BIG BEAR, Ca.-Legendary boxer Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran has been a hit in Cannes, France among the Hollywood elite while promoting his upcoming film story.
The iconic Panamanian prizefighter returns to the U.S. to continue working with his friend Sugar Shane Mosley in Big Bear, Calif.
Duran spent several days at Cannes to promote the film “Hands of Stone” that debuts this coming August. Before he left for the film festival, we caught up with the former world champion in Big Bear. He talked about the film and working with Mosley who fights David Avanesyan on May 28 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
“I’m very excited about it. All the main actors will be there. Edgar Ramirez who plays Roberto Duran, Robert DeNiro, Ruben Blades who plays Carlos Eleta, and Usher who plays Sugar Ray Leonard,” said Duran. “Yes, Ruben Blades plays my manager (Carlos Eleta). He’s a good singer and a good actor too.”
Blades, a salsa singer great, formerly sang with the Fania All Stars back in the late 70s and early 80s. He also starred in numerous feature films such as Milagro Beanfield War and Predator 2. He’s also from Panama and a good friend of Duran.
But few are more famous in Panama than Duran who blazed his name in glory from 1968 at age 16 until 2001 age 50. Between that period, he ignited a career that saw him catch attention as perhaps the greatest lightweight in history, then move up in weight and hand Sugar Ray Leonard his first defeat in 1980 in winning the welterweight world title. It didn’t stop there as he marched upward and took world titles in the super welterweight and middleweight divisions.
One of the incredible battles Duran fought came against Marvin Hagler in a losing cause that went 15 rounds in 1983, then came a 12-round astounding win over Iran Barkley who had defeated Tommy Hearns by knockout one fight earlier. This came after Hearns stopped Duran four years earlier in the topsy-turvy world of boxing.
“Just proves styles make fights,” said Mosley inside his cabin in Big Bear.
Duran has been staying with Mosley and helping as an advisor, not as a trainer.
“I’ve been a long-time friend of Mr. Mosley. He was not fighting well so I gave him some help. I offered to help him but I told him I don’t train anyone,” said Duran while in Big Bear. “I just did it to help out a friend. That’s not my job. I have a gym and restaurant in Panama City. I have those things.”
Mosley said that Duran’s input has been valuable especially in pointing out technical aspects that have been lost through time.
“I know that the way he trains me is like Ray Arcel,” said Mosley about the now departed legendary trainer who worked with Duran and began with Benny Leonard. “He (Duran) does that old style. They just look and tweak and tell you what they think. That same influence. That’s Duran too.”
Mosley said he enjoys talking to Duran about the legendary wars he had against Leonard, Wilfredo Benitez, Hagler, Hearns and Barkley.
“Against Barkley he said he had to be smart. He thought he might have knocked him out in the second round but he didn’t want to be tired so he waited till the later rounds,” Mosley said about one of their talks. “That’s the kind of things we talk about when I’m not training.”
Duran has been working out too in preparation for an exhibition fight against Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez. That will take place in Las Vegas in July on the Viktor Postol versus Terence Crawford fight card, if the Nevada State Athletic Commission approves it.
After his mountain runs in Big Bear, the Panamanian legend watches Mosley during training and sparring and makes some suggestions. Mosley said that many of the suggestions are things he used to do in the past that somehow were tucked away.
“There are a lot of things I used to do that I kind of lost. Roberto mentioned these things and it was like déjà vu,” said Mosley about Duran’s influence. “We kind of had the same fighting style. I stopped doing certain things I used to do. I don’t know why. Duran kind of brought those things back to me.”
Duran will be with Mosley when he fights Avanesyan in Arizona. Another reason will be to visit family.
Few people know but Duran is half-Mexican. His father was a former U.S. Army soldier stationed in Panama. It wasn’t until late in Duran’s adult life that he finally met with his father who lived in Arizona.
Victor Duran, youngest son of Roberto Duran and a professional soccer player in Panama, said his father often visits his Mexican side of the family.
“We’ll be visiting family in Arizona,” said Victor Duran who is also a singer. “We have a lot of family in Arizona.”
It’s been a whirlwind year for the great Roberto Duran.
Mosley said he senses that Duran really feels at home in Southern California where boxing gyms are abundant and fight cards are more numerous than any other place in the world.
“He loves the atmosphere. He might come here for a walk, hit the bag. He likes training me,” said Mosley about Duran. “He said it’s like he’s fighting right now. He just likes being here.”