In the Thomas Hearns conversation his KO of Roberto Durán was mentioned. That loss came much later in Duran’s “stone hands” career. Go back to the start of the Panamanian champion and you will find that he was the most feared lightweight in the world.
To start his career, Roberto Duran won his first 31 fights, many of them by knockout. On June 26, 1972, Duran won the lightweight championship by scoring a TKO over Ken Buchanan. His first loss would come later that year in a non-title fight with Esteban de Jesús by unanimous decision. de Jesús gave Durán another chance two years later, but this time it was for the title. de Jesús was knocked out in the eleventh round this time.
That second Jesus fight was on March 16, 1974, and Duran would not lose again until Sugar Ray Leonard beat him in a rematch of their first fight a few months earlier when Duran won the unanimous decision. From the defeat of Jesus to the defeat of Leonard, Roberto Duran had won an incredible 41 fights in a row. While Duran had been knocked out only four times in his 119-fight career, Leonard’s TKO can be ruled out because that loss was the result of the infamous “No More” conclusion.
In their first fight, Sugar Ray had challenged Duran at his own game, trying to go toe-to-toe and backfired. In the second match, Leonard went back to his bread and butter, pure boxing and added a bit of showmanship, like roping with one arm and then hitting Duran with the other fist. There was graceful footwork and Leonard simply dazzled Duran to the point where he gave up after the eighth round. It was definitely the biggest embarrassment of Roberto Duran’s career, if not ever in boxing.
It seems that once Roberto Duran deviated from the lightweight division, his career began to have a slight setback. After going 72-2, including losing Leonard, the rest of his career would see Duran finish with a 31-12 record in his last 43 fights. Leonard and Duran would fight one more time and this time the former lightweight champion did not give up but lost by unanimous decision and this was the super middleweight title.
Roberto Durán fought for 33 years as a professional starting in 1968 and in his last 10 fights he won six and lost four. His career ended with a loss to the late Héctor Camacho by decision as those two battled for the NBA super middleweight championship. But to be considered for this list it must be a reflection of Roberto Duran’s first 60-plus fights when he dominated the lightweight division and eliminated the biggest names in that division at the time.
Before the last time Roberto Duran defended his lightweight title with a TKO of Esteban de Jesus in 1978, he had scored a TKO or TKO of 44 of the 64 opponents he faced. This included streaks of eight and nine knockouts in a row. 21 of Roberto Durán’s knockouts during his career came in the first round. Another eight were second-round stoppages. 41% of his knockouts came before the bell ended a second round. As a lightweight, Roberto Duran lived up to the Hands of Stone moniker and is surely one of the greatest lightweight champions of all time.