by Fox Doucette
Roberto Duran has gotten some seriously short shrift from the Temporal Commission in past episodes of this show. Against Carlos Monzon, the ugly specter of the “No Mas” fight came up after Monzon knocked Duran all over the shop, to the widespread derision of the audience. This spilled over into social media; your columnist was given a bunch of unsolicited history lessons, all from people who suggested that someone who grew up in the Eighties (when Duran was above his ideal weight and past his prime) could not appreciate Duran as the greatest lightweight who ever lived.
The guys with the time machine took notice, and this time they’re aiming the phone booth for Duran’s Disco Demolition—that’s right, this version of Roberto Duran is one who ran his record to 63-1 with 52 knockout victories after dismantling Esteban de Jesus, the one man who at that point in Duran’s career had bested him, in the rubber match of their trilogy.
Duran takes on Manny Pacquiao, who made a pit stop at lightweight on his way up the scale in order to lift a title belt off of David Diaz in a fight where Diaz’s right eye looked like a butterfly shrimp prepared for the grill. Pacquiao at 135 still looked like the younger version of himself, a more muscular and filled-out version of the man who had held a chokehold on the junior featherweight division a few years before.
This may prove to be a problem. Duran isn’t giving up anything in reach here—he and Pacquiao both reach 67 inches. He’s actually taller than Pacquiao by two inches. And Pacquiao? He got knocked out at flyweight. How is he going to handle the punching power of a man so strong that he put Iran Barkley (a middleweight who would later hold his own at light heavyweight) on his duff in the eleventh round of their fight, and a man so durable that he went fifteen rounds with and damn near beat Marvin Hagler? Duran hit like a middleweight when he was a lightweight, and Pacquiao was twice knocked out by flyweights and put on the floor a time or two by guys a lot smaller than “Manos de Piedra”. This could be ugly…or it could be a sign that Pacquiao truly did take his power with him up the scale and might just be able to handle the legend.
Your co-feature? Vinny Pazienza, that darling of the New England club circuit, who twice defeated a way-past-his-prime Duran and who was another guy who climbed up the scale and took his power with him, takes a crack at Donny Lalonde, who gets the mild handicap of having to lose three pounds after getting in the time machine from a fight where he weighed 171 pounds against Mustafa Hamsho.
Will Lalonde be as drained as he was when Sugar Ray Leonard dragged him down to super middleweight? Will Pazienza’s supporters flip out and demand that the Temporal Commission go get him from the first Greg Haugen fight and get in there against a lightweight? Will we ever have a catchweight fight on Historical Fight Night? (spoiler alert: No.)
Hold on to your butts, folks, things are going to be a ton of fun tonight.
From the Historical Fight Night Arena Presented By You, If You Donate On Patreon, in San Dimas, California, these fights are scheduled for 12 rounds using the Unified Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Scoring is on the 10-point must system, there is no three knockdown rule, no standing eight count, only the referee can stop the fight, and a fighter cannot be saved by the bell in any round including the twelfth and final round.
Now, for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching from around the world…
Let’s Make History.
Donny Lalonde (5/7/1987, 29-2, 24 KOs) vs. Vinny Pazienza (10/26/1993, 35-5, 26 KOs)
Vinny Pazienza was a helluva lightweight, certainly not on Roberto Duran’s level (although Paz, at super middleweight, did beat Duran twice in the mid-’90s), but a fast-handed slick guy who counted Willie Pep as his boxing idol and boxed circles around Robbie Sims in the 1993 fight that saw him visited thereafter by our roving band of timey-wimey fight matchmakers.
Trouble is, Lalonde was a pretty good boxer his ownself, and enjoys a six-inch height advantage and a seven-inch reach advantage, creating the problem of a range war here. Pazienza will have to work his way inside and hit the body of Donny Lalonde to have any real chance of winning this fight. Will it be enough? Or will the powerful right hand of Lalonde get the job done against a guy who was knocked out three times in his career, twice decisively at super middleweight by Roy Jones and Aaron Davis?
Lalonde came out with no intention at all of mixing it up inside, and felt like he could take a proactive approach to discouraging Pazienza from trying to work in close. His reach advantage allowed him to fight tall, and he put the right hand straight over the top, using it as a lead, taking advantage of the longer range to impose his will on the fight.
From the beginning, it became evident that Pazienza’s quickness was going to be of limited utility, as he tried to block and sidestep but between the straight right and the relentless jab—which Lalonde used more like he did very early in the Sugar Ray Leonard fight than like he did against Mustafa Hamsho, since he didn’t have a stream of low blows and head butts coming at him—the first round was not competitive.
Thirty seconds into the round, Lalonde used a honey of a feint on the jab to momentarily immobilize Pazienza, who moved as if to dodge the blow, allowing Lalonde to get a half-step closer and uncork a monster left hook, which hurt Pazienza when the punch landed flush.
Lalonde backed Pazienza up to the ropes and unleashed fury. A jackhammering straight right hand landed at will on the hurt Pazienza, who went into survival mode but was out on his feet. Another left hook snuck in behind the guard, and Pazienza’s hands went down, the man himself completely helpless, and Lalonde threw right hand after right hand like Emile Griffith killing Benny Paret.
Referee Steve Smoger bravely inserted himself between the hunter and the hunted after about six such shots, and the fight was over. Perhaps both men wanted to turn this into a boxing match. Each was perfectly capable of playing defense, and most of the commentators and press row figures predicted a chess match.
They underestimated Lalonde’s ability to sit down on his punches, and given such tremendous advantages in height and reach, it was a perfect chance for him to fight at the perfect range to use his power.
