Carlos Palomino On Roberto Duran: “I Was Very Sure I’d Beat Him, But His Speed Surprised Me And I Just Couldn’t Catch Him”

By James Slater - 10/03/2023 - Comments

Former welterweight champion Carlos Palomino met numerous great fighters during his fine career, with the Mexican warrior defeating plenty of good men. WBC and Ring Magazine champ from June of 1976 to January of 1979, Palomino defeated fine fighters such as John H. Stracey, Armando Muniz, and Dave “Boy” Green.

After losing the title to defensive wizard Wilfredo Benitez, this via split decision in San Juan Puerto Rico, this a fight Carlos still feels he won all these years later, 29 year old Palomino eagerly accepted a non-title fight with former lightweight ruler Roberto Duran. And 28 year old Duran, who had vacated the 135 pound crown after cleaning out the division, would put on an absolutely clinical display of hitting and of not getting hit, of masterfully feinting and countering – of outboxing Palomino.

The ten round decision Duran scored, this a year before his epic win over Sugar Ray Leonard, might have been one of the Panamanian’s finest performances. Palomino, absolutely no slouch, had to make do with winning one round on one card. Simply put, Duran was superb on the night of June 22, 1979. Palomino hung tough, but he was on this night facing arguably the best version of Duran the world ever saw.

Speaking about the Duran fight with Slater’s Boxing on YouTube, Palomino admitted he underestimated “Hands of Stone.”

“I was very sure, I was confident I was gonna beat him,” Palomino said in looking back. “He was moving up from lightweight, and I had seen him……I think he had one or two fights in the welterweight division before our fight, and he didn’t look very impressive to me. And when the fight was offered, I took it right away. I told my manager, I said, yes – I thought it’d be an easy fight. The fights I’d seen him in as a welterweight, he didn’t look….., he looked overweight, he looked kind of soft. But when we weighed-in, he was in much, much better shape.

“He was 145 pounds and you could tell the difference. And the one thing I remember from when the fight started is his quickness. His hands, his foot speed, it really threw me off and I really could not settle in and catch him, you know. He was throwing an overhand right most of the night, and I was trying to counter that with a left hook. I just couldn’t get the timing right; I couldn’t catch him. His speed really surprised me. I didn’t think his hand speed was gonna be that much faster than mine.”

On Duran’s tendency for using rough tactics:

“No, you know, I actually told him….we ran into each other at his movie premiere a while back. I had been invited and I hadn’t seen him in years. We talked a little bit, and I reminded him that he thumbed me twice in my right eye. When we got on the inside, and I don’t know if he did it on purpose or it was accidental, but I got thumbed twice in my right eye. Years later, I had to have two surgeries to correct the eye. But I was able to continue that night in the ring, and the referee didn’t see it, so nothing was said. But yeah, that was the only thing [that may have been dirty]. He was a very skilled fighter on the inside. I was also a very good fighter on the inside, in most of my fights, that’s what I did, I worked on the inside. But against him, his punches were landing faster than mine were.”

On this being Duran at his best and what might have happened had the fight been set for 15 rounds, not 10:

YouTube video

“I was coming off nine straight world title fights, all 15 round fights. Duran was the first fight I took after the Benitez loss, or the Benitez robbery – I still think I won that fight. My manager, who wasn’t a bullshitter, he always told the truth, he told me in the corner after the 15th round, ‘you’ve won but you’re not gonna get the fight.’ And they refused to give me a rematch. Anyway, the Duran fight was offered, and I took it. I don’t know, I think if I had five more rounds [against Duran] it might have been a different story. I dunno, but a lot of my knockouts, they came in the late rounds.”

Palomino announced his retirement shortly after the fight, having always promised his mother he would retire at age 30. Amazingly, Palomino launched a comeback in 1997, with the 47 year old winning four fights before dropping a decision against Wilfredo Rivera. But against Duran, Palomino met the best fighter of his career. In fact, Palomino might have faced the very best version of Roberto Duran the world ever saw.