Do you remember where you were when it happened? It was an event that wasn’t possible. Its occurrence was shocking, even appalling. Even if you weren’t among the followers, it was as if the laws of physics had been violated, as if sudden proof had emerged that humans evolved from ferrets.
Roberto Duran was the embodiment of Latin machismo. The legendary image of toughness contained a superhuman quality that proved he was not subject to vulnerability. The event is not the “no mas” incident in New Orleans. The event was on June 15, 1984 in Las Vegas, Nevada, when a single punch did the impossible and knocked Roberto Duran out. It was the day the sun exploded and rained fire down on the earth, the day the moon fell from the sky and the spirits of fallacy danced in desert shadow.
The fact that the punch was thrown by Thomas Hearns, who was one of the greatest single shot knockout artists in the history of any division, didn’t matter. It also wasn’t a matter of believing that Duran would win the fight. It was like an optical illusion -- stare at a computer screen full of dots and after thirty seconds you’ll see Roberto Duran getting iced with one punch. To this day, I could probably be convinced that it was doctored tape and all records had been altered in an Orwellian conspiracy.
Things went badly from the start for Duran. The height difference was enormous, Duran’s footing was poor and it appeared as though he was attempting to climb straight up an erect ladder when he went on the offensive. It looked like a match had been made between a junior middleweight and a light-heavyweight. For the first time, Duran looked all of his 5’7”. He looked overmatched, overpowered and outgunned.
The fight and the knockout was eerily reminiscent of Hearns’ Welterweight title winning knockout of Pipino Cuevas. The poor footing was the same. It is amazing how slippery the canvas can seem when attempting to punch a head perched on top of a flagpole. A blistering right cross that was a cut and paste from the Cuevas fight landed flush and Duran’s body instantly began to pitch forward.
I had pictured a protracted struggle, a lot of effective body punching by Duran and a tired Hearns coming out on top via decision in the end -- at most, perhaps a cut and a late TKO.
I was reminded of this shocking knockout while watching Tarver-Jones II. This, too was so shocking, I had to look at the screen for several seconds before I fully processed the visual input I was receiving. My brain was telling me that Tarver was falling. I had seen Tarver get beaten up before, against Eric Harding. I already knew he was human. I think the count was nearly over before I could even speak. Oh, and anyone who tells you they expected Tarver to knock Jones out at all, much less with a single shot early, ask them what they believe about the law of gravity.
The knockout of Roberto Duran, though he was somewhat past his prime, was one of the single most shocking events in the history of boxing. I occasionally replay it on tape and to this day I see it through huge, round eyes. I shake my head in amazement, disappointment in the breaking of the laws of nature and the extreme beating of a legend… oh and also in admiration for the incredible power of Thomas Hearns.
And the next morning, the sun failed to rise.
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 1: Louis vs. Ali
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 2: Holmes vs. Frazier
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 3: Liston vs. Foreman
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 4: Imposters unmasked
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 5: Going after Goliath
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 6: Marciano vs. Holyfield
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 7: Brutality borrowed
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 8: A hook for the books (Weaver vs. Tate)
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 9: De La Hoya vs Duran
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 10: The Minister of Defense (Wilfred Benitez)
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 11: Felonies in disguise
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