'Hands of Stone' still wows 'em

MURRAY GREIG -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

It's always fascinating to hear fighters opine about other fighters - particularly when they're from different eras.

Last Sunday, at a breakfast prior to the induction ceremony at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., the inimitable Roberto Duran spied the name tag that identified me as a guest of iconic Canadian heavyweight champion George Chuvalo.

Duran, who had 70 KOs en route to a career record of 103-16 and four world titles, clapped one meaty paw on my shoulder while playfully jabbing at the name tag with the other.

"Shoo-vale-o," he said, with a nod of appreciation. "Si, si. Shoo-vale-o." Then, in English, he added: "Too rough. For everybody, too strong, too rough."

Then he chuckled and held his massive fist an inch from my jaw. "Manos de piedras ("Hands of Stone") he said, rasping his nickname with obvious pride.

"Shoo-vale-o ... bavba de piedras (chin of stone)!" Then he grinned, tapped me lightly on the bavba, and moved on.

STAR POWER

As the star of this year's class of modern inductees (Pernell Whitaker and Ricardo Lopez were the others), Duran was in demand all weekend. But between interviews, photo requests and being mobbed by the thousands of fight fans who descended on Canastota, he laughed and joked with many of the 45 other former champs and word-ranked contenders in attendance.

"He was a warrior ... a very, very tough guy," said Marvin Hagler, who defended his undisputed middleweight title with a tough 12 round decision over Duran in 1983.

"What I loved and admired about guys like Roberto and (Thomas) Hearns and (John) Mugabi was that they came to fight. They came to take away what was mine. That's what boxing is all about. Being a man. Being a warrior. Roberto was that."

Scotland's Ken Buchanan, who was 43-1 when Duran knocked him out to win the world lightweight crown at Madison Square Garden in 1972, echoed those sentiments.

'DEMON-LIKE'

"There was an almost demon-like urgency to what Duran brought into the ring," Buchanan said. "I knew after the opening round that he was something extraordinary. He was absolutely relentless, and his punching power was awesome."

Iran (The Blade) Barkley, whom Duran beat by split decision for the WBC middleweight crown in 1989, was more succinct.

"Man, he was a killer," Barkley said. "I hit him with some big, big shots, but he just sneered and kept comin'. Ring magazine named it the Fight of the Year, and a lot of folks today tell me that was the best fight they ever saw."

Former welterweight and middleweight king Emile Griffith, who met 10 world champions and boxed more title-fight rounds (339), than any fighter in history, raved about Duran's durability.

"I never fought him, but I always watched him," Griffith said. "We had different styles. Roberto was a puncher, I was a boxer. He was like a piece of iron. I always marvelled at how he liked to trade power punches."

The final word went to "Shoo-vale-o" - and perhaps best sums up what the Hall of Fame weekend is all about.

"Fighters like Roberto come along maybe once in a generation or two," Chuvalo said.

"He's one of the all-time greats, no doubt about it. But as great as he was in the ring, I think it says a lot about the guy that he so obviously enjoys sharing his legacy and his love of life with the public.

"He's never lost that connection to the fans. They love him ... and he deserves it."


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