by Fox Doucette
The best part about a De La Hoya-Duran matchup is that both guys could come into the fight just about anywhere on the scale, from lightweight to middleweight, and if you did the fight three times, you might well get three different results. Indeed, consider this the opening act for a trilogy between the two men; we’re starting at 135, and future installments will come at 147 and 160.
For Oscar, he steps into the time machine after his TKO win over Genaro Hernandez, a bizarre fight in which Hernandez straight-up quit after the sixth round, claiming a broken nose but in reality looking more like someone who just decided “no mas”.
Duran? His “no mas” moment was still a couple of years away, as he comes in from the third and deciding fight with Esteban De Jesus in 1978, when he made his final defense of the lightweight title in a reign that spanned the bulk of the Seventies and served as a clarion call to history to consider him as the greatest 135-pound fighter of all time. Prime Duran is the ultimate test, the measure against which all lightweights are judged. Will the Golden Boy be equal to the challenge?
Meanwhile, we’ve got an entertaining co-feature, as all such 154-pound contests must be when one of the principals is knockout king “Terrible” Terry Norris, into the time machine from his smashing of Meldrick Taylor.
His opponent is making his Historical Fight Night debut; fresh off a dominant decision victory over Shane Mosley (a fight he possibly could have won by late stoppage had he pressed his advantage), it’s Ronald “Winky” Wright.
Winky was never stopped in his career, but Julio Cesar Vasquez knocked him down five times in Wright’s first world title shot in 1994. Wright claimed after the fact that three of the knockdowns were slips and the last two were pushes, but there may be an opening for the power of Norris to find a home. It’s a classic example of the early rounds favoring the puncher and the late rounds favoring the boxer, so who takes it?
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.
Terry Norris (5/9/1992, 32-3, 18 KOs) vs. Winky Wright (3/13/2004, 47-3, 25 KOs)
Norris has an interesting set of blemishes on his record; he’s got a habit of hitting guys when they’re down and getting himself disqualified for his trouble.
The question is, will that come into play when Wright, who is more than a little difficult to put on his duff, is the guy in front of him?
After all, we’re talking about a version of Norris here who’s coming off an unholy smackdown he administered to Meldrick Taylor. Something’s gotta give, right?
Norris was a bit of a slow starter, especially considering just how much power he had, and he was all the more tentative in this fight as he tried to figure out the timing and the angles on the southpaw Wright. Winky was always good at outboxing his opponents off the right jab, something he was able to do to devastating effect in the early rounds of the first Shane Mosley fight, and it was again the jab that Wright would rely on here.
If anything, Norris’s slow start was perhaps a bit too cautious, as Wright quickly got comfortable with the range and started snapping that jab with far more steadily violent intentions. In point of fact, Wright boxed circles around Norris in that first round.
More of the same came Norris’s way in the second round, flavored with a few right hooks for variety and a honey of a left cross mixed in as, like Mosley, Norris incorrectly circled away to his right, the way fighters learn to do against orthodox opponents to the point where it becomes muscle memory, right into the path of that left. For Norris, he just couldn’t get anything going, and the frustration set in as he seemed to eat three punches for every one he landed, and he found himself tied up before he could press any advantage he’d gained by getting inside the range of Wright’s jab.
With two rounds gone, this risked turning into a blowout.
A penchant for fighting dirty may be a man’s undoing more often than not, but after Wright slipped and before referee Mitch Halpern could get between the fighters to separate them, Norris uncorked a vicious shot to the head of the downed fighter, throwing Wright for one mother of a loop and helping to turn the momentum of the fight his way.
Halpern, however, was not going to let the Terrible One’s off-label use of the rules stand, and issued the fight’s first point deduction. Had Wright been unable to rise after five minutes, it would surely have been a disqualification, but as it stood, the advantage Norris did gain, which came with a side order of left hooks and overhand rights delivered with more precision than Norris had been able to muster when Wright was not visibly dazed, was only redeemable for an even 9-9 round thanks to the deduction.
Wright re-established the jab, and Norris, increasingly frustrated by the return to the status quo, started rabbit punching in the clinch. Wright barked at Halpern, but to no avail; in this case, Norris would be allowed to play on.
