed 2 brings to you one of the most sought out fights you won’t want to miss!

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Did Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran Duck Colombia’s Antonio “Kid Pambele” Cervantes?


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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Flashback: Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran And The Shot Heard Round The World


By: Sean Crose

Both Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran were already legendary figures back in 1984. Duran, the hardened Panamanian tough guy, had finally earned back the respect he had lost after quitting on Ray Leonard in the middle of their 1980 New Orleans rematch by besting Davey Moore and giving middleweight powerhouse Marvin Hagler all he could handle. Hearns, on the other hand was on a six fight win streak after being bested by Leonard in an all-time fight classic several years earlier. As history would go on to prove, both men were serious threats and would remain so for what seemed like ages.

Before they would move on to further glory, however, they would have to face each other. On the line would be Hearn’s WBC super welterweight strap. Duran’s WBA version of the title might have been at stake as well, but Duran gave that belt up rather than fight his mandatory opponent, Mike McCallum. The bout itself was to be held in Las Vegas, outdoors at Caesar’s Palace, to be exact, after the planned Bahamas location proved to be incompatible.

Duran was thirty two years old at the time of the bout, but he had proven age to be just a number when he gave Hagler a run at middleweight just a few months earlier. To consider the Panamanian finished at this point in his career would be a terrible mistake, something Hearn’s trainer, Emanuel Steward, knew all too well. “I can see it going so many ways,” Sports Illustrated quoted Steward as saying beforehand, “and one of them is Tommy hitting Duran with a real shot and Duran just standing there grinning. It could really frustrate Tommy.”

Hearns, though, was not to be frustrated by Duran, at least not in the ring. This was the chance for the guy known as “The Hit Man” to start knocking people out again. Hearns might have won a new title and beaten the likes of Wilfred Benitez since the Leonard loss, but he hadn’t been the frightening puncher he was before the Leonard classic. “His whole value judgment is based on how hard he can hit,” Hearn’s doctor was to be quoted as saying. “This man actually lives and exists mentally from the power of his right hand. It’s his self-image.”

With so much on the line for both men, it was clear that this fight was a big deal. Indeed, it would be no network television event. It would be aired live via closed circuit and pay per view. What’s more, each man would make over a million dollars. With big events, after all, come big bucks. To the undoubted surprise of many, however, the fight ended up being a big blowout. That doesn’t mean it was a dud, however. Indeed, Hearns-Duran still stands as a thrilling, if completely one sided, two round action fest.

It was said that Duran intensely wanted the Hearns fight. Yet within the first round that evening, the 2-1 underdog was dropped before the live crowd of close to 15,000 people. What’s more, Duran was dropped again before the round was over. To make matters worse, Hearns had dazed his man so badly that Duran went to the wrong corner after the bell sounded ending the first chapter. “He surprised me,” Duran reportedly told his corner. Before rising for the second round, however, Duran explicitly instructed his team not to stop the fight. It was as if the man knew what was coming.

The days of quitting were indeed over for Roberto Duran, but a terrible loss was now imminent. Finding his man with his back to the ropes in the midst of a savage bit of handiwork, Hearns fired a right hand for the ages. It hit Duran so cleanly, with such power, that the iconic fighter literally fell flat on his face before a stunned crowd. There was no need for a count. Indeed a count would only have prolonged what was a finished fight. Doing the right thing, referee Carlos Pedilla stopped the bout. The ferocious Hearns was back by virtue of a single frightening shot that echoed throughout the early Vegas night and beyond.

The story, of course, wasn’t over for either man. Less than a year later, Hearns himself would be the victim of a timeless knockout, courtesy of the gutsy Hagler. He would then move on to redeem himself against Leonard (thanks to a controversial draw) before, incredibly, earning himself a light heavyweight championship. And Duran? Well, the not so old man would go on to stun the world again by besting the terrific Iran Barkely for the middleweight title later in the decade. The lesson? Great fighters can never be counted out – even after they’ve been counted out.

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“Hands Of Stone” Director Jonathan Jakubowicz: “It’s The Beauty Of working With Geniuses.”


