Roberto Duran may not be the most eloquent pedagogue around, but last night at Madison Square Garden, he gave a lesson to a young champion named Davey Moore that spoke fluently of the master's experience and courage.
With the World Boxing Association junior middleweight championship at stake, Duran proved to the first sellout boxing crowd at the Garden since 1974 that his decision to bolt his title fight with Sugar Ray Leonard three years ago was but an isolated sour note in Duran's 17 years in the prize ring.
Now with his image revived and his prowess proven once more, Duran intends to fight middleweight champion Marvin Hagler. Although that task seems almost foolhardy to those familiar with Hagler's singular punching power, anyone who was witness to Duran's brutal upset of Moore has to believe there is a chance for "Manos de Piedra"--the hands of stone.
Giving up height, strength, reach and eight years of youth, Duran set a furious pace the younger fighter could neither sustain nor withstand. From the opening bell, Duran stayed so close to Moore he could have provided him a shave and a haircut.
But Duran, who seemed in a permanent state of concentrated anger, wanted to muss rather than groom his 24-year-old opponent. Moore would swing and Duran would slip. Duran would jab and Moore would receive. And, in the seventh round, Duran would hook and Moore would go down. Finally, referee Ernesto Magana mercifully and wisely put an end to Duran's brutal teaching session with 58 seconds left in the eighth round.
"It was the best fight of his career," promoter Teddy Brenner told Reuters. "Look at the way he went to the body against Moore. Those tremendous body punches are what won the fight for him."
Duran began fighting for pay when Lyndon Johnson was still president and the Beatles were still recording. Amidst all the honest punching at the Garden, Duran managed to slip in a reminder of his rich experience. He slipped it in Moore's eye, to be exact.
With only seconds remaining in the first round, Duran shot a left jab, thumb first, into Moore's vision. The swelling of Moore's right eye was immediate and debilitating. When the fighters came out for the second round, Duran expressed his experience further by attacking the wound. By fight's end, both of Moore's eyes were swollen to slits.
"He had a lot of thumbs," Moore said sadly after the fight. Moore's manager, Leon Washington, also complained of Duran's digits, but said, "Duran beat us fair and square."
Duran is a veteran of 80 fights; Moore won the title in his ninth bout and lost it in his 13th. Although age and thousands of punches surely wear down a fighter as much as they help him, youth did not favor Moore in any way in this fight. According to Dr. Edwin Campbell of the New York State Athletic Commission, Moore's inexperience even prevented him from breathing correctly.
"Moore started to bleed and began to blow his nose, which only made it worse," Campbell said. "That was just inexperience."
At ringside at the Garden were dozens of Duran's contemporaries, including Muhammad Ali, but if Thursday night's fight was evidence enough, it is hard to imagine that any of them fought more effectively after the age of 30 than has Duran.
The New York Post's headline, reading "No Mas, No Moore," showed little of the paper's usual sensationalism. It was right on the mark. Duran, at 32, is back, even if he will never have a chance to face his true nemesis.
"He looked awesome," said Sugar Ray Leonard from a retired distance. "He made a believer out of everyone."