Roberto Hands of Stone Duran

Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran

San Francisco, CA– Although we will be going back in time with the great Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran to early 1989, this story and segment of Duran’s career really begins in 1986. Roberto’s ex-manager Hector Martinez and I were on our way to Palm Springs, CA and the Palm Canyon Hotel where Duran is conducting a training camp. Boarding in San Francisco a flight to Palm Springs with a unannounced stop in Ontario, CA, this was PSA Airlines, AKA the Southwest of yesteryear.


Martinez and I, friends for decades have had our shall we say experiences traveling. First of all, we were both scared to death of flying at this time. This fear came from a rough flight out of Las Vegas in 1981, the morning after Salvador Sanchez, Mexico’s greatest fighter had drilled unbeaten Wilfredo Gomez of Puerto Rico. The plane hit air pockets, the worst in the 21 years the lead flight attendant had ever been in, and the plane was dropping for split seconds at a time. People remained composed at first, but when the plane started dropping more often and for longer intervals of time, people began screaming and panic had set in!


Having had jets pull away from the gate on us as we either ate, drank, were bull s*itting, or all three, Hector and I presented our boarding passes and sat down in assigned seats. The plane starts to roll out of the jetway and that’s when when they announce we are going to “Ontario.” My ticket says “Palm Springs.” When I got the attention of the flight attendant, while she admitted it was the fault of the airline, some printing problems with the boarding passes and gates numbers, there was no way the plane was going back to the gate. “May as well relax, you’re spending the night in Ontario.”


As if we needed the free booze, by the time we hit Ontario, the flight attendant said the airline would cover a hotel and give us some money for food as the next flight to Palm Springs was tomorrow morning. After tearing up Ontario in a rented car until the wee hours, PSA gets us to Palm Springs about noon. The airport in Palm Springs in 1986 looked like a 1960’s motel. You drove up, got out, gave your bag to the skycap and you figuratively just walked to your plane. Quite a different world it was prior to 9-11 when it came to air travel.


Roberto was training with Barry McGuigan, then World featherweight champ, they were sharing a giant tent the hotel put up for them. Barry, who would lose to Steve Cruz, imploding in the 100’+ heat. McGuigan, a likable guy who is now a TV broadcaster of note, his coming from Ireland, he never encountered this kind of heat. His being taken to and fro around the desert resort in a golf cart, the only time Barry was outside was to train in the afternoon and run in the pre-morning darkness. That and a broken eardrum led to his being beaten on points by Cruz in 15 rounds.


Duran was training for Robbie Sims, the stepbrother of then middleweight king Marvin Hagler, whom Duran had went the route with three years earlier. Having little respect for Sims, Duran trained accordingly. One night, Hector and I were leaving his room when a man with a small sheet cake from a local bakery was coming in. Training on cake and cutting weight at the end, Sims would out point Roberto over ten very forgettable rounds. Duran, the man who said “No Mas” (no more) to Ray Leonard in 1980, was he finally done? Having been knocked out by Tommy Hearns in June 1984 after extending Hagler six months earlier, Roberto Duran had just been beaten by an average fighter.


Part II, the final installment of this look at Roberto Duran, one of the greatest fighters to have ever lived. Part II Monday here at


  • Agree with these guys here…i’d buy the book!

  • Pedro’s been in the game for years, and unlike so many other writers, he actually fought himself. I think Pedro’s book would be a best-seller if he wrote one. How about it Pedro?

  • Agree with Ron your storys would make for a great book.

  • Pedro, have you ever thought about writing a book about all of the great times that you’ve experienced with SO many great Hall of Fame fighters? Great story-telling Pedro, can’t wait to read Part 2!

  • Ever thought about writing a book about all of the great stories that you have with so many Hall of Fame fighters? Great story-telling, Pedro! Can’t wait to read Part 2!!

  • Pedro, great behind the scenes Boxing story about one of the all time greats. I’m sure you have a million of them.

    Please write more of them.

  • That’s a great story about training on cake Pedro, didn’t know that. Pedro you would know guys who would have either been around Ray Robinson, or covered him, old school writers and trainers. What would these guys say who was greater between Duran and Robinson?

  • PSA was a great airline.

    One more great trip back into time with Pedro…

  • good stuff Roberto Duran was a true all time great champion it broke my heart to see him lose to tommy hearns by ko that was not the Duran of just a few years eailer when he sent chills down the spine of all he faced by the time Hearns Hagler the others faught him he was past his prime and not a natural weltererweight or middleweight just still a very tough and game fighter with a big name if he were active today in his prime Mayweather and Pacquiao would not be kings in boxing Roberto Duran would be no doubt about it thanks for the article looking forward to the 2nd installment

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