On This Day: Wilfred Benitez Beats Roberto Duran Over 15 Rounds
By Sean Bastow
DATE: January 30, 1982
LOCATION: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV
WEIGHTS/RECORDS: Wilfred Benitez (152 1/4lbs), 43-1-1. Roberto Duran (152 1/2lbs), 74-2.
TITLES/SCHEDULE: WBC light-middleweight title over 15 rounds.
WHAT HAPPENED: Duran, a Panamanian, entered the ring behind a sign held aloft by supporters that said ”The Legend Is Back.” He was seeking redemption from his eighth-round walkout against Leonard in New Orleans in 1980, and he started well by winning the first two rounds on the cards of two of the judges.
But Benitez’s right hand leads began to find their mark in the third round. And a solid left hook to the jaw, while Benitez was spinning off the ropes in the same round, jarred Duran.
By the fourth round, showing little emotion, Benitez was utilizing his full repertory of jabs to the head and hooks to the body, controlling the center of the ring and neutralizing Duran’s effectiveness on the ropes.
Duran staggered Benitez with a right to the head near the end of the fourth round, but by that time Benitez had won the round on all three cards.
Another right hand opened a cut over Duran’s left eye in the seventh round, and a stinging left jab produced a small cut on the bridge of Duran’s nose in the eighth.
Yet another right-hand lead to the head jolted Duran in the 10th round. Benitez suffered a cut on the side of his left eye in the 12th but still unloaded a hard right while backing away.
Duran, won only four rounds in common on the three judges’ cards – the second, sixth, seventh and ninth rounds.
Lou Tabat scored the fight 145-141 on a 10-point must system; Dave Moretti scored 144-141, and Hal Miller scored the closest, 143-142, giving Duran seven rounds.
RESULT: Benitez w pts 15 Duran.
THE AFTERMATH: It was widely regarded that Benitez was thought to be at his prime at the time of the fight, but it turned out to be his last great performance.
In December 1982, he was comprehensively beaten by Thomas Hearns in a lackluster bout. Losses over the next few years to the likes Mustafa Hamsho, Davey Moore and Matthew Hilton followed before his career went downhill fast.
By the time he eventually retired in 1990, aged just 32, he was badly damaged by boxing.
Duran, meanwhile, decided to continue his career. A loss to Kirkland Laing in 1982 appeared to confirm his decline but he would rebound to beat Davey Moore in 1983 for the WBA light-middleweight title and then rebound from a bad loss to Thomas Hearns to stun WBC middleweight champion Iran Barkley in 1989. Duran finally retired in 2001 with a record 103-16 (70KOs)
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