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Punch now, bat later
Pat Putnam
May 08, 1978
He'd sooner play shortstop, but Duran saves his hands for slugging opponents
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May 08, 1978

Punch Now, Bat Later

He'd sooner play shortstop, but Duran saves his hands for slugging opponents

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Seven years ago, that was precisely what Luis Henriquez was telling Madison Square Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner. Henriquez is a Panamanian vice-consul in New York, and he is now Eleta's administrative assistant for Duran's fights as well.

"He really is something else," Henriquez was telling Brenner, who had never heard of Duran. "Twenty-three fights, all wins, with 19 knockouts. You should use him."

At the time, Duran was already scheduled to fight Chango Carmona, the No. 2 lightweight contender, in Mexico, for $10,000. Swayed by Henriquez' eloquence, Brenner offered Duran $3,000 to fight unranked Benny Huertas in the Garden.

"It took me three weeks to make up my mind," Eleta says. "There was a big difference in money. But the exposure at the Garden decided me. I told Roberto it was the best thing to do."

But Eleta had second thoughts in the dressing room just before the fight in September 1971. He was concerned that Duran, who had only fought in Panama and Mexico, might freeze before a big Garden crowd.

"Are you worried?" Eleta asked.

"Very worried," Duran said.

"Of what?" said Eleta, alarmed.

"I am worried because I want to eat a lot of ice cream after the fight and I am afraid the stores will close before we can get out of here. Fm going to knock this guy out in the first round."

Duran did just that. Because of his impressive showing, he was back at the Garden nine months later, when he knocked out Ken Buchanan in 13 to win the world lightweight championship.

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