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Forty-five floors above Manhattan Island, in his room at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, Roberto Duran shifted in his chair and threw a quick left uppercut, and another, muffling a cry with each flash of his hand. "!Ay! !Ay!" Then up came the right. "Pow!" A second right. "Pow! !Duro! [Hard] !Duro!"
It had been a long day of celebration, and Duran was still flying. Almost 24 hours earlier, before an aroused, near-record Madison Square Garden crowd of 20,061, Duran, a former lightweight and welterweight champion of the world, had won the WBA junior middleweight title by stopping Davey Moore at 2:02 of the eighth round. Now, sitting in his room, sipping from a glass of Moet & Chandon champagne, Duran was watching a tape of the fight, witnessing for the first time—and with evident relish—this sublimely crowning moment of his professional life.
"Ah, he was an artist," his former trainer, 83-year-old Ray Arcel, had said after the fight. "That performance could be compared to that of any great fighter who ever lived. It was masterful."
Now here was Duran slipping Moore's punches, there countering with lefts and rights, here spinning off the ropes, there digging uppercuts to Moore's head and belly, here feinting and moving, there smirking through his mouthpiece, snarling behind his jab, like the Duran of old. "It's like looking at a tape of me five or six years ago," Duran told the 15 friends and family members gathered in the room to watch the replay.
As he watched himself elude a punch, Duran said, "I let the blows come by me so close."
"Just like the bullfighter lets the horns pass by so close," said a friend, Pepe Acosta Jr.
"Exactly!" Duran said. "That's the way it was. After the fourth round, I knew he couldn't hurt me."
At the end of the seventh, Duran dropped Moore with a crashing straight right hand. "Ohhhh!" the group in the hotel room gasped, as Moore flew back, landing on the seat of his pants.
"He's dead," Duran said. "This fight took a lot out of him. He'll come back, but it will be a while ¡Una derrota brutal!" A brutal defeat for Moore, to be sure, but one that represented redemption for Duran, a return to grace after his humiliating surrender to Sugar Ray Leonard 2½ years ago, and an ascent to a special place in history.
"Three titles," Acosta said, as the tape played itself out.