Duran, 51, inducted into World Boxing Hall of Fame
LOS ANGELES -- Roberto Duran once said, "There is only one legend. That's me."
As he was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame Saturday night, there was no reason for him to think differently.
"That's right, it's me," he declared through an interpreter minutes before his introduction. "Everybody says it: black, white; everybody calls me a legend. Italians, Jews. Everybody."
Duran, 51, looked little like the man who won five major titles while compiling a 103-16 record with 69 knockouts between 1972-1989.
When he was introduced, he walked into the ballroom carrying a flag of his native Panama, having just minutes earlier said that his induction was important not only for himself "but for the whole country of Panama and for my president. ... All of Panama is going into that Hall of Fame."
Duran was the biggest name of the 13 inductees that included former champions Matthew Saad Muhammad, Julian Jackson and Eddie Perkins, and announcer Barry Tompkins, and it seemed as if all of the nearly 900 attendees wanted to catch a glimpse, get an autograph or tell of their favorite Duran moment or fight.
That was the case earlier Saturday when, at an autograph session, an estimated 300 people mobbed him and waited in line for his signature.
At the ceremony, Hall-of-Fame referee Gwen Adair's most memorable Duran moment was when Duran famously quit during the eighth round of his second fight with Sugar Ray Leonard. "I was shocked he said 'No mas,' " Adair said. "He's a macho guy."
For some, it was the knockout of Ken Buchanan on June 26, 1972, that gave Duran his first major title, the WBA lightweight crown.
Others thought his decision over Iran Barkley in 1989 that gave Duran the WBC middleweight crown was best.
And plenty recalled his epic fights with Leonard, one fan even walking around with a shirt promoting their third fight, which Leonard won.
Duran's favorite fight: none of the above. He chose the victory in Panama over Nato Marcel that game him his first title.
Duran said his earliest fights in Panama, "a lot of fights you don't know about," were his toughest because he was an inexperienced teenage fighter going up against older, veteran fighters Duran feels could have become world champions and were "tougher fighters than when I fought Leonard."
Those early matches helped hone his ferociousness in the ring, and on Saturday Duran boasted he was afraid of no fighter in the ring. It was that savagery that helped Duran win fans and earn enshrinement, which he said "is the biggest title a retired fighter can get."