When a guy with dynamite in his fists lands a big shot on an overgrown lightweight, fans get to see why he knocked out almost 80 percent of his opponents. When Lalonde had a guy hurt, it wasn’t his nature to let that guy hang around, and Vinny Pazienza was no different. This ended up being a blowout, and calls immediately went up to the Temporal Commission to go get Paz from the first Greg Haugen fight.
“Maybe later,” mused the commissioner.
RESULT: LALONDE KO2 PAZIENZA.
Roberto Duran (1/21/1978, 63-1, 52 KOs) vs. Manny Pacquiao (6/28/2008, 47-3-2, 35 KOs)
For anyone who is too young to have seen Roberto Duran live in his prime, it can be downright jarring to see Duran, at 135, an absolute monster too strong, too quick, and just plain too good for anyone who ever had the misfortune to stand in the same ring with him. With the sole exception of the twice-avenged loss to Esteban de Jesus, there wasn’t a contender in the division who stood a chance.
For Pacquiao, lightweight was a title grab on the way up the scale and nothing more—Pacquiao was on his way to a strong run at welterweight and eventual arrival at a five-year debate between himself and Floyd Mayweather that would only be settled in the ring right at the tail end of both men’s careers.
Pacquiao is two inches shorter than Duran and shares the same 67-inch reach; there will be no range disparity here, and indeed, it will come down to a brawl on the inside. Manny always had trouble with counter-punchers, and Duran could counter as well as anyone. Will this be an epic 12-round war? Or will there be shades of the fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez?
Duran, knowing what was in front of him, began the fight looking to box and frustrate Pacquiao with a variety of angles. He pumped out the jab, he dug the hook to the body, he led with the right against the southpaw from the Philippines. Duran did what he could in order to frustrate and slow down Manny Pacquiao.
For Pac-Man, he came in to apply pressure and stop Duran from getting the advantage of being able to control tempo, and for that, he needed to let his hands go early and often. When Duran paused at the end of a combination, Pacquiao came back with the lead right hook and the straight left hand, the latter of which he had some success landing. In so doing, he was able to bring the pace of the fight more in line with his own expectations, forcing Duran to trade shots in the center of the ring.
All semblance of civility and defense went out the window as the two men resorted to a display of brute force, and for all of that, Duran’s hands were simply faster. Duran outlanded Pacquiao throughout the opening round, and as the bell rang, the crowd erupted in a way rarely seen outside of the first round of a fight like Hagler-Hearns.
Duran, unable to effectively hold his ground and counter, began to use footwork to move around the ring and force Pacquiao to chase him. The effect was one of utter frustration for the Filipino fighter, who found himself potshotted and unable to engage. What’s more, Duran was moving to his right, away from the southpaw hook, meaning Pacquiao had to try to work the left hand more like a jab than like the power shot that normally comes from that side with southpaw fighters, all while Duran strafed Pacquiao with his own jab, clearly out to outpoint rather than quickly stop the naturally smaller man.
Duran won four rounds that way; Pacquiao, sensing the fight starting to get away from him, had to get creative.
Pacquiao started rough housing with Duran, catching his movement to the left by reaching and grabbing and using the left to bull rush Duran into the ropes.
This, too, was something Duran could handle; when he got moved back, he shortened up the right uppercut and threw it to the midsection of Pacquiao, digging the body, and on one occasion landing a hard shot just below the belt. Pacquiao howled at referee Steve Smoger, but Double S had as his only response a simple hand signal and a shout of “keep ’em up” for the Panamanian.
Pacquiao was running out of options, and Duran had the next move planned perfectly. Duran feinted to his left, got Pacquiao out of position, then came back with a left hook to set up a massive overhand right that caught an off-balance Pacquiao right on the chin; it was the fourth Marquez fight’s ending revisited, just twelve pounds lighter, a whole lot faster, and with the greatest 135-pound power puncher who ever laced up the gloves for a lightweight title bringing the goods. Pacquiao had been hurt and stopped by a couple of flyweights; his chin seemed much more in line with a 112-pounder, while Duran hit him like a middleweight. Game, set, match, and a seven-year temporal reversal about to ensue for the man from General Santos City.
The official time, 2:59 of the sixth round, your winner, by knockout, Manos de Piedra…
RESULT: DURAN KO6 PACQUIAO.
It’s Halloween next week, and that means we’re doing a special in-costume Silly Episode. After 23 episodes so far, it’s time to lighten up and have some fun, throwing “reality” to the wind.
That’s right—we’ve got our first fight between cartoon characters, as Bugs Bunny, put in the “time machine” from the 1948 classic “Rabbit Punch”, takes on Mr. T, but not just any Mr. T, fool. This is Mr. T, the animated character from his cartoon series, crossed with his performance as Clubber Lang in Rocky III. Expect utter Looney Tunes lunacy from your columnist, who watched way too many cartoons as a kid.
Your co-feature? A rematch of the wacky, wild, Kool-Aid style battle between Joe Calzaghe and Nigel Benn, but this time it’s a no-holds-barred show that’s more WWE than WBA. Leave your purist streak at the door, put on your costume, and get ready for a Halloween party, Historical Fight Night-style.
As always, we’re on at 6 PM Eastern, 3 PM Pacific, every Friday, right here on The Boxing Tribune, and a few hours after the conclusion of the fight (it’s usually up there by 7 Pacific most weeks), you can check out Let’s Make History, our behind-the-scenes column and impromptu pledge drive, over at Patreon—just click on “Creator Posts”, it’s now a free feature for all, not just for donors, but it gives you a chance to help support the show.
Thanks for reading, and see you next week!