January 21st, 2014 By Pedro FernandezNEVER FORGOT “SMELL” OF MAIN ST. GYM
San Francisco, CA- Having been hanging around Los Angeles and the now razed Main St. Gym (original location) for a few days prior to the Roberto Duran-Pipino Cuevas fight at the Los Angeles Sports Arena set for January 29, 1983, the excitement was incredible pre-fight. The animosity between the Panamanian icon and the Mexican butcher who had went 12-1 in WBA welterweight (147 lb.) title fights was real. Cuevas had been tested and nearly bested by Randy Shields, the lone man to go the route with the Mexican fighter who again, looked so easy to beat.
PIPINO LOOKED AS EASY TO BEAT AS LIMON!
As an active amateur who had pummeled Bazooka Limoon in a sparring session, I knew punching from different angles and hand speed would befuddle the soon to defend WBC 130 lb. champion and that was the way to beat Pipino. Scheduled for four fistic frames, Limon’s people brought him in looking for southpaw sparring and not the basket full of knuckle sandwiches he was force fed, thus they pulled the plug after two with Limon never landing a telling blow.
POWER OF THE CUEVAS LEFT HOOK INCREDIBLE!
You look at Cuevas on TV and you say he’s an easy mark. Harold Weston, Angel Espada, Clyde Gray, the capable Harold Volbrecht, they all thought the same and ended up getting drilled by that oh-so predictable Cuevas left hook. In Weston’s case, the former Madison Square Garden matchmaker, a slick boxer was TKO’d in 9 rounds after suffering a broken jaw. His power, a good chin, and endurance were his strengths with only Tommy Hearns having laid out Cuevas and ending his championship run in 1980.
DURAN THE FAVORITE IN MEXICAN DOMINATED CROWD
Still trying toi rid himself of the “No Mas” stench that he acquired after the second Ray Leonard fight, Roberto was the guy who had all the pressure on him. With both men training at the Main St. Gym, where I saw legendary boxing people like Benny Georgino and Harry Kabakoff, Duran had that “possessed” look. But one could no longer rely on the sneer, the intimidation Duran was none for, not after he was handled by Wilfred Benitez one year prior.
WEIGH IN WHEN WEIGH INS WERE LESS FORMAL
Duran scaled a relatively solid 152 lbs., while Cuevas checked into that samne day weight in at 149 even.
FIGHT WAS DECIDED BY THE CUEVAS LEFT HOOK!
It was apparent who was imposing their will from the start as Duran was being aggressive and Cuevas, who looked a little perplexed by Duran’s hand speed and head movement, was looking to land his “money” punch, aka that left hook on Duran’s chin. In round four, Pipino landed his best shot and Duran, like Marvin Hagler when he was on the receiving end of a Tommy Hearns right hand, Duran just sort of looked at Cuevas, paused a for a second and then went on to stop Cuevas later in round four when referee James Jen Kin ended matters.
PARTY IN EAST LOS ANGELES AFTERWARDS!
We all ended up at a corner house in an L.A. barrio. Getting there just prior to the victorious Duran, one of the most memorable sights I’ve even seen was when Duran exited the white SUV and kissed the ground before entering the house. With the pressure off of Duran’s shoulders, we never once heard the name of Duran’s next foe and WBA novice 154 lb. champ in the late Davey Moore.
CAKE, BEER, CHAMPAGNE, GOOD PEOPLE & MEMORIES!
With my best friend Hector Martinez, Duran’s future co-manager at my side, we had a good time until we returned to our hotel circa 3 AM. It was a glorious night of boxing, Duran-Cuevas, former late heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry being the TV analyst, Dr. Jen Kin the referee, ex-pug and actor Tony Danza was present, the near capacity crowd was hot. In closingm January 29, 1983 was a great night for the sport and business of boxing in good old El Lay.