“Hands Of Stone” Director Jonathan Jakubowicz: “It’s The Beauty Of working With Geniuses.”
By: Sean Crose

Sometimes we don’t know how well we have it. While living in a world of Twitter trends and the latest celebrity gossip, it’s often hard to appreciate the suffering that comes from growing up in dire poverty, or the fear that comes when one’s life might well be threatened. Such things, we might well feel, are only the stuff of movies, right?

Wrong.

Édgar Ramírez and Robert De Niro star in HANDS OF STONE

While the upcoming film “Hands of Stone” deals with the relationship between Panamanian boxing legend Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran – played by Argentinian actor Edgar Ramirez – and American trainer Ray Arcel – played by Robert DeNiro – it’s worth keeping in mind that the film is based on a true story. For the real Duran grew up in grinding poverty in his home country, while Arcel had legitimate reason for fearing the mafia would kill him. It’s actual life the movie deals with…though the story itself is custom made for Hollywood.

Director Jonathan Jakubowicz, took time to speak over the phone on Monday and claimed he wanted to create the “story of a positive Latino figure.” He ultimately settled on the 103-16 boxing legend. “Why not,” he asked, “focus on somebody who actually achieved greatness?” Sure enough, Duran’s life is fertile ground for a biopic. “He was a legend,” Venezuela’s Jakubowicz told me, “to all of us.”

“I was fascinated by him,” the director stated about his subject, “by his style, by everything he represented.” Yet Jakubowicz, who burst onto the scene with 2005’s “Secuestro Express” made it clear Duran “wasn’t a saint.” Sure enough, Duran was apt to make things as difficult for the “Hands of Stone” team as it was for his trainers during his prime.

For instance, just before Duran was to give the film his blessing, the feisty 65-year-old instead decided to give the production team a jolt. “He called us at five in the morning,” Jakubowicz said, “and sent us to hell saying he’s not going to sign anything.” Fortunately for the director, it was all bluster. “He’s a mind gamer,” claimed the director, adding that “he comes from rage.”

Sure enough, the dire poverty of Duran’s youth helped shape the man. Jakubowicz explained how, as the extremely poor Panamanian son of an American Marine who abandoned his paternal obligations, Duran felt the sting of American influence, as well as an individual American’s neglect. Still, the director made it clear that America also provided with fighter with incredible opportunity, especially through the person of Ray Arcel, who’s played by Robert DeNiro in the film.

“That dichotomy I found extremely fascinating,” the director said.

What may be extremely fascinating to film and boxing fans is the film’s cast. Besides Ramirez, who was brilliant in 2010s “Carlos,” Robert DeNiro, famous for, among other things, the fight classic “Raging Bull,” proved to be extremely helpful. As Arcel, he plays an aging trainer who comes back to the fight game after being run out of boxing years earlier by the mafia.

“He said I needed to work on the script,” Jakubowicz said of DeNiro, “to find Ray Arcel’s voice.” After helping Jakubowicz strengthen the screenplay, the legendary actor was then ready to act in the film. “DeNiro, he transformed,” Jakubowicz claimed, mentioning that the actor “shaved his head and dyed his hair white.”

Yet DeNiro wasn’t the only big name to come aboard. Someone was needed to play Duran’s arch nemesis, the popular and masterful “Sugar” Ray Leonard. Needless to say, Leonard the character was as difficult to cast as Leonard the fighter was difficult to defeat. Jakubowicz was bewildered. “I met with Freddie Roach,” the filmmaker said. “He goes, ‘listen, for Sugar Ray, you should get a dancer.’” That may have seemed crazy, but Jakubowicz took the iconic trainer’s advice. The role went none other than pop icon Usher – who’s listed in the film as Usher Raymond IV.

Much to Jakubowicz’ delight the song and dance maestro “trained for like a year for Leonard.” Sure enough, the great fighter himself helped prepare Usher for the role. “You nail the smile,” Leonard said of Usher, “everything else I’ll teach him.”

“It’s the beauty,” Jakubowicz said of the “Hands of Stone” experience, “of working with geniuses.”

With the script and cast lined up, it was time to film. “I focused on the psychological aspect of the sport,” Jakubowicz claimed, explaining that the first fight between Duran and Leonard contains a lot of “quick cuts,” due to the up close and personal nature of that battle. The rematch in New Orleans, however, was filmed with “wide lenses,” in order to effectively capture the movement and tempo of the notorious rematch. And the first fight in the film, where Arcel initially catches Duran in action live and in person? Jakubowicz made sure that viewers are “seeing it through the eyes of Ray Arcel.”

