Speechless the Magazine

 To render. Be rendered. Awestruck. Awesome.
A magazine of poetry and related arts straight from L.A.

 


 

Roberto Duran: Hands of Stone

 

Arturo Gastelum in His Own Words

Poetry Goes to the Fights

 

 

It struck me that Arturo Gastelum's descriptive letter in response to my article on boxing and poetry in the current Poetry Flash could serve as the literary element for this issue's "Poetry Goes to the Fights". Knowing his admiration for Roberto Duran, I asked Arturo to give me a bio on Duran and something on himself. He composed two informative little narratives, which appear after his letter—further proof that while the gritty sport isn't language-dependent neither is it speechless. — Editor

 


 

Hello Suzanne,

 

Always a pleasure hearing from you and thank you for sending a copy of Poetry Flash...very very good article....only thing that was puzzling was the "suck it up" and "suck it in" part. No intelligent corner man wants to encourage a fighter to "suck" in his gut so that he can take more punishment...the term is really more of a state of mind kind of thing. It's that breath you take when faced with overwhelming odds and you make that conscious decision to either do or die...metaphorically and possibly reality speaking. It's much like the saying "hold your mug" which is a way of saying "don't let them see you sweat" or like the saying "hold your mud" which is like saying "don't let them see that the mud in your boots is weighing you down". It's an old saying from the 1800's but in the streets and in boxing it is still used. Suck in that air...and face your demons...I like to say.

 

Thank you very much for quoting me...I am honored by it...you are a very easy to read writer...and just dark enough to please me...So many writers have a hard time capturing the world of Boxing...and it's fascinating that of all people to do our sport justice you come along with a mousy look but inside of you roars a lion that can actually find beauty between the lines of brutality. Thank you for finding that beauty and dressing it as such....my sport needs more of what you've given it with this article. I hope that you will not forget our dark corner of the world and shed some more light on its beauty.

 

With pure respect,

 

Arturo

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Poetry Flash Editor Joyce Jenkins invites readers who'd like the Summer/Fall 2005 issue of Poetry Flash—which includes the essay/review discussing the anthology Perfect in