Davey Moore vs Roberto Duran: A Night of Redemption
When he waved surrender in New Orleans the career of Roberto Duran looked over. The subsequent fights hardened that opinion. The fighter who ruled the lightweight division with his ‘Hands of Stone’ and became the first fighter to defeat Sugar Ray Leonard when he moved up to welterweight, looked like one assigned to history.
Leonard had made the fearsome Duran quit in their infamous rematch in 1980, it looked like it was ‘No Mas’ in many ways. A couple of wins when he returned in 1981 failed to convince. Two defeats on the bounce, one to Wilfred Benitez and a shocking surprising loss to the British enigma Kirkland Laing convinced many his day in the sun was over.
The Duran inner circle abandoned the seemingly sinking ship, including Don King who apparently had seen enough. But Bob Arum saw something in the Panamanian to give him a helping hand, it was up to Duran to do the rest.
A win over another British fighter Jimmy Batten was unconvincing and another sign it was almost over. But when he destroyed the former long-reigning welterweight champion, Pipino Cuevas, in 4 rounds, suddenly he had hope. A chance to win a world title in a third weight division presented itself.
Davey Moore the native New Yorker, after a tough upbringing in the Bronx, a life as a prizefighter always looked likely. As an amateur Moore reached the finals of the 1980 Olympic trials, the US boycott of the Moscow Games accelerated his route to the paid ranks. Moore turned professional late in 1980, Moore quickly made it known he was in a hurry. Top Rank advanced him rapidly, Moore made good on their investment.
The WBA light-middleweight champion of the world after just 9 fights, his boxing apprenticeship was short. Some would say too short. Moore won his title in Japan, defended it in South Africa and twice in America before he faced a Duran who was looking for redemption in 1983.
Despite the win over Cuevas, Duran was still considered a big outsider to defeat the surging new kid on the block. But for Moore, everything that could do wrong did.
Moore was carrying a knee injury from a previous fight which restricted the amount of training he could do. He had also undergone dental surgery arising from a sparring session that had damaged some of his teeth. Moore also failed to make weight at the first attempt, his supposed coming-out party was quickly turning into a nightmare.
Madison Square Garden was sold out, it was a pro-Duran crowd, the champion felt like an outsider in his home town.
This wasn’t the Duran who had laboured in recent fights, on his 32nd birthday, Duran had come to reclaim what everyone thought had long gone.
Duran was rampant, the marauding fighter of old. Moore’s problems worsened in the opening segments of the fight. He was thumbed in his eye towards the end of the first round, Duran was no stranger to accusations he was a dirty fighter. Very quickly the old champion had turned it into his kind of fight. The eye swelled badly, the chances of a Moore victory faded by the second. Moore started to absorb heavy punishment in round two, and despite bravely spitting defiance, there only looked like one winner all night long.
Round seven was a horrible brutal round for Moore. Duran sneered with admiration for the brutality of his work. When a big right hand dropped Moore, he could and should have been pulled out right there and then. The bell saved him, the referee or his corner didn’t.
The eighth and final round was plain old butchery, punch after punch landed on a defenceless and helpless champion. An uncomfortable watch doesn’t even scratch the surface of what it was. If anyone wanted the perfect argument for the abolishment of boxing, show them that round. There were frantic calls from ringside for the referee to stop the one-sided fight. It took way too long for him to wave it off. The white towel of surrender was ignored, family members fainted, it was a slaughter. There’s no disguising what it was. It’s that simple.
The punches Moore took would have lingered long after his night had ended, his prime probably ended at that moment. Moore continued his career but the damage had been done. He never came close to replicating the promise and hope he had before he shared a ring with the living legend who was reborn in the Garden.
Tragedy would hit Moore in 1988. The former champion was killed in a tragic accident when his car rolled down his driveway and he was dragged underneath as he tried to stop it. Moore was just 28.
Duran would go on to push Marvelous Marvin Hagler to a close decision in an attempt to become the first man to win a world title in a fourth weight division. Iran Barkley would suffer a similar fate to Moore when he defended his WBC middleweight title against Duran in 1989. Barkley was dropped and lost a decision and his title. The Panamanian had once again defied the odds. Duran carried on long past the point that he should have stopped before a car crash retired him once and for all. He was 50 when he formally announced his retirement.
A career that looked dead in the water was given a savage rebirth in New York. Moore was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In many ways, he didn’t have a chance.