Roberto Duran was born in El Chorillo, Panama to a Mexican father and a Panamanian mother. He grew up in a poor neighborhood in a one bedroom house with eight siblings, fathered by four different men. He was kicked out of school at 13 and turned professional at 16.
After 16 straight wins Duran faced Ernesto Marcel. Both future world champions, the bout between the two Panamanians was much anticipated. Marcel came in the slight favorite against the 18 year-old Duran. Undaunted, Hands of Stone (Duran) wore down his fellow countryman forcing the referee to stop the fight in the 12th.
In his 29th fight Duran received his title shot against Ken Buchanan for the WBA Lightweight Championship. A 2-1 underdog, Duran battered Buchanan. After dominating for the first 12 rounds, controversy struck in the 13th. Not hearing the bell, Duran kept swinging after the end of the round. Referee Johnny LoBianco bear hugged Duran, trying to get him off Buchanan, but by doing so, he altered Duran’s right hand and Hands of Stone hit the champ below the belt. Buchanan went down and the fight was awarded to Duran as LoBianco had not seen the low blow.
Two knockouts later, Duran faced Esteban DeJesus in 1972. After a minor car crash during training camp, Duran came into the fight unprepared and suffered the first loss of his career. Lucky for Duran, it was not for the title. In his next fight, the hard-hitting champ knocked three of Jimmy Robertson's teeth out.
Next up was a rematch with DeJesus, and Duran recorded another ferocious knockout. Then he violently knocked out Ray Lampkin leaving the former convulsing in the ring. His reputation for brutal victories was becoming infamous. After knocking out Pedro Mendoza in the first round, Mendoza's wife stormed the ring and rushed the champ. The champ nailed her with a right hand and knocked her out quicker than he'd done her husband.
Julio Cesar Chavez was born in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico in July 1962. Like Duran, Chavez had nine siblings and a poor childhood. His father worked on the railroad and the family lived in an abandoned railroad car. He took up boxing at the age of 16 and turned professional after 15 fights.
Chavez was 17 when he made his debut. He rattled off 44 straight wins, including 20 straight stoppages, before receiving a title shot, which came in the form of Mario Martinez and the WBC Super-Featherweight Championship. Chavez dominated throughout and the ref stopped the match in the eighth. Chavez made eight more defenses of his belt before vacating it and moving up to the lightweight division to take on Edwin Rosario. In a classic, Chavez recorded one of his greatest performances as he stopped Rosario in the 11th round.
Roberto Duran was an intimidating fighter but according to Bob Goodman,
"there was nothing contrived about it. Some guys try to create an image by acting like an animal but not Duran. He was a f*****g beast."
Duran could fight with relentless pressure or as a masterful counter puncher. He could move, he could feint, he had good balance and anticipation. He was a ring tactician who happened to possess uncanny power in both fists.
Julio Cesar Chavez was a boxer who won on skill as much as he did on will. He never took a step back and came on all fight, putting insufferable pressure on opponent after opponent. He had one of the best chins in the history of the sport.
A Duran/Chavez bout would be a dream match for fight fans.
It would be a tough call guessing who would come out with the win, but I think I have an idea.
Julio Cesar Chavez was a notorious slow starter and Duran was anything but. Hands of Stone would undoubtedly take the early rounds. Yet both men would gain confidence — Duran for recording points, Chavez for taking Duran's best punches and walking through them.
Duran's counters would be the difference in the middle rounds as Chavez would start to mount his attack. Chavez would continue to press through the counter punches, but Duran would keep wracking up the rounds.
I imagine Chavez knocking down Duran, but not out. After which, I see Duran fighting smarter and more defensive — continuing to win rounds by landing pot-shots when Chavez tried to get inside.
After the sound of the final bell, I don't see it being close at all — Duran the victor (118-109).