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Roberto Duran – Panama’s Most Famous Man

Roberto DuranThere are statues of him all throughout Panama. Foreign dignitaries line up to speak with him. He has a series of sport stadiums and gyms named for him. He helps out charities and programs for the underprivileged. Any cause that needs ‘a face’ to launch calls him. Recently, a movie was made of his life – and he is still alive and doing better than ever.

Here is my favorite example of this man’s class quotient. A couple of years ago, a drunk, would-be heckler rode a horse on to our man’s front yard in the Via Argentina area of Panama City shouting for the man to come out. He did and in a very short time, he was astride the horse with a bottle of booze in his hand, riding off into the concrete sunset in one of the City’s more upscale neighborhoods. The story made the nightly news and international press for weeks. You just have to love it and him.

Roberto Duran in Sports IllustratedWho is this guy? Current President Ricardo Martinelli or musician, actor, film director Ruben Blades? Hardly. He is the one, the only, ex-world champion boxer, and the unofficial international ambassador of Panama, Roberto Duran.

In the boxing world, Duran is famous for both winning world championships and being human and entertaining at the same time.

Duran came into the world on June 16, 1951 in Guarare, Panama. After a brief but undistinguished amatuer career, the 16-year-old Roberto followed the money and turned pro. He proceeded to methodically wipe out his opponents.

Duran’s professional record was 21-0 in straight fights when Carlos Eleta bought his contract for $300. Eleta immediately hired trainers Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown to refine Duran’s rough style. On June 26, 1972, Duran’s record was 30 straight victories, 19 of them Knock Outs. At 21 years old, Roberto won his first world title when he beat WBA Lightweight Champion Ken Buchanan in the 13th round at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Roberto DuranResiliency? During his decades (yes decades) in the ring, Duran was the WBC Lightweight Champion, WBC Welterweight Champion, WBA Light Middleweight Champion, WBC Middleweight Champion and WBA Junior Middleweight Champion. To get an idea of Duran’s punch, he even beat Sugar Ray Leonard at the height of the latter’s game.

Let’s go back to the man himself. Here are some quotes from his official website:

“There’s only one legend. That’s me.”

“I am not an animal in my personal life. But in the ring there is an animal inside me. Sometimes it roars when the first bell rights. Sometimes it springs out later in a fight. But i can always feel it there, driving me and pushing me forward. It is what makes me win. It makes me enjoy fighting.”

Duran always tells it like he thinks it is. Like I said before, you just have to love this guy.

You can also read about the restaurant called La Tasca de Duran in El Cangrego where Roberto Duran hosts.

Culture in Panama

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