It was obvious just talking to the director that he was a true fan of the sport of boxing. “It’s a labor of love,” he said of the film, adding that “the golden era of boxing” that Duran and Leonard ruled, deserved top notch treatment. After all, these were men who went for broke – repeatedly. And frankly, it’s a story that’s needed to be told on film.

“We really need everybody to go,” Jakubowicz said.

Undoubtedly many fight fans will heed the call.
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“Hands Of Stone” opens nationwide on August 26th.

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Manos de Piedra: The Life of Roberto Duran


Manos de Piedra: The Life of Roberto Duran
By: Matthew N. Becher

​From the small country of Panama came one of the greatest boxers the world has ever known. Roberto Duran was born in El Chorrillo in 1951 and would grow up to be a four division world champion and boxing hall of famer. He would forever leave an impact on the sport and put his country on the map.

​Duran turned pro in February of 1968, at the age of 16. He would win that fight, and go on to win his next 31 fights, most of which took place in his native Panama. He fought at Lightweight and in that time would make a stop, at the age of 21, to fight Ken Buchanan for the WBA lightweight title at the most famous Arena in the world, Madison Square Garden. During this fight, Duran would formally introduce himself to the world, by winning his first of many titles and showing off his incredibly punching power. The same year Duran would lose his first title and fight to Esteban De Jesus, which he would avenge two years later in a rematch.

​For the next ten years Duran would stay atop the division, Unifying titles, until he decided to move up and challenge for the WBC welterweight belt, in 1980, against the undefeated American, Sugar Ray Leonard. This would be Duran’s most famous and impressive victory, as he beat Sugar Ray up from bell to bell. Duran showed the world that his brute force and fighting style was superior to the beloved Leonard’s speed and flashiness. He would become the best fighter in the world.

​5 months later, in the rematch, Duran would be part of another famous fight, the “no mas” fight. Duran quit in the middle of the eighth round, in a fight he was losing to Leonard, by telling the ref “no mas” (no more). Many stories have been told about why Duran stopped the fight. From stomach cramps to exhaustion to just being frustrated with the style and show that Leonard was displaying that particular evening. It would haunt Duran for the rest of his life.

​Duran would win and lose some more in the 1980s, winning a title in a third division by knocking out Davey Moore for the WBA super middleweight title. In his very next fight that year (1983) Duran would lose a hard fought decision against one of the greatest Middleweights of all time, Marvelous Marvin Hagler. His next fight after that would be another loss, back down in weight against Thomas Hearn’s.

​Even in defeat, Duran was still attempting to fight the greatest fighters of the era, regardless of weight class. He cemented himself as one of the “Four Kings” of boxing, a group of fighters consisting of himself, Leonard, Hearn’s & Hagler. They were the best of the best, strewn across weight classes, all meeting in the ring to prove who the best was. Duran was the lightest, which never even entered his mind. He took each one on, and established himself as one of the best ever.

​Duran would eventually become the middleweight champion of the world by defeating the extremely talented Iran Barkley in 1989. It was Ring Magazines “Fight of the Year” and it made Duran only the 3rd fighter to ever win titles in four weight classes.

​Roberto Duran would keep fighting into the 90s, taking on fighters like Vinny Pazienza, Hector “Macho” Camacho and William Joppy. His last fight took place in 2001 against the Hall of Famer Camacho. It would be Duran’s 119th fight. A career that spanned five decades. He fought his first fight in 1968 and his last in 2001….33 years.
​The man known as “Manos de Piedra” (Hands of Stone) would compile a records of 103 wins, 16 losses and 70 of his wins coming by way of knockout. He rose from extreme poverty in his native Panama to become the first man to ever beat Sugar Ray Leonard. His legacy will always be cemented as one of the greatest fighters ever. In 1999, the Associated Press rated him as the greatest lightweight and the seventh greatest fighter of the century. Ring Magazine would later name him also as the greatest lightweight ever and the 5th best fighter of the past 80 years. Duran would be inducted into the International boxing hall of fame exactly 5 years after his retirement in 2007.

