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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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Five months later, Esteban DeJesus defeated Duran in a non-title over-the-weight bout at the Garden, Duran's only loss in 62 fights. DeJesus weighed 138 pounds, Duran was 137�. Duran has since knocked out DeJesus twice at the regulation weight. "He had just won the title and he was having a lot of fun celebrating," says Freddie Brown, one of Duran's trainers. "He didn't take DeJesus seriously. It didn't mean anything to him. He came to New York to play."

Last week's fight with junior welterweight Viruet was also a non-title bout, this time with a 142-pound limit. But Duran hadn't forgotten the first DeJesus fight. There was to be no playing around. Duran set up camp in a suite at the Mayflower Hotel where, except for trips to Gleason's Gym to train, he spent most of his time. He was in bed each night at eight o'clock.

"Roberto isn't going to fight that much longer," says Eleta. "Perhaps no more than a year, two more fights. He doesn't want to lose, even though his title is not at stake."

On one of his few excursions out of the hotel, Duran went to Casa Latina on 116th Street, where he bought $2,000 worth of bongos, snare drums and timbals. Another morning he dropped into Saks Fifth Avenue and purchased a $250 raincoat and a $50 pair of sunglasses. For recreation he mostly sat on a bench in Central Park across from the hotel and watched the people go by.

"After the fight I'll play," he said. "Viruet is something special. I want to beat him bad."

Duran has a running feud with the Viruet family, Puerto Ricans who live in Hoboken, N.J. Twice Duran had fought Adolfo's brother Edwin. He won the first fight on a 10-round decision, the second on a 15-round decision. Duran and Edwin Viruet don't like each other. And it didn't help any when Edwin showed up at Duran's training sessions to shout insults.

"I kicked your tail twice," Duran screamed at Edwin one day. "And I'll kick your brother's. And if you bring your father tomorrow, I'll kick his."

Adolfo said he didn't understand the necessity for all the shouting. "I'm not yelling at nobody," said Adolfo, a 26-year-old southpaw with a 14-2 record. "It's my brother yelling. I got nothing against nobody. I think my brother hates him. But I got nothing against Duran. He never do nothing to me."

And through the early rounds Viruet fought as if he held no grudges. Most of the time he kept out of harm's way, scuttling away from the advancing Duran, only occasionally stopping to sting the champion with a left-hand lead. Duran, frustrated, expended most of his energy trying to get close enough to land a punch.

Viruet is reputed to be a tough street fighter who takes a good punch to the head, and although he boasted beforehand—"He want to fight wild, I fight him wild. It's gonna be a war"—most of the bombs exploded in air rather than on someone's chin. Whenever Duran unloaded a punch, Viruet took two quick steps backward and ran or tentatively countered.

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