This Day in Boxing History: Duran TKO4 Cuevas, 31 Years Ago Today
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This Day in Boxing History: Duran TKO4 Cuevas, 31 Years Ago Today
By Matthew Aguilar, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 29, 2014)

Roberto Duran vs. Pipino Cuevas - Poster created by icheehuahua, Doghouse Boxig Inc.
Roberto Duran vs. Pipino Cuevas Poster created by
© Chee, Doghouse Boxing Inc.
When Roberto Duran walked into the ring at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 29, 1983, his career was in shambles.

He had just lost an embarrassing decision to journeyman Kirkland Laing. The performance was so bad, so uninspiring, that his promoter, Don King, immediately cut ties with him. He had gone 1-2 in 1982, his only win a lackluster decision over Englishman Jimmy Batten in the walk-out bout of the electrifying Aaron Pryor-Alexis Arguello showdown at the Orange Bowl in Miami.

By the time Duran performed, there was hardly anyone in the stadium. His time, it appeared, had come.

But Top Rank’s Bob Arum suspected that Duran – the greatest lightweight in boxing history and among the top 20 fighters of all time – still had something left at age 31. Just to be sure, he matched the great Panamanian with another Latin warrior, Pipino Cuevas of Mexico. Cuevas was a former WBA welterweight champion – the youngest 147-pound champ ever - who was on redemption road himself after losing the title to Thomas Hearns three years earlier.

Duran vs. Cuevas was a fight that, had it happened in 1980 when both were ferocious welterweight champs, would’ve been one of the biggest moneymakers in the sport. On this night, it was more a curiosity to see which great champion had fallen the farthest. Arum put the fight in Los Angeles, where the power-puncher Cuevas was a huge draw with the Mexican-American fans throughout his four-year title reign.

Cuevas started the fight well enough. He moved a little better than people thought he could, and showed a fire that matched Duran’s. He fired his feared left hook with abandon, just like the old days, and, for a round, it appeared that Cuevas was in control.

But then Duran began jabbing and boxing in round two, and showing a versatility that Cuevas could only dream about. Little by little, he began unleashing his arsenal, punctuated by his big right hand.

Nevertheless, Cuevas continued to advance, digging to Duran’s body – supposedly his weak spot – with his vaunted hook. By round three, both fighters were connecting with big shots. Despite their reputations as over-the-hill fighters, the two old warriors were putting on a good show.

But, by round four, Cuevas’ suspect chin – the one that had been so severely dented by Hearns – began to show itself. A slew of right hands began to connect, and Duran unleashed his inner beast. He attacked with a ferocity that conjured up memories of his lightweight prime, and of his classic upset of Sugar Ray Leonard in Montreal. He dropped Cuevas in a corner, and after Pipino got up, unloaded some more. Right hands, left hooks and vicious body shots made his rival wobble. He knocked Cuevas down again, and the fight was mercifully stopped by his trainer.

“Manos de Piedra” had won his first big fight in three years. He was back.

Still, no one suspected the year that would follow. Five months later, Arum had Duran challenge the WBA junior middleweight champion Davey Moore, whom he destroyed in eight rounds at Madison Square Garden (on his 32nd birthday, no less). It catapulted Duran into the biggest fight of the year, against middleweight king Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Despite being a huge underdog, Duran came within a couple of rounds of beating Hagler. He lost a close decision. Duran’s heroics in 1983 are considered one of the greatest comebacks in boxing history.

And it all started on Jan. 29, 1983.

Press Play - Watch: Roberto Duran vs. Pipino Cuevas / Jan. 29, 1983
(*Features a younger Al Bernstein)

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