'Fighters fight': Roberto Duran Jr interview
Roberto Duran Jr talks to Ezio Prapotnich about the pressure of a famous name and why he is fighting in the UK on a special show organised by the Kiyan Prince Foundation...
“I was named Alcibiade by my father to honour one of his siblings who had passed away. I chose Roberto Duran Jr as my ring name as a tribute to my older brother who had to quit fighting due to a heart condition.”
Take the last name away and 31-year-old welterweight Alcibiade Duran Galvan’s (3-1, 2 KOs) story is not that different from many others. His parents divorced when he was three years old and his father’s contribution to his son’s boxing career is purely genetic. It was actually his grandfather who brought him to a boxing gym when he was nine but it was just a hobby then, one he quickly forgot once he moved to New York on his own as an adult.
“I am not going into details but it was rough, man” he explains. “I spent day and night on the streets getting into all sort of troubles. At twenty-eight years of age, I got to a point where I had to make a choice and turn things around. That’s when I came back to Miami and picked up boxing for real. I figured that if I had to use my fists in order to survive, it’d be better to get paid for it.”
A very traditional route to professional boxing for many troubled young men but a rather uncommon one for someone related to an undisputed legend of the sport, and a contrasting scenario when compared to the mentoring relationships the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Conor Benn or Chris Eubank Jr, to name but a few, enjoy with their dads.
For Alcibiade, Roberto Duran is as off-limits a subject to discuss as his New York days. His name only comes into the conversation when Jr expresses his determination to step out of his shadow. “I hoped that through boxing we could build a bridge but he has not reached out. I can’t deny that having his blood in my veins led me to become a fighter but he is not involved in my career at any level.
“I am not getting any favours out of sporting his last name, only pressure. People have lots of expectations because of my surname, but I am my own man doing my own thing.”
The legend from Panama is not his favourite boxer either. “James Toney is my favourite fighter of all time. I try to model my style on his: a defensive counter-puncher aggressive on the inside. I rely a lot on footwork and head movement. Whatever similarity I share with my father is genetically inherited and not incorporated by choice.”
However current trainer Vinny Paz (formerly Pazienza, of course) disagrees. The 57-year-old recognised shades of the old man, whom he twice fought, in the kid’s power and relentless combination punching after he watched him winning his second fight by TKO.
They knew each other before but it was at that moment that the former world champion decided to step in and offer his guidance. With Paz in his corner, Duran Jr won his third fight, which he considers his best performance so far, on points but a first defeat followed.
“I should have never been in the ring with that guy [Jermain Corley] in the first place,” he reflects. “He was dropping down from super middleweight but I am not one to turn down a fight for any reason. Fighters fight, that’s what we do.
“I lost focus and it cost me the decision, but these are mistakes I won’t make ever again. So be it. I am still in the learning curve.”
A late starter at twenty-eight, Duran Jr reckons it will take him another three years to be fully equipped to compete at world level. In the meanwhile, aiming to grow his fan base and extend it worldwide, he set his sights on the UK.
The Mark Prince promoted “Jabbing not Stabbing” charity event on Saturday, where he will headline against a yet to be announced opponent, offers him the opportunity to make his London debut while also supporting a worthy cause he feels close to his heart.
Prince is a former boxer who lost 15-year-old son Kiyan - a promising footballer - in tragic circumstances and has since dedicated his life to working with young people and eradicating knife crime. Saturday’s card is a fundraiser for the Kiyan Prince Foundation.
“I saw a flyer and reached out to Mark. We bonded immediately. His personal history resonates with me for many reasons and I admire what he is doing to help fighting knife crime. I got a lot of respect for him and am proud to be part of such a worthy event,” he explains.
“My management team is based in the UK so it was easy to make it happen. Hopefully this will be the first of many fights on this side of the pond. I am keeping an eye on the British domestic scene and I look forward to make a statement on Saturday.”
To step out of Roberto Duran’s shadow is a huge challenge but one this young man is determined to achieve.
When you hear him talking, there is a feeling his reticence to speak of his father stems more from a need to make it on his own and create a distinct legacy rather than from harbouring a grudge towards him.
Maybe this is what it will take before that bridge between them can be built. It would be great to see them in the same corner one day.
Until then, as he has always done in life so far, Alcibiade Duran Galvan aka Roberto Duran Jr just keeps fighting on.
Tickets for ‘Jabbing not Stabbing’ that takes place at the London Irish Centre, Camden Square, Camden, London NW1 9XB on Saturday 21 December 2019 are available online here
Ezio Prapotnich is on Twitter @EPrapotnich, Instagram e.prapotnich, Facebook Ezio Prapotnich and Linkedin Ezio Prapotnich