09.06.07 - By Christian Giudice (Author: Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Durán) - On Sunday, Roberto "Hands of Stone" Durán will grace a Canastota, NY stage with his presence, the final curtain call for a boxing manchild who never ceased being what the public needed him to be, one with the people.
Article posted on 10.06.2007
Now, more than ever, the fighter - once a petulant champ - appears comfortable in his skin, fine with who he is. Not all fighters can say that..
Roberto Durán will joke with friends, flash that amiable smile that illuminates his fighter's face and belies any backwash from a warrior's existence. Strangers flock, admirers anxiously wait to get near him. When his family is near, he will no doubt pull them closer, put an arm around his son or kiss his daughter. He will keep his wife, who has sacrificed like any fighter's wife, near to his heart. When he sees an old foe, he will call out his name, 'Hey, Kenny Buchanan, or you, Carlos Palomino,' and embrace him the way all fighters do - all fighters, that is, who shared a history in the ring.
Grudges will drown in the last flicker of light in late-night bars; old wounds will close or resurface. In this glorious fight weekend, it will be a time for the people to return to Duran, give one last applause to thank him for the time he picked up a child, posed for a picture with a father, joked with a daughter, emptied his pockets for a stranger. They all remember.
And with Duran, people don't forget.
To fans, it will signify closure. To opponents, it will bring back forgotten memories, the beard, the punch, the aggression. To his children, it will touch them deeply. Chavo Duran, oldest son and former fighter in the boxing family, will recall a caring father and masterful fighter.
"(My dad) is humble and always told me, 'Remember I'm from El Chorrillo a poor neighborhood, so you have to be humble. Always remember where you come from,'" said the proud son.
It will be time to reminisce and recall a young Roberto walking in Chorrillo again playing Dominoes with his old friends or hanging on a street corner. After a big fight, there's Roberto as a champion handing out large wads to people who never had anything - just to see them smile. There's Roberto wrestling in the street with Chaflan nearby or at the Festival with Clara in
The boxing purists will choose from their favorite memory, whether it's against DeJesus or Leonard or Moore. Critics will be silenced, for it is a moment for a man who earned his place decades ago.
As he stands once more in front of his legion of fans, the people will see the Duran they want to see. Before he is gone, they will have one last glimpse or a man - who tormented hundreds of opponents - making his final exit from a sport that he ravaged for years.
Along the way, we will all say thank you Roberto - for everything.
Christian Giudice grew up in Haddonfield, NJ. He graduated from Villanova University in 1997 and earned his Masters in Journalism from Temple University. He has contributed articles to the Gloucester County Times, the Ann Arbor News, Boxing Digest, The Jerusalem Post, Clemson Alumni Magazine, South Jersey Magazine, Notifight.com, Sports Illustrated, and various boxing websites. The book has been featured in Ring Magazine, KO Magazine, UK newspapers and on a host of sports radio talk shows. This is his first book.