Lee Wylie is one of the most insightful analysts in boxing but he’s also a fan and makes no secret of the fact that Roberto Duran is his all-time favourite pugilist. Thus, it should surprise no one that arguably his most ambitious video remains this one, “The Tao Of Roberto Duran,” an in-depth examination of the tactics and talents of one of the greatest pugilists in the long history of prizefighting. And since the boxing world is collectively paying tribute to the legendary “Manos de Piedra,” on his birthday, it makes sense to re-feature this brilliant video for all the fans out there of Duran’s skills and amazing career. Supplemented with Lee’s detailed notes for each specific tactic (look below), this video is the perfect tribute to the unique combination of skill, talent and ferocity that is the all-time great champion, Roberto Duran. Check it out:
Scroll One: Feinting (0:16)
Few were as deceitful between the ropes as “Manos De Piedra.” Duran used feints to throw off timing and create openings for attack and also to note his opponent’s tendencies. But above all, Duran used feints to threaten opponents and keep them on tenterhooks. Once Roberto had established that he could hurt his man, the effectiveness of the feints increased and everything else became easier. Just look at poor Carlos Palomino flinching from Duran’s menacing feints in the opening segment.
Scroll Two: Rolling, Slipping, and Ducking (1:00)
Duran may have been an offensive fighter first and foremost, but he was also a defensive master, brilliant at blocking and parrying punches or stepping in to smother them. It was the evasive movement from the waist, however, which made Duran especially difficult to hit cleanly and enabled him to stay in range to return fire. Watch, for example, how Duran skillfully makes Pipino Cuevas miss with four consecutive punches simply by bending at the waist and moving his torso. Or how he stands in the pocket with Davey Moore, effortlessly rolling the right hand and then ducking under the hook.
Scroll Three: Ducking, Weaving, and Countering (2:03)
This segment showcases Duran’s seamless transitions between defense and attack at mid to close range. Considering how aggressive he was, Duran’s punch anticipation was phenomenal, and he was an expert at predicting his opponent’s most likely counter-attack based on his own attack. So instead of waiting for openings to appear, Duran would create and exploit them proactively (i.e. throw a right to the body―immediately weave right to evade a counter left hook―then throw a left to the body directly off the weave). Essentially, what you’re seeing here is Duran countering the counter.
Scroll Four: Waltzing (2:52)
Duran’s rendition of a “waltz.” After slipping or ducking a right hand, Duran would place his left arm around his opponent’s waist and then spin him while pivoting in the opposite direction. Before the opponent could recover his balance, Duran would attack. This technique was especially useful for when Duran had his back to the ropes as it allowed him to reverse positions and regain the upper hand.
Scroll Five: Shifting (3:41)
Here we see Duran stepping through off his right hand to craftily close the distance and get weight behind an unpredictable left from the southpaw stance. The beauty of some of these clips is that they also highlight how Duran would punch and then immediately look to snake his arms inside of the opponent’s to gain the positional advantage for in-fighting.
Scroll Six: Baiting with the Jab (4:36)
This one is self-explanatory. Here, Duran uses a “pawing” jab as bait to draw out an attack from the opponent, usually a return jab, which he would then evade and counter. Incidentally, if you go back and watch the final clip of the “Ducking, Weaving, and Countering” segment, you will see Duran using his jab to coax one from Davey Moore so that he could duck underneath it and attack the body.
Scroll Seven: Tactile Reflexes (5:49)
The closer you are to your opponent, the more difficult it is to see and react to an attack. Therefore, the ability to “see” with the hands, arms, and body in order to “feel” the opponent’s intentions and respond instantaneously to his movements is crucial for inside fighting. Duran’s sense of touch was so heightened that I often wonder if he trained blindfolded. No, seriously.
Scroll Eight: The Uppercut (6:51)
Arguably his signature technique, Duran was brilliant at pinning the opponent’s right arm with his left glove and then throwing the uppercut with his right hand. Often throwing it sideways across himself, Duran required little space for the uppercut to find its mark.
Scroll Nine: In-fighting (7:40)
Most of the categories overlap and Duran’s superlative in-fighting features strongly throughout the video. But the last few clips against Ray Leonard and Carlos Palomino really put everything together. Spacial awareness; jockeying for the sought-after inside position with his arms; tactile sensitivity; savvy use of the head; switching his attack from side to side; pinning with one hand while hitting with the other; defensive craft and counter-punching; perfectly placed blows to the head and body: the genius of Duran is on full display here.