Eight years after the infamous "No mas" fight against Sugar Ray Leonard, a 37-year old Roberto Duran was looking to add the middleweight crown to his three division championship resume. He faced the menacing and powerful WBC champion Iran Barkley on February 24, 1989 in Atlantic City, New Jersey in what Ring Magazine elected as the 1989 'Fight of the Year'.
Duran, who entered the bout with a record of 84-7 (61 KO's) and had gone 12-5 since the November 1980 fight with Leonard, was making his second attempt at the middleweight title after having captured the WBA light middleweight crown against Davey Moore in June 1983. In a bold move, Duran immediately went up against middleweight king Marvelous Marvin Hagler five months after defeating Moore and lost a 15 round unanimous decision.
The 28-year old Barkley (25-4, 16 KO's) was making his first title defense after pulling off a shocking third round knockout of then middleweight champion Thomas Hearns in June 1988. The Ring Magazine named that fight the 1988 'Upset of the Year'.
The pace of the fight was rather brisk right from the opening bell. Barkley exhibited very good movement and boxing skills, landing several left hooks to the body. Duran slipped a left jab by Barkley and counter punched, landing a big right hand that staggered the champion at the end of the opening round. Barkley continued to work the body over the next three rounds, but Duran countered very effectively with some big right hands as he fought inside.
A slugfest started to break out at the end of Round 4, with Duran seeming to get the better of the exchanges due to his right hand counters. Barkley was landing some big left hooks but Duran was unfazed and kept throwing back. The torrid pace after six rounds left Barkley gasping for air as he went back to his corner.
Round 7 was one of the most exciting rounds in boxing history with both men trading huge shots. A double left hook by Barkley momentarily stunned Duran, but before long the gritty Panamanian started throwing punches again. The stare down between both fighters at the end of the seventh was the exclamation point to the round.
This back and forth action went on over the course of the next three rounds, with Duran taking all of Barkley's big middleweight shots. The look Duran gave Barkley at the end of Round 9 let it be known that he had no intentions on going anywhere.
By the tenth round, Barkley's left eye was swelling shut and he was beginning to miss his shots. Duran appeared to be the fresher fighter, able to slip away from Barkley's punches while landing his right hand on the inside. Barkley was getting hit with several right hands in the eleventh and was knocked down by a pair of combinations delivered by the composed Duran.
The fight went down to the final bell with both men exchanging and landing blows. The end of the fight was punctuated by a final stare down from Duran after the bell sounded. Duran won by split decision 118-112, 116-112, 113-116, capturing his fourth (and final) division championship.
The great Roberto Duran retired in 2001 at the age of 50 with a career record of 103-16, 70 KO's. He was not the same fighter in the latter stages of his career, but he will always be remembered by fight fans as the one and only "Manos de Piedra."
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