Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Duran retired with a record of 119 fights, 103 victories, 70 by knock out and only 16 losses, holding world titles in four different weight classes and being only the second boxer to have a career to span five decades.
Unfortunately, for this monster-among-men is remembered mostly for his rematch against Sugar Ray Leonard on November 25, 1980, dubbed the “No Mas (No More)” fight, which Duran to this day contests he said, “No Sigo (I will not go on).” Even though Duran went on world titles in three more weight classes and lose the rubber match in 1989 against Leonard, that Thanksgiving weekend has somehow defined this fighter’s legacy — at least in the United States.
Now in the documentary, I am Duran, some of boxings most notable celebrities discuss the career of the Panamanian demi-god. Leonard himself, a 1976 Olympic Champion said he grew up poor, but didn’t know what poverty was until he went to Panama to see where Duran was raised and understood what gave him that drive to succeed as a fighter.
To be a fighter, there needs to pain and a desire to escape, which Roberto “Manos de Piedra (Hands of Stone)” Duran had it all. Duran was a fighter that had an aggression that people had not seen until Mike Tyson came about. He did not only fight for himself, but his family and his country all during the strife going on between Panama and the United States. During a time when Panama did not allow the people to speak freely, Duran spoke with his fists and ferocity for the entire country and at 21 year old, won his very first world championship.
Although the documentary doesn’t tell us much more about Duran’s life than other documentaries have, it does paint him as a national hero and an international representative for the nation of Panama. Think of it like how the World Cup represents each country going to war on the soccer pitch, in boxing it is a war for survival and national pride.
When Duran went to war in the ring it was like Panama reclaiming the canal from the United States. Even former Panamanian President, Enesto Perez Balladares said, “The Panamianian people always identified themselves with Duran. Especially during his fights, I mean it was a national fever. He won, we won.”
Combat sports, soccer and the Olympics are almost always political in nature when two international combatants from rival nations are involved. The weight of the world is on the competitors and this documentary shows that when United States President, Jimmy Carter signed the canal back over to Panama during the same time frame that it was a double victory for Central American nation.
The 1970s and ’80s gave the rise to boxing promoters, political strife, international unrest and boxing heroes that people could identify with on a personal level. When Duran beat Leonard, it was a victory for Panama, but when Leonard beat him in their first match, it was America tipping the scales back in their favor in finding balance after Carter signing the treaty with Omar Efraín Torrijos Herrera.
I am Duran, is quite possibly the best documentary made thus far about the life of Roberto Duran. The most comparable one would be the ESPN 30 for 30 No Mas documentary about their fight where the men faced each other for the first time in nearly three decades to talk about the events that surrounded their rivalry.
I am Duran, releases on Monday, June 3, 2019.
I am Duran, is a powerful documentary that deals with the life and career of Roberto Duran as it is encompasses everything from politics, national pride and overcoming adversity that would have broken most men.