By Cliff Rold
In the first part of this series, designed to culminate the week of the May 2nd showdown between Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KO) and World Junior Welterweight champion Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32 KO), Pacquiao’s previous title claims in five weight divisions were examined. Identified were three lineal titles at Flyweight, Featherweight, and Jr. Lightweight. Against Hatton, Pacquiao goes for overall title for lineal title number four. How historically significant would it be?
In order to answer that question, the page now turns to the other men who have made claims to titles in four, five and six weight divisions, closing looking at how their championship accolades weather the weight of history. Those men are:
Four Division Claimants
1. Roberto Duran
2. Pernell Whitaker
3. Leo Gamez
4. Roy Jones Jr.
Five Division Claimants
1. Sugar Ray Leonard
2. Thomas Hearns
3. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
And the lone Six Division Claimant
1. Oscar De La Hoya
Held in high enough regard by some historians to merit inclusion in, not only the top ten but, the top three prizefighters ever to grace the squared circle, Part II of this “Real History” journey takes us to the career of Panama’s finest prizefighter.
The Title Reigns of Manos de Piedra
World Lightweight – TKO13 Ken Buchanan: Turned professional just over the bantamweight limit in February 1968, Roberto Duran (career mark 103-16, 70 KO) did nothing but win on the way to entering the ring with Buchanan at 28-0 on June 26, 1972. He was 29-0 and the WBA titlist at the end of a memorable night. Duran was a picture of almost uncontained violence, pressuring and outfighting the game Scotsman before a low blow at the bell ending round 13 punctured Buchanan’s title reign (and other sensitive areas). Over the rest of the 1970s, Duran would rule Lightweight with an iron fist, amassing twelve title defenses over notable warriors like Ray Lampkin and his peak rival, Esteban De Jesus. DeJesus defeated Duran in ten rounds of non-title action just five months after the Buchanan win but failed to lift the title from Duran in two subsequent tries, both ended early by Duran. The second of them was a unification bout, the WBC having stripped Buchanan of their honors in 1971. Don’t let the stripping fool anyone; the crown Duran wrested from Buchanan was more than the WBA’s. The real divisional throne stretched in an unbroken line back to the legendary Ike Williams and belonged solely to Duran. Forecast: Clear, Lineal Claim to the World Title
World Welterweight – UD15 Sugar Ray Leonard: Following the second knockout revenge over DeJesus, Duran’s growing body turned up the scale skipping past the Junior Welterweight division and heading straight to 147. He dominated former Welterweight champion Carlos Palomino in June 1979, on the undercard of Larry Holmes-Mike Weaver, to make his presence known but his title shot would not come until a year later in Montreal. Leonard came in unbeaten in 27 affairs, holder of the WBC crown; Duran at a remarkable 71-1. In front of over 40,000 at Olympic Stadium, Duran outworked a brave and determined Leonard in one of the greatest Welterweight title affairs of all time for his second crown. How far back did the title reach historically? All the way to Virgil Akins filling of the vacancy left behind by Carmen Basilio in 1958; the belts stayed all together until 1975 when Jose Naploes relinquished the WBA belt for one of the sports myriad ‘political reasons.’ Duran would not hold the title long, losing in his first attempted defense in the infamous “No Mas” fight to Leonard later in 1980. Ultimately, it would be Leonard who reunified the crown, solidifying the lineage to the line it had never left. Forecast: Clear, Lineal Claim to the World Title
WBA Jr. Middleweight – TKO8 Davey Moore: Duran’s career would have its ups and downs after the Leonard loss before regaining traction in January 1983 with a stoppage victory over former WBA Welterweight titlist Pipino Cuevas to set up a June shot at the talented, but only 12-0, Moore. Moore’s camp thought they had an old man and paid with a dramatically shortened prime for their man. Moore was thrashed from early on, a legendary thumb swelling his eye shut early and Duran’s closed fists doing the rest. The Madison Square Garden crowd was as much a part of the story as the fight, their enthusiasm unlike anything to be seen again until the prime of Tito Trininad. In terms of titles though, it was not a strong claim. Why? In January 1982, Duran had challenged WBC titlist Wilfred Benitez and been soundly outboxed; Benitez subsequently lost via majority decision to Thomas Hearns in December 1982. Duran’s Benitez loss was decisive enough that Ring Magazine recognized Hearns as outright champion immediately after Duran-Moore. When Duran later attempted to prove such thinking wrong, he was nuked by Hearns in two rounds on June 15, 1984. Forecast: Hazy, but a fun piece of the Duran legend and always nice to win a belt
WBC Middleweight – SD12 Iran Barkley: The Hearns loss came after a competitive decision loss to Marvin Hagler for the Middleweight crown in 1983. Combined, they would be Duran’s last title fights for a long time. Another opportunity would not arrive until a cold winter evening in Atlantic City, February 24, 1989. At 37 years of age, Duran found the greatness within himself, the real Duran, for the final time. He and Barkley would battle on epic terms with Duran sealing the emotional win with an eleventh round knockdown in the Ring’s Fight of the Year. The Duran story can’t be told without the win, but the story of how strong the title claim was is a different story. The lineal Middleweight title was up in the air in the wake of Ray Leonard’s title victory over Marvin Hagler, following Hagler with a brief retirement and a relinquishing of the throne. Barkley entered the Duran fight hot off an upset third-round knockout win over Tommy Hearns in June 1988 for the WBC belt. However, prior to that, Barkley decisively lost a decision for the WBA belt versus Sumbu Kalambay in 1987. Kalambay should still have reigned there but for being forced to vacate the WBA belt in late 1988, the price for pursuing a unification bout with IBF king Michael Nunn. Nunn would win that bout with a first round knockout just a month after Duran-Barkley. Duran neither challenged Nunn nor ever defended the belt he won from Barkley. Forecast: Hazy, but one hell of a fight
Added together, Duran tallied titles in four weight classes but only two truly merited strong historical standing. It is important to note that in each of the latter two divisions where he held titles, he got his chances to capture the lineal crown and fell short. It is also worth noting both the titles he did capture came first after an unsuccessful challenge within the weight class and later against a man whose claim was weakened by having already lost to a co-titlist.
While Pacquiao may or may not one day be seen as a fighter of equal stature to the great Duran, victory over Hatton would clearly give him an accomplishment even Duran didn’t match. Will the same be said in Part III as the divisional run of the great Pernell Whitaker is explored?
To be continued…
For Part I of this “Real History” Series, log on to http://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=18886
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org