An Evening With Thomas Hearns And Roberto Duran - In Doncaster, England!

boxingBy James Slater - I was at The Dome last night, in Doncaster in the north of England, to attend An Evening With Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. And what a great night it truly was! The sportsman’s dinner, hosted by boxing pundit Steve Bunce, saw both legends looking in great shape, in great spirits and generally enjoying themselves. The demand for photos with the two was huge, but both superstars were happy to oblige the fans.

Later, after dinner and then a (quite long) auction (in which Hearns, Duran as well as Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali memorabilia was sole for the expected high price), Bunce opened the interview section of the evening - the highlight.

Both guys had some interesting things to say, as well as the usual quotes we’ve heard them say many times. For instance, Hearns said that when he was getting ready to fight Duran in 1984, in the various run-ins with Roberto, he was unable to fix the Panamanian great with his “Hitman” stare. “Duran would just make everything out to be funny,” Hearns recalled. “He is a lovely person, and even then he was just having fun. I thought, damn!.

Duran said he never even considered the considerable height and reach advantages Hearns had over him. “I never even thought about that,” Duran said via his interpretor, Roberto Junior.

As we know, this proved to be a big mistake on Duran’s part, as he was famously smashed inside two-rounds!

Hearns was asked about his two fights with Sugar Ray Leonard, and Hearns says the famous drawn rematch from 1989 was a fight that Leonard finally admitted to him, eight years later, was a fight he indeed lost. “So why don’t we do it again,” Tommy recalled asking Leonard. “No way, man, you’re too big,” Leonard is said to have replied.

“Every time I see him!” Hearns said in reply to whether or not he still asks Ray to fight the third fight. “I tell him, I’ll get real small (come down in weight) for that fight,” Tommy said, only half-jokingly. “But he says no way!”

And though it is crazy for Hearns to still have ideas of fighting again (he did box as recently as 2006, don’t forget), he does look to be in fantastic physical condition today. Looking a million dollars in his light grey custom-made suit, the 51-year-old can’t be much over the 200-pound mark. Also enjoyable, was the fact that Tommy’s notoriously nasally speech sounded somewhat improved last night. Tommy knows how to work a room, that’s for sure, and his jokes and quick wit enthralled the large crowd.

Duran, too, though he speak little English (he chose to burst into song at times last night, instead of speaking the little English he does know!) is a charming man. Nowhere to be seen was the snarl and menace he was once famous for. Looking less in shape than his former rival, Duran, dressed in slacks, a T-shirt under his jacket and wearing a cap (Duran joked how many English men are bald, and that he was wearing the headwear in tribute!), has recently lost a fair amount of weight nonetheless.

Duran was asked, somewhat surprisingly, about the so called true incident that saw him KO a horse. We’ve all read about this legendary story, but is it true? Well, almost.

Duran, via Roberto Jr, did recall the incident, from when he was still a teenager. Having been drinking at the time, Roberto, for whatever reason, was given the challenge of knocking down a horse. The prize if he could do it was a bottle of whisky, and the young tearaway tried to do it.

“Hit the horse just behind the ear,” Duran was told by his bettor, and he did just that - putting the horse down for a ten-count! So, Hands of Stone didn’t exactly KO a horse, but he did manage to deck one! Make of that claim to fame what you will, animal lovers! Duran explained how he severely damaged the middle finger of his right hand during the act, and he and Tommy then compared right hands!

When Bunce opened it up, allowing the fans to fire questions at the two legends, both had interesting things to say. Hearns, when asked who was the toughest fighter of his career, replied Juan Domingo Roldan. “I though I hit hard, but he really hit me hard,” Tommy said of Roldan. “He really was The Hammer!”

Duran, when asked the same question, replied, “Your own Ken Buchanan. The fight where I won my first world title,” This drew huge cheers from the crowd, but did Roberto mean it, or was he merely being nice to the Scot he famously defeated with an illegal blow to the groin?

The two were, for some reason, asked who they feel is the greatest heavyweight of all-time. Both, without any hesitation, replied Muhammad Ali - again to loud cheers.

When asked the final question of the night, however - who will win if and when Mayweather and Pacquiao get it on - the two men disagreed. Duran likes Pac-Man, Hearns likes “Money.”

“The things my man can do in the ring, I just don’t know if Manny Pacquiao can match that,” Tommy said, favouring the unbeaten Mayweather.

Unfortunately that was all the time the two greats were allowed for questions, although they did then agree to sign yet more photos, pictures etc. All in all a great night, with two great boxing heroes. A mention must go to former WBC welterweight king John H. Stracey, who also mingled with the fans and was happy to talk and sign autographs and pose for pictures. Stracey’s recalled reply to his manager’s offer of making his first title defence against Duran was especially am using. “F**k ***!” John H said simply.

Three legends; three gentlemen!

Article posted on 06.09.2010

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