ROBERTO DURAN’S LAST STAND: PART III
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.
STUCK IN PHILADELPHIA NOT EVER A GOOD THING
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!
LIKE A GRAVEYARD OF CARS ALONG THE ROUTE
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.
HAD A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH RAY LEONARD’S BRAIN
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.
DURAN IS ALL BUSINESS THIS TIME AROUND!
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.
DONALD’S TRUMP HAS FIGHT IN A TRUMP BALLROOM
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.
FIGHT WAS NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT AFTER TEN ROUNDS
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.
“TOP CAT” BEGINS PLOTTING AGAINST DURAN….AGAIN!
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!