By: Sean Crose
Davey Moore was on his way to great things. Not only had he defended the WBC junior middleweight title three times in a row, the undefeated New Yorker was now expected to defeat a ring legend in front of a hometown crowd at Madison Square Garden. Moore’s opponent, Roberto Duran, clearly wasn’t the fighter he had been, losing in disgrace to Ray Leonard before going on to be surprised by Kirkland Laing. Still, he was Roberto Duran, a man widely regarded as an all time great. Victories over such men had a tendency to do wonders for a fighter’s career and marketability. At 24 years of age, the 12-0 Moore had every reason to expect the evening of June 6th, 1983 to be a crowning achievement. He was entering the ring a 5-2 favorite, after all.
Things did not turn out as planned. ” “Ah, he was an artist,” Sport’s Illustrated quoted Duran’s former trainer, the famed Ray Arcel, after the match. “That performance could be compared to that of any great fighter who ever lived. It was masterful.” Duran the has-been, the 32 year old, the man who had quit in disgrace partway through his rematch with Leonard, proved that evening a truly great fighter can’t be kept down. Not only did he beat the highly regarded Moore in front of a sold out Madison Square Garden, he gave the Bronx native a thrashing, making the entire bout look like an example of how (as Floyd Mayweather might later put it) there are different levels to boxing.
“Here was Duran,” Sport’s Illustrated claimed, “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.” The fighter known as Manos De Piedra undoubtedly did stunning work. Referee Ernesto Magaña, however, received seething criticism for not ending the fight when many felt Moore was already finished. “He kept looking at Moore’s closed eye,” stated Sport’s Illustrated, “as if waiting for it to fall out before he would stop the fight.”
Fortunately, a Top Rank (who was promoting the fight) representative jumped into the ring in the eighth round and caused the action to be halted – this after Moore’s own corner had tried and failed to stop the beating by throwing in the towel. It was a horrible night for the talented Moore, and the beginning of an historic comeback for Duran. Tragically, Moore himself died in a freak car accident in 1988. Duran, for his part would eventually gain full redemption before finally leaving the ring in 2001 after 30 years spent as a prizefighter.