Finding Duran’s Daddy before the ‘Super Fight’
It was an era when the tabloids in New York City were at war… with each other, the bigger Daily News bumping heads every day with Rupert Murdoch’s gritty Post.
I was boxing columnist for The Post for about eight years and I savored the juicy headlines of both papers, wild and lusty in attempts to drive newsstand (remember those?) sales. Pulp headlines and snippy stories were the order of the period, the classic Post entry occurring when a sociopath robbed a topless bar in Queens and brutalized patrons amidst a bloody robbery and assault.
One victim lost his or her head, thus ‘HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR” as the front page of The Post.
Which somehow brings me to Father’s Day, to ring icon Roberto Duran and to my link to Margarito “Mayo” Duran who was the roaming father of “Hands of Stone.”
The headline on my Post Exclusive about Duran’s Dad said it best, running on the June 1980 morning when Roberto was masterful in decisioning slicker, quicker American hero Sugar Ray Leonard in Montreal.
“PAPA DURAN: I DIDN’T WANT TO ABANDON BABY ROBERTO” was the screaming back page lead of the paper that day and it caused a stir at the media center in Quebec.
In the body of the piece, I recounted a phone interview I had just conducted with Poppa Duran who was at his home in Flagstaff, Arizona. He admitted it was a brief affair he had with Clara Sanmiego which produced the awesome “Pride of Panama.”
Poppa had a fervent desire to atone for being an absentee father and said he wished to come to Canada for the Super Fight. As I recall, Poppa tried to speak with his son at a bout at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles but was blocked or brushed off. Through his bilingual sidekick/adviser Luis “Flaco Bala” Henriquez, Duran informed me he could care less for his roaming padre.
(“Flaco Bala” means skinny bullet, btw.)
But my story behind the story is intriguing. I got a tip over post work beers in Las Vegas, where I scribbled for The Sun, from a guy who worked in the printing back shop. We were riffing on the fight game and my pal asked me if I knew who Duran’s father was and where he could be found.
“The father is a short order cook in Flagstaff, Arizona,” the friend informed. “I can put you in touch. He wants no money; he just wants his son to know he loves him. He got turned away in LA.”
A hard, nearly impossible thing for a hustling reporter to do is to sit on a story, thus possibly permitting a rival news outlet to steal a scoop.
But, against my nature, I sat on it until the night before Leonard-Duran I. Not saying the scoop was of Watergate importance but it was crucial to me at the time.
I got my scoop and I found out more about Roberto’s lineage. His father was of Mexican descent and a third generation Mexican American. There was no dispute about Margarito’s paternity of the future fistic legend.
It also turned out and is prominently mentioned in the father’s obituary that he served in Vietnam, won medals for valor including the Bronze Star and was given full military honors at burial.
Poppa, age 78, had other children and 10 grandchildren and seven grandchildren.
I believe that, before his 2007 death, Poppa and “Hands of Stone” made amends.
So, beyond the headlines, Duran’s daddy was a hero in his own right.
Michael Marley was born on Father’s Day, 70 years ago. [email protected]