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In Defeat, Roberto's Redemption
Pat Putnam
February 08, 1982
Though Wilfred Benitez beat him, Roberto Duran exhibited no no más in what surely his finale
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February 08, 1982

In Defeat, Roberto's Redemption

Though Wilfred Benitez beat him, Roberto Duran exhibited no no más in what surely his finale

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A few days before his fight with Duran, the champion stretched out on a bed in his Las Vegas hotel suite. It was 6 p.m. and he had just finished a very hard workout, with eight rounds of sparring. Why the new regimen?

"Dedication and maturity," said Benitez, one of six men ever to hold championships in three divisions. "This is my last fight as a junior middleweight and it is very important. After this fight I want to become a middleweight and beat Marvin Hagler for my fourth title. For this I must be disciplined."

Two months ago Benitez weighed 172 pounds. Three weeks ago he was down to 165. As he spoke last week, after the workout, he weighed 155.

"I have trained right," he said. "I lost the weight by training instead of just not eating, but this weight is too hard to make anymore. But I feel strong because I have worked very hard. At this weight I, and not Duran, will have the hands of stone."

As Frank Parilla, one of Benitez' handlers, and his grandson, 9-year-old Juan Francisco Vasquez, were playing dominoes, one of Wilfred's favorite games, Gregorio was checking the suite for signs of voodoo. He had heard that the Panamanians thought that he was a witch and would use voodoo against him. He had posted extra guards and was constantly searching for suspicious powders or marks on the doors.

"Duran is a dirty fighter," Gregorio said. "Everybody knows he is a street fighter. He is a guy who comes in angry. All of Wilfred's fights have been clean. If you are going to fight with fouls, then let's call this kick boxing. That's the Japanese style [sic]; you hit with fist and with feet. Duran should be a kick boxer."

An onlooker mentioned that Wilfred was saying how hard he had worked.

Gregorio frowned. "I got nothing to say about that," he said, and then had something to say about that. "I think he could have trained better this time. This is going to be a furious fight. This is a fight for Latin America and the Americans are all eager to see my champion beat Duran. We have to beat him any way we can. Kicking if we have to. But Duran can't beat him. Wilfred is a young man with the age of 35 in the ring. He has 200 and some fights on his ribs. They can do 1,000 marvelous things to him, and with his experience he's too great for it to matter. He is a bible." By Gregorio's count, Wilfred had sparred 400 rounds and had run 200 miles preparing for Duran.

At a press conference the following day, Gregorio glared at Duran and said. "We have trained to fight 15 rounds just in case you decide not to quit in the eighth round."

Duran laughed at him. Later he told the newsmen, "After I beat Wilfred I am going to get Don King to sign my father to fight his father."

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