The fight only got worse from there, as Wright began to clinch more aggressively, in the sense that he began to grapple and attempt to immobilize Norris’s free arm in the clinch with sufficient force that this time it was Norris complaining to the referee.
The fifth round passed seemingly without incident until very late in the stanza, when another rabbit punch in the clinch finally drew Halpern’s attention enough to deduct another point from Norris. When Norris extended a glove in a goodwill gesture, an angry Wright instead replied with a straight left hand that Norris only just managed to deflect.
A donnybrook ensued over the final fifteen seconds of the round, but when the bell sounded and Wright briefly relaxed to prepare to return to his corner, Norris wasn’t done; he had one more overhand right left in him, launched clearly after the bell, landing uncontested, and finally convincing Halpern to call a halt to the contest at 3:00 of round number five. Your winner, by disqualification…
RESULT: WRIGHT W-DQ5 NORRIS.
Oscar De La Hoya (9/9/1995, 19-0, 17 KOs) vs. Roberto Duran (1/21/1978, 63-1, 52 KOs)
Some on social media, upon hearing this fight announced, immediately howled mismatch. Others were intrigued by a three-fight series at three weights. And still others, Duran fans mostly, howled mismatch even at middleweight (we’ll get there.)
Whatever the opinion of those outside of the Temporal Commission or perhaps even within it, the simple fact remains that Duran had a nasty habit of not training particularly hard when he was the heavy favorite.
Or it could just be the beautiful beatdown we were promised. Duran may have been giving up four inches in height and six in reach, but at 135 pounds, the man was so fast, with “hands of stone” packing the power of a middleweight and the speed of a flyweight, that it was going to be a simple matter—such as it is when the matter at hand is getting punched in the face for the right to do the same to someone who is bigger than you—of changing the geography of the fight either by coming in behind the jab or else simply walking the taller man down and relying upon a superior chin, and Duran was about as easy to knock down as a mountain at lightweight.
Which is to say that De La Hoya, never known for standing up well to punches to the body, was getting himself and his midsection tenderized like a cheap steak at the fast and powerful hands of his opponent.
To his credit, De La Hoya tried to control range; in point of fact, his fight plan was so obviously cribbed from Tommy Hearns that one could be forgiven wondering if indeed not only time machines but something like the body swap involved in Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy trading places in the movie of the same name was at hand.
Trouble is, Oscar is not Tommy Hearns. For one thing, he doesn’t hit as hard; for another, there exists a critical margin of error difference in protecting eleven inches of distance versus six. Hearns was able to beat Duran to a pile of gummy bears from a good three and a half feet away; Oscar had no such luxury, and what’s more, Duran was 19 pounds lighter in this fight than in that Hearns demolition.
Which is to say that second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse…at least from the point of view of De La Hoya’s midsection.
Nobody’s going to accuse Oscar De La Hoya of saying “no mas”. There exists a critical difference between making a big charade out of ending a fight the way Duran did against Ray Leonard the second time round or the way Genaro Hernandez quit a little too easily after six rounds of getting his nose some involuntary plastic surgery at the hands of the Golden Boy.
This was Oscar being genuinely unable to locate his lunch after Roberto Duran had beaten it out of him with a relentless barrage of painful, accurate body punches. To quit is human; to be folded almost literally in half by one’s opponent, divine.
And so it came to pass that when a Duran hook landed right on the liver of De La Hoya, it didn’t take a Sesame Street vampire to reach ten.
RESULT: DURAN KO3 DE LA HOYA.
You ready for another Old Vs. New fight? Because we’ve got one for you. In our main event, Ike Quartey steps into the ring in a welterweight tilt, with his opponent as none other than the current top-rated welterweight in the world, the WBA world titleholder, Keith “One Time” Thurman.
And in staying with the old vs. new theme, and with guys named Ike, we’re bringing Ike Ibeabuchi out of 1999, bypassing his long prison sentence, and throwing him in against a much bigger opponent, namely Tyson Fury. This ain’t Chris Byrd he’s stepping in with.
Historical Fight Night airs Saturday night on the East Coast, right here on The Boxing Tribune. Thanks for reading!