“Hands of Stone,” starring Edgar Ramirez as Roberto Duran and Robert DeNiro as legendary trainer, Ray Arcel, is expected to open this winter in wide theatrical release.
Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz (best known for The Secuestro Express), the film is already completed for release by the Weinstein Company and will likely be positioned for major awards exposure.
The film is reported to be a wide encompassing view of the Panamanian great, with the bulk of the focus on the fighter’s relationship with Arcel. Of course, both of his classic bouts with Sugar Ray Leonard are expected to provide much of the drama in the feature. Leonard will be played by star of The Voice and longtime R&B hitmaker, Usher.
It will be interesting to see if the pop star is up to the role. He certainly will have no issue managing the fitness expectations.
Edgar Ramirez is not that well known to American audiences. His greatest exposure stateside has been in smaller parts, such as an assassin in “The Bourne Ultimatum,” or as the sidekick to Mickey Rourke in the little scene Keira Knightley bounty hunter flick, “Domino.” However, anyone who has seen him play the real life terrorist revolutionary, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez in 2010’s “Carlos” should be inspired by the casting. Ramirez has chops to spare and should have no trouble managing the physical demands of the part.
Obviously, DeNiro’s participation elevates the precedings. To see the former Raging Bull take to the corner in a picture about one of the all-time great fighters in boxing history should be a delight.
The film should offer a chance at renewed appreciation for the career of Duran. Except among the most hardcore of fans, you hear his name spoken with less frequency than one might expect for a man the Associated Press named the #1 Lightweight of the 20th century. Duran held titles in five different weight classes and finished the sport with a record of 103-16 with 79 knockouts. The total number of fights is staggering when you apply it to the current level of activity for top fighters.
Duran had won a remarkable 40 consecutive fights in a row in just under 7 ½ years when he took on the undefeated Sugar Ray Leonard for the Welterweight title in 1980. Leonard was favored, but Duran took a unanimous decision in the classic bout that became known as “The Brawl in Montreal.” Duran felt deeply disrespected going into the ring by Leonard and prognosticators as well as by the promoters who gave him only 1/5 of the purse that Leonard would receive.
While that victory made Duran’s name in the sport, their rematch just five months later diminished it in the infamous “no mas” bout, which ended with Duran walking away in the 8th round and awarding Leonard a TKO. Even after all these years, it remains one of the more baffling moments in all of sports. Duran was only slightly behind on the judge’s scorecards and not in any real trouble in the 8th. There were claims of stomach cramps by Duran, questions about his conditioning by others, and a statement by his manager, Carlos Eleta, that he was simply embarrassed. Regardless, the result remains an enigma to those who have viewed the fight.
Duran fought for another 20 years after that, becoming only the second boxer to fight in five different decades. He went on to win belts at light middleweight, middleweight, and super middleweight, but never quite regained the luster of his lightweight years leading up to his first two fights with Leonard. In most of his marquee match ups post Leonard 2, Duran fell short (Benitez, Hagler, Hearns, Leonard 3, Camacho).
Still, Duran had one of the most extraordinary careers in the history of the sport. The venerable Burt Sugar rated him as the 8th greatest fighter ever, and in 2002, The Ring slotted him as the 5th greatest fighter in the last 80 years.
A reevaluation of Duran’s place in boxing history is probably well-timed, if not overdue. Perhaps “Hands of Stone” will create just that discussion. Its subject is deserving of that much and more.