Roberto Duran vs. Julio Cesar Chavez in an Exhibition Match?

Fightland Blog

By Nick Wong

A common exercise done amongst boxing fans is to theorize how two great fighters from different eras of the sport would have fared against the other had the timelines of their careers aligned. One such match is that between boxing legends Roberto Duran and Julio Cesar Chavez, both of whom were seemingly unstoppable forces at the heights of their career. Predictions on the fantasy fight have gone both ways, but now there might be a chance to see the two fighting in the ring for real.

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is reportedly planning an exhibition match between the two to take place on the undercard of Terrance Crawford vs. Viktor Postol on July 23rd. According to Arum, the two ring legends would face off in a two-round exhibition match wearing headgear and 16-ounce gloves.

"I don't want anyone to get hurt," Arum said in an interview with ESPN. "It's fun, which is what it's supposed to be. We'll have a good card and this will be an added bonus and we'll have fun. We'll pay tribute to the two greatest Hispanic fighters."

For those unfamiliar, Duran was once named one of the four kings of boxing during one of the greatest eras of the sport, contending amongst names like Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, and Marvin Hagler. While he is probably best known for his matches against the aforementioned names, Duran also held a supreme dominance over the lightweight division shortly before that, and knocked opponents out with an almost frightening level of power. He made such an impact on the sport that movie on his life will be released in August of this year.

In the twilight of Duran’s career began the rise of another’s. Julio Cesar Chavez has gone down in boxing history as possibly the greatest Mexican fighter to have ever graced the sport, and while he has been thoroughly criticized for taking on virtual unknowns for the first portion of his career, few critics will deny Chavez of his ironclad chin and display of grit when he went in tough later in his career. Central to the debate of a hypothetical the matchup with Duran is how the sturdiness of Chavez’s chin would stand up to Duran’s relentless power, or if the indomitable will of Chavez would ignite another “no-mas” moment from the Panamanian.

While fighting now would quite obviously answer none of those questions, the Nevada State Athletic Commission is reviewing the current proposal, and ironing out certain ambiguities, perhaps most notably the weight. From a theoretical perspective, the debate on who would win a fantasy matchup always hinged on the weight in which the fight would take place, as Duran’s best showings were at lightweight, while Chavez was likely better at welter or junior welter. Talking about the weight now, however, is perhaps for more practical purposes, as now Duran likely tips the scales as a heavyweight and Chavez probably floats somewhere between the middle and light heavyweight division. There is also the concern of age. By the time of the fight, Chavez will have turned 54 years of age compared to Duran’s 65.

But despite all this, both fighters are apparently into the matchup. The idea was reportedly born when Chavez made a seemingly innocent comment this past weekend about fighting the Panamanian legend in an exhibition match for his birthday, where Arum countered that they would instead do it live on the undercard of Crawford vs. Postol. When mentioned of the exhibition, Duran responded by saying, “I will kill Chavez”. Chavez expressed similar feelings by promising to “beat [Duran] up”. Arum made light of the comments, saying, "I think they were joking, but who the hell knows with these guys?"

And when it comes to boxing, who the hell knows indeed. 


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