When Roberto Duran first fought Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, he turned a blind eye to former heavyweight world champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier.
Asked by a spectator if the Panamanian reminded him of anyone, Frazier was unequivocally shaken when he delivered his deadlocked answer.
“Yeah,” said the heavyweight veteran, remembering a mass murderer. “Charles Manson.”
The legend and mystique of the deadly four-weight world champion was helped and encouraged by none other than his revered trainer, Ray Arcel.
Just three days before the fight with Leonard, an ECG determined that Duran had an irregular heartbeat.
“This cannot be true,” said Arcel. “Duran has no heart.”
At the time, Duran had won 71 of his 72 professional fights and was starting to earn the nickname “El Diablo” among American journalists for his killer instinct and strange presence.
Born in 1951 into poverty, Duran started fighting at the age of eight with adult men and won his first 28 fights as a professional after leaving the amateur ranks at the age of 16.
He faced Scottish Ken Buchanan at Madison Square Garden for the WBA World Championships, Ring Magazine and Lineal and was considered a 2-1 outsider.
In the first 15 seconds, Duran overturned Buchanan and would continue to beat the champion until the 13th round. An accidental low blow from referee Johnny LoBianco forced Buchanan out of the fight.
Duran returned to his homeland with two new belts, an improved reputation and number one status. Buchanan said he left “with painful bullets”.
In his autobiographical film entitled “I Am Duran”, the legendary slugger suggests: “I was Mike Tyson before the arrival of Mike Tyson.
“The fighters were looking at me and shitting my shit in my pants. Leonard would be no different.
“It was beginning to dawn on the Americans that they had never encountered anything like me before – that strange, deadly being with his jet black hair, dark eyes and bad intentions.
“El Diablo, they called me: The Devil.”
Much has been done about Tyson’s potential return to the ring after his fight videos alongside Rafael Cordeiro went viral.
But it was Duran who inspired him to lace up the gloves in the first place.
“Roberto Duran is my favorite [sic] fighter, “Tyson wrote on Facebook. “When I saw Duran fighting, he was just a street guy … Dude, this guy is me, I thought. This is what I wanted to do.
“He was not ashamed to be who he was. I bonded with him as a human being. As my career progressed and people started praising me for being a savage, I knew that being called an animal was the greatest praise I could get from someone in the ring . I was fierce and fearless like Duran. “
Duran defeated Leonard in 1980 after prompting him to commit and prepare for a fight, instead, choosing to take out the Olympic gold medalist in Montreal.
When they met in November of the same year, Duran had spent time away from sport partying and eating. He was forced to drop nearly 200 pounds to the welterweight limit of 155 pounds in just under six weeks and that left him exhausted.
He knew Leonard would beat him before the first bell, but Ali’s reshuffle and the American’s taunts in the seventh round turned out to be too much.
In the eighth round, Duran allegedly proclaimed “No Mas” and waved his glove against the referee to end the fight.
The new celebrity status started long before the infamous sequel to Sugar Ray Leonard, with Duran actually appearing in Rocky II as a quick training partner alongside Sylvester Stallone.
When filming the sequel in 1978, Stallone would have gained confidence in his boxing ability when training for the first two films of the famous films.
The Panamanian would have beaten celebrity A-List so much that he had to tell him not to hit him in the face when the cameras rolled over fears that it could ruin his beauty.
When Stallone was asked in 2014 about the potential fight against Bernard Hopkins, he told TMZ: “No. I learned my lesson from Duran. “
Middleweight fights against Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns cemented his legacy as one of the “four kings” of the 1980s and earned him career salvation as he continued to gain weight and fight all the arrivals.
In 2001, while still fighting incredibly, he was nearly killed in a car accident in Argentina and had to undergo life-saving surgery after having punctured a lung due to a rib fracture.
At the age of 50, he officially announced his retirement and managed to make fun of his friend Diego Maradona during his last speech as a fighter.
He told El Panama America, “From now on, I’m exercising so that when (retired) honors come, people will see me in shape. I don’t want to (look) like Maradona, all fat. “
He finished with a career record of 104-16 and is widely recognized as one of the greatest punchers and most entertaining fighters to ever put on a pair of gloves.
Forged in the streets of Panama, the “Hands of Stone” have inspired millions of people around the world and plan to leave this world exactly as it happened.
“I was born a fighter and I will die a fighter,” he said. “In this story, there is only one legend. It’s me.”