In our modern times as boxing fans, we often look at the stars of our sport as being destined or needing to retire young. I can barely count the number of times I heard that Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Floyd Mayweather, and so on are going to walk away any moment now. But the history of boxing is very, very clear. No matter what someone says, generally they're going to be with us for a long time. Sure, there's exceptions. Ricky Hatton left young. So did Naseem Hamed. David Haye may not return either. What it is with British fighters walking away, I'm not sure. Maybe there's better social programs in England? But for fighters based in America, this is practically never the case.
In exhibit A for that which I speak, I offer this fight. Neither man really was "at his best". Pazienza, should you not remember, broke his neck in a car accident, only to come back 3 months later, choosing to train while wearing a halo. Following the injury, the one time lightweight/junior lightweight blew up to being a super middleweight. Duran was a different situation. There were no great crippling injuries in his past. However, his past is the thing of legend - 23 years prior to this fight, Duran won his first world title against Ken Buchanan in a lightweight bout. Over two decades later, a 42 year old Duran is at 168, fighting in a 12 round bout against the younger Paz.
The first fight between the two was an entertaining affair that featured Duran looking competitive and even knocking down Vinny Pazienza in the 6th round. He argued that it was a bad decision, and enough people were convinced by his legend and success seen in the bout that a PPV rematch was put on in Atlantic City. At the time for boxing, the sport was still transitioning and having difficulty getting over the fact that its biggest star (Tyson) was rotting away in prison. Paz/Duran II didn't move the sport forwards, but it wasn't necessarily the sort of thing that was single handedly going to demolish the sport. You also have to remember that the heavyweight champion at this time was George Foreman; the image boxing then held was one of aging men and criminals. Not the best thing commercially.
The fight itself doesn't deserve all the background I just gave it though. I gotta admit this. Maybe I should have earlier? Duran looks slow, pudgy (though this was nothing new) and totally disinterested from the second Paz decides to box and use lateral movement rather than trade. Duran simply doesn't have the reflexes to deal with even the not-so-great slick boxing of the Pazmanian Devil, and round after round goes by with power shot after power shot landing clean on Duran. Instead of an entertaining bout that meant precious little, we had a sad spectacle that not even the fans in attendance were overjoyed about seeing. The worst part about it was what it segued to: in attendance was Roy Jones Jr., and Pazienza was set on a course to face Senor Y'all Musta Forgot in one of the most one sided boxing contests ever televised on HBO. Duran continued to fight on, facing Hector Camacho and Jorge Locomotora Castro twice each, as well as men like William Joppy in increasingly sad fights.
Today, they occupy strange places in the present day boxing world. Duran retired, gained a ton of weight, and occasionally reappeared in strange places (like being failed prospect Julio Cesar Garcia's promoter). Vinny Paz went broke, changed his name to his nickname (legally) and has generally been associated with Foxwoods/MGM Grand Casino in Connecticut for many years as a greeter, making some scratch.
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