“Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran” by Christian Guidance
April 27, 2011
5 of 5 stars – Absolutely loved it!
Roberto Duran’s boxing career had many high points and low points. Christian Guidance’s well-researched biography of the man many considered one of the greatest of all time dug deeply into those points as well as Duran’s childhood and life outside the ring. The book also introduces the reader to other people in Duran’s life who were important to him but may not be familiar to people who followed the boxer’s fights. These included his wife Felicidad and international businessman Carlos Eleta, who became Duran’s financial backer.
While these were important parts of the book, the best parts were Guidance’s recaps of the two biggest fights of Duran’s career – the two against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980 that were both characteristic of the best and the worst of his career. The second one in particular, the famous “no mas” fight, was very well chronicled by Gudiance through other people that were at that fight and offered their own explanations of why Duran suddenly stopped fighting. Many of the well known theories are given by these people, such as stomach cramps and the humiliation he felt during the fight when Leonard changed tactics and was taunting Duran in the ring. Guidance wrote in the introduction that his curiosity about that fight was why he wanted to write the book. He didn’t offer his own opinions on the fight – he simply gathered some of the biggest names in all aspects of the sport and recorded their versions of the events. From writers (Bert Sugar) to trainers (Angelo Dundee, who was in Leonard’s corner) were included.
The connection Duran felt to his native Panama and the national pride felt whenever he was victorious is also an important part of the book and this was important in how Duran lived outside the ring. He was notorious for not always being in shape until it was close to the date of his next fight – but he would always give everything he had for his country. That is how he is portrayed and is the lasting image I have of him after reading this book.
Did I skim? No
Did I learn something new about the topic?
Yes – while I did know about the Panamanian citizens’ idolization of Duran, I did not realize how strong a connection he felt toward them. The surprise Duran felt when they turned against him after the loss to Leonard was a great section of the book.
Pace of the book:
The research is thorough and detailed, the fights highlighted are well-documented and the reader learns a lot about Panama and its people in the beginning.
No glaring weaknesses. Those who read these books just for the recaps of the fights may be disappointed that these don’t make up the majority of the book. But while crucial, this is a complete biography of Duran.
Do I recommend? YES – for any boxing fan.