Bunce on Boxing: Four kings who ruled before desperate days
Duran would tell me how he had knocked out a horse one night, for a bottle of whisky
Tuesday 10 April 2012
Last week saw the 25th anniversary of the Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard fight. It was a world title fight that took place one mystical night outside, behind the casino neon in glorious Las Vegas, and it set financial records. But, far more than the money, it was a fight that defined a quartet of boxers that will never be forgotten.
Leonard beat Hagler on that particular occasion but the pair also tangled with Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran in a series of nine spectacular fights that started in 1980 and ended in 1989. Has there ever been a rivalry in boxing to match what these four kings of the rings achieved? The four fighters were not afraid of meeting each other, not scared of losing their protected records or their golden baubles; they just wanted to fight and they each directed their promoters, agents and managers to make the fights that mattered happen. The boxers were the stars.
My old friend George Kimball, a cantankerous scribe of the highest order, wrote a book about their nine years of wars, called simply The Four Kings. It chronicles an age of genuine rivalry, with all four fighters surrounded by true boxing people. Their corners on fight nights were packed with gentlemen of the ancient game.
Duran had Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown as cornermen; Hearns had Manny Steward; Leonard had Angelo Dundee; and Hagler had the Petronelli brothers, Goody and Pat. They formed a holy collection of blue-collar heroes on both sides of the ropes, each with extraordinary tales of poverty, hardship, starvation and direct links with generations of fighters. Arcel worked with Benny Leonard in the 1920s; Brown had been Rocky Marciano's cutsman; Dundee had overseen Muhammad Ali's greatest moments; the Petronelli brothers were fighting royalty; and Steward was building the sport's greatest ever dynasty at his Kronk gym in Detroit.
Since the four boxers dominated the sport, filling the void between Ali's decline and Mike Tyson's rise, bigger fights have happened, but nothing has come even close to the sequence of fights between them. They had a total of 72 real world-title fights, including dozens away from each other's fists that were memorable. Duran first won a world title when he kneed Ken Buchanan in the groin in front of over 20,000 at Madison Square Garden in 1972; Duran had turned 21 just 10 days before that fight and his last world title fight was in 1998.
The four still occasionally get together and the smiles and welcomes are as fraught now as they were when they were touring America in planes, trains and helicopters, touting their fights.
It seems that Duran and Hearns get on quite well, Leonard claims to love everybody and Hagler, well, he's just Marvin and he never liked anybody to start with. I toured with Duran and Hearns, interviewing them over six nights in fancy leisure centres and glorified working men's clubs and they like each other. However, they still get edgy before the event starts and I swear I saw Duran eyeing Hearns with real menace one afternoon in Doncaster; Hearns had just been explaining to me how he stood aside to let Duran fall in their brutal 1984 fight.
Duran always won the chatshow format because he would tell me how he had knocked out a horse one night, for a bottle of whisky. Punters loved that tale and I believe it. It turns out that there is a point on the far side of the ear that leaves a horse vulnerable to a left hook.
They were glory days. It just makes the often foul-mouthed squabbles between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather seem increasingly desperate.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Best memes as Twitter reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal joins Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Sami Khedira
Mario Balotelli takes 50 per cent pay cut to join Liverpool as Samuel as Eto’o waits in the wings if deal falls through
Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
Click here for the full story." title="When a youngster asked for an autograph outside Manchester City's training ground, Balotelli demanded to know why the boy was playing truant. After the child revealed he was being bullied, Balotelli drove the boy and his mother to the school in question so he could tackle the bully himself. He demanded to see the headmaster to make him aware of the issue and then mediated between the two boys to resolve the problem. A source said: 'Mario feels strongly about bullying.' Click here for the full story." width="88" height="52" />Mario Balotelli: The funniest stories
- 1 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for beauty pageant
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...
£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...
£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...