by David P. Greisman
It’s hard to miss Jacob “Stitch” Duran — his face seems to be everywhere, and that’s because his work is, too.
The veteran cut-man is seen working wounds in both the squared circle and in the Octagon, relied on by boxers and mixed martial artists alike. When he’s not in the corner for a boxing match, he is one of the two main cut-men for the UFC.
BoxingScene.com recently caught up with Duran in Atlantic City.
BoxingScene.com: How did you end up getting involved as a boxing cut-man, and how’d you end up in mixed martial arts as well?
Duran: “Well, I actually started out in the martial arts. In 1974, I was in the Air Force, stationed in Thailand. There, I studied the Muay Thai system and ended up having my own school. I got into boxing to improve my hands, and I started working with amateur boxers and opened up my own school and had my own professional fighters. I had to learn to do it all. I managed them, trained them, promoted them. I was their agent. I did it all, and being a cut-man was one of them, and I kind of liked being a cut-man.”
BoxingScene.com: How do you learn to be a cut-man?
Duran: “Unfortunately, in the old days, the old school guys wouldn’t teach you. This one veteran guy in the Bay Area, he did a good job on a cut, and I tried to get some information, and he said, ‘Hey, fuck you. You’ve got to learn, just like me. I’m taking this to my grave.’ And at that point, I said, ‘You know what, I’m never going to be like that.’ If people ask me, I’m going to teach them.
“So I had to learn in the trenches, just one on one and studying cut-men, and reading books and talking to the doctors at ringside and getting as much information. But unfortunately it’s an on-the-job training type of thing. I’ve put a video together called ‘Giving the Fighter One More Round,’ and now I educate guys that are cut-men or who want to be cut-men, even trainers, especially in the MMA world.”
BoxingScene.com: You’ve been doing this for a while. How do you stay around? Is it just word of mouth?
Duran: “One of the proudest moments of my career is I’ve never gone out and asked for a job. It’s just through reputation. People call me. I had a chance to work with Floyd Mayweather one time, to wrap his hands during the scenario when he was going through auditions of guys wrapping his hands. This one guy did a terrible job, and I just happened to be in the gym, and just out of respect to the cut-man, I didn’t put my two cents in. But if I would’ve told Floyd, ‘Floyd, let me wrap your hands,’ I know I would’ve got the assignment. So he went on and hired Rafael Garcia, who is a great cut-man.”
BoxingScene.com: Are there certain fighters you’ve most enjoyed working with over the years?
Duran: “Andre Ward is definitely a good kid. I’ve known Andre since he was a young kid. I used to sell boxing equipment. I remember I got him a pair of shoes and glove and all that. I also work with the Klitschko brothers. And when it comes to being true professionals, these guys are true professionals. Mixed martial artists, everyone in the UFC, I don’t know one guy that’s a bad guy. They’re all true gladiators, but they’re the nicest guys in the world. So I’ve been real privileged.”
BoxingScene.com: And what fighters have been more difficult to work with — not in terms of personality, but because of the wounds that they suffer?
Duran: “Years back, there used to be a fighter named Rocky Gannon. And he was a bleeder. You would hit him with a left shoulder and he would bleed on the right eyebrow. He was a cut-man’s dream. I used to work with Johnny Tapia. He was a cut-man’s dream, because I was guaranteed to get some work. Now there’s the Arturo Gattis, these guys were guys that would cut. I worked with Raul Marquez, who ended up with five cuts when he fought Keith Mullings He ended up with like 75 stitches, and I kept him in the game and he defended his world title. So those guys were the bleeders.”
BoxingScene.com: You say these guys were a cut-man’s dream. So that means you want to be put into action?
Duran: “I love going into action. During a UFC event, I work all the shows, which is anywhere from 10 to 12 fights in one night. There’s been a night or two where there hasn’t been a cut and I’m just sitting there. I like working on cuts. I know I’m good at what I do, and I know I make a difference.”
BoxingScene.com: How long have you been working with the UFC? How did it get to the point where you’re working with nearly everybody?
Duran: “Dana White and I used to train fighters in Las Vegas and trying to make an honest living and pay the rent. When Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought the UFC, Dana called me and asked me if I’d be interested in being a cut-man with Leon Tabbs, who is the original cut-man for the UFC and works with Bernard Hopkins. It took me a split second to say ‘yes.’ It’s changed my life ever since then.
“I work all the time. And I do what I love doing. And I’m not training fighters anymore because I don’t have time. I have Christmas off, but Jan. 30 all the way through the end of March, I have every week booked, and that’s including the Klitschko brothers. I’ve been blessed, and in today’s economy, to have a job and to work is a blessing for anybody. And for me to do what I love doing, it’s not even a job. It’s something that I enjoy doing. I travel the world and I work with the best athletes in the world, and I work at ground level.”
BoxingScene.com: What does the UFC gig entail?
Duran: “There’s two primary cut-men: Leon Tabbs and myself. And every fighter wants us to wrap their hands. The UFC gives them an option, which is you can have your own guy wrap your hands, or you can have one of the UFC cut-men wrap hand. And we’re all boxing people, and they use a system that I kind of put together, so we wrap all their hands.
“If you’re looking at 12 fights, you’re looking at 24 fighters, so they keep us busy wrapping their hands. And then come fight time, I’ll be at one side of the Octagon and Leon the other. When the main events come, they always want me to wrap their hands, so one of the alternates will replace me. I’ll go in back, wrap their hands and then come back out once I’m finished.”
BoxingScene.com: What’s the difference between the wounds you see in boxing and the wounds you see in mixed martial arts?
Duran: “I’ve seen some pretty gnarly cuts in mixed martial arts, pretty deep down to the bone. And multiple cuts. Guys will get cuts on the eyebrow and their nose. There’s a lot of head cuts — scalp wounds, as we call them. So sometimes you got to have your fingers spread and work on multiple cuts.”
BoxingScene.com: Does that mean you work less boxing because you’re doing mixed martial arts all the time?
Duran: “I’m always available for boxing. When Andre Ward fights or Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko fight — I work with a lot of [fighters from former Soviet countries] like Beibut Shumenov — when they call, I like to take those assignments because economics are substantially more. But I’m guaranteed to work UFC, and UFC understands what I do.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to [email protected]