Édgar Ramírez and Robert De Niro star in HANDS OF STONE

​On August 26th, a biographical film will be released about the life of the great Roberto Duran called, fittingly enough “Hands of Stone”, Edgar Ramirez will depict the great champion, as well as Robert DeNiro as Ray Arcel and Usher Raymond as Ray Leonard. It is a film that will need to fit a lot of information into a small time frame. Fifty years of fighting and historical boxing moments. One thing is for sure, they couldn’t have picked a better figure in the sport to make a movie about.

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CBS Sports Net Boxing Preview: Mosley vs. Avanesyan


CBS Sports Net Boxing Preview: Mosley vs. Avanesyan
By: William Holmes

On Saturday night “Sugar” Shane Mosley’s GoBox Promotions will present a televised card on CBS Sports Net live from the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

Shane Mosley will be featured in the main event of the evening when he takes on David Avanesyan for Avanesyan’s WBA Interim Welterweight Title.

Pacquiao_Mosley weighin 110506_004a

Several prospects will be featured on the card, including Dimar Ortuz (10-0), Shane Mosley Jr. (6-1), Victor Castro (16-0), and Luis Oliveras (10-0). The only other bouts scheduled to be televised will be Victor Castro against Carlos Zatarian (6-2-2) in the lightweight division as well as Dimar Ortuz (10-0) against Ricardo Campillo (9-9-1) in the cruiserweight division.

Several pre fight activities were planned this week. The promotion attempted to break the Guinness world record for the largest boxing lesson in history on May 24th and they held a ring girl search on May 25th. The promotion will also hold a public workout on May 26th with celebrity guests.

Additionally, the official weigh in will be open to the public on May 27th at the Westfield Shopping Center and a publicized flash mob will be held on the same date following the weigh in.

UFC fighter Brendan Schaub and boxing journalist Steve Kim are the scheduled broadcasterse for the bout.

The following is a preview of the main event of the evening.

David Avanesyan (21-1-1) vs. Shane Mosley (49-9-1); WBA Interim Welterweight Title

Despite the fact Shane Mosley is forty four years old and has nine losses on his record, he gets another shot at a world title when he faces David Avanesyan for the WBA Interim Welterweight Title.

The winner of this bout will be next in line to face the winner of Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman which is scheduled for June 25th in Brooklyn, New York. The winner, no matter who it is, will be a significant underdog against Porter or Thurman.

Avanesyan is seventeen years younger than Mosley, but will be giving up a half an inch in height and approximately two and a half inches in reach. On paper, Mosley appears to have more power than Avanesyan. Mosley has stopped forty one of his opponents while Avanesyan has only stopped eleven. However, Molsey’s last two fights were stoppage victories in 2015, but before that he hasn’t had a stoppage win since 2009. Avanesyan last two fights were also by stoppage victory.

Mosley has the better professional resume and amateur resume. Mosley won the US Amateur Championships as a lightweight but failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympics when he lost to Vernon Forrest in the light welterweight semifinals.

Mosley’s recent record has been subpar as he defeated a clearly past his prime Ricardo Mayorga and fringe contender Pablo Cesar Cano. His other notable victories came earlier in his career, and include Antonio Margarito, Luis Collazo, Fernando Vargas, Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Diaz, and Jesse James Leija.

Mosley’s nine losses have come against some of the best in boxing. They include Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright twice each, Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, and Anthony Mundine.

Avanesyan lone defeat was to Andrey Klimov early on in his career. His notable victories pale in comparison to Mosley, but they include Charlie Navarro, Dean Byrne, Kaizer Mabuza, and Carlos Herrera.

Mosley has hired the legendary Roberto Duran to be his trainer for this bout and they are calling themselves the “Sugar and Stone” team. Mosley is clearly past his prime, and he hopes that pairing up with Duran will help recapture that magic he had earlier in his career.

If this bout happened five years ago Mosley would be a clear favorite. But his recent fight against Mayorga was considered by many to be a farce and he looked terrible in his loss to Anthony Mundine.

Avanesyan doesn’t appear to have the power to stop Mosley, but the seventeen year difference in age should make a difference if the bout goes all twelve rounds.

It’s a tough fight to pick, but father time is not on Mosley’s side.

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