Roberto Hands of Stone Duran

Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran

San Francisco, CA– Seeing this is the third and final installment of this series on Roberto Duran, it is probably a good idea if you read Parts I & II before proceeding. Here are the links to each Click for Part I: Duran's Last Stand & Click for Duran's Last Stand Part II. Flying the US Air red eye from San Francisco to Philadelphia, PA, I used to wonder why we couldn’t just fly into Atlantic City for the big fights that were held on the Boardwalk in the 80s & 90s. I eventually did end up utilizing the AC airport, but it was much later than my arrival in Philly at 6:45 AM on this cold snowy day of February 24, 1989.


Usually you can get a shuttle, take the train, there a few ways to get to what was before the advent of Indian casinos, Sin City East AKA Atlantic City, NJ. Except when it is snowing! When I went into the car rental place, they advised me that even if I were allowed by the New Jersey Troopers to drive to AC, doing so in this weather was a risk. Meanwhile, I’m starting to freak out as hours are passing by and I’m still at the airport. That’s when I heard the radio broadcast that saved the day, “Four wheel drive vehicles are being allowed on the Atlantic City Expressway.” I rush back to the car rental place and you guessed it, they had ONE four-wheel drive car available!


As I cruised by cars covered in snow on the highway from Philly to AC, I was going to make it in time to see the entire Roberto Duran-Iran Barkely fight card. Checking into the Irish Pub & Hotel, the place of choice of boxing writers in AC for decades, it still is a two story wood frame building built in the late 1800’s I would think. Only a few walking blocks from the Boardwalk Hall, the food, the booze, the Pub is something everybody should experience. It’s a place when the AP’s Ed Schuyler, SI’s Pat Putnam, Mike Marley when he was the NY Post, hung out, a hotel where the late Godfather of boxing writers Jack Fiske had his own suite. If you were part of the fight world and you didn’t stay at the Pub, it was the place to be post fight in AC.


Being closer than most people in the game to “Sugar Ray” Leonard’s brain, Maryland attorney Mike Trainer, we hung around as the preliminary matches took place. Never one to pass up a drink with a friend, “Top Cat” as Trainer was referred to within the Ray Leonard camp, he got that nickname from former NFL player and Leonard bodyguard Ollie Dunlop. Trainer is there to scout things for Ray, for should Duran win, and he was a almost 4-1 underdog in some circles, Trainer would put together Leonard-Duran III.


With the fight an hour away, Hector Martinez, Duran’s co-manager at one point, he brings me back to Roberto’s dressing room. While I cannot describe the mood as somber, I must say having been present a number of times prior, this was the most serious Duran pre-fight dressing room I’d ever been in. Duran has his hands wrapped, he is shaking out in front of a mirror. What caught my eye right off the bat was Duran’s physical conditioning. The fat guy that he was months earlier in Chicago against Jeff Lanas was no mas! Roberto had slimmed down before (see Wilfred Benitiez) and had nothing, so the weight alone was no way to gauge him. What was indicative of his proper conditioning to me were the way Roberto’s legs and arms were cut up.


Now 38 years of age, Duran entered the ring at 84-7, 61 KOs. Barkely, the biggest middleweight that has ever fought at the weight, he had before knocking out Tommy Hearns for the WBC 160 lb. diadem, beaten good fighters like Michael Olaijade, Wilfred Scypoin, but lost on points to slick African and multi-time WBA champ Sumbu Kalambay. The fight with Hearns took place in June 1988, this fight with Duran is eight months later and after the now 28-year old Barkely (25-4, 16 KOs) had the aforementioned surgery to both remove metal chips left by an illegal cut medicine and repair the scar tissue above both eyes.


The 12 round fight had some lulls as the bigger Barkely would try and bully Duran around the ring. After ten rounds, you really didn’t know who was up because so many of the rounds were close. But in round eleven, Roberto Duran put everything he had into a four punch combination, perhaps the most beautiful of his illustrious career, with the final punch being a right hand that put Barkley down. Even with the two point round, Mike Trainer, he has Barkely up by four. After the judges votes were tallied, Tom Kaczmarek must have filled out his card in advance as TK had it 8-4 in rounds or 116-112 Duran. Italy’s Giuseppe Ferrari liked Duran even more with a ridiculous 118-112. The third judge, ike Ray Leonard’s advisor Mike Trainer, Dave Brown had it 116-113 for Barkely.


As we both left the post fight press gathering, Trainer said he would try and make the third-Leonard-Duran fight for late summer. That timetable didn’t hold true and neither did Duran’s conditioning as he was soft and pudgy when he and Ray met in December of that year in the freezing Nevada desert at the grand opening of the Mirage Hotel. Trainer, utilizing the same negotiating plan he did for the second Leonard-Duran fight, he waited until Duran blew up to well over 200 lbs, and demanded thee fight take place in three months. Just like the second fight, the “no mas” debacle, Roberto wasn’t in any kind of shape. Even though he would fight until 2001, the last time Roberto Duran showed up ready for a fight was against Barkely, thus thIs truly was Robero Duran’s Last Stand As Champion!

Pedro Fernandez


  • Great article. I do think Duran won a very close fight. I can also see somebody having it a draw or a one point win for Barkley. I do disagree in that the fight was nothing to write home about after 10! It’s a really great fight with a lot of back and forth action. You can give Duran the first round on the basis of him really hurting Iran at the end of it. i think the 5th or 6th was also his (It’s my favorite fight ever but I don’t have it that memorized!). he was really hurt and almost knocked down by Barkley in the 7th or eight and then
    (and this i do remember perfectly!)he sweeped the 9th trough 12th plus the knockdown. What a combination he landed! and what Heart & chin! the shots he took from Iran in that fight would have felled a building. it’s hard to believe that,IMHO, as great as Duran was, and to me he is top 10 greatest ever and undeniably the greatest Latin fighter, had he always trained he would have been even greater! Props to Barkley too for his chin and courage and participating in such a great fight.

  • Another example of boxing NOT taking care of their own, I guess. But buying that car wash in the Bronx, he tried to help out the hood and it flopped! Good guy!

  • Well said Mr. Silencio… Unfortunately, Iran is not doing very well these days as he is broke and at times has found himself homeless. Every now and then we run into him up here in the Bronx, and the man can barely speak and has a hard time understanding you. A total shame for a guy who gave so much to the sport and again the terrible side of the great sport of Boxing, how many of these guys end up that way. As for ‘Manos de Piedra’, we saw him recently here in Victor’s Cafe in Midtown Manhattan and the guy looks almost in fighting shape. He dropped mad pounds and looks incredible. Peace.

  • Thanks Brian Y!

  • You can watch round 11 and 12 of Barkley Duran here:

  • Duran v Barkley is one of my favorite fights to watch again and again. I watched with dread on television PPV, expecting my idol to be executed by Iran. Duran was Duran that night, one of the great fights ever in my opinion. Barkley was a real fighter, and wanted to avenge his late friend Davey Moore’s lose to Duran years prior. What a great fight. Long live the Legendary Roberto Duran, and long live warrior Iran Barkley.

  • Mr. Fernandez, I remember that Barkley/Duran fight had a lot of bad blood, as Barkley was saying he was going to avenge the horrific beating Roberto had given his home boy, Davey Moore (another Bronx, NY kid). When they asked Duran about that, I remember him sneering and answering (in Spanish) “who gives a Bleep, that’s his problem.” I had the fight close as well going into the 11th round and had Barkley slightly ahead. But man, when Roberto threw that four punch combo (which you so eloquently described) and put Barkley down, it was indeed a thing of beauty. Another thing I remember, was hearing Al Bernstein calling the fight and he had a great broadcast, as he almost saw Duran catching up to Barkley just before he put him down. Roberto Duran was indeed, El Hombre… Thanks for the memories, man. Peace.

  • Pedro this is Robert rios!! Changed the name to what’s out here lately!!!!! Did u notice Duran in the crowd for cheato pacman. He looked like he would give his remaining life just to be prime and get in the ring with pacman. It’s funny how a true warrior never stops being a warrior. Like Apollo Creed said it a shame we gotta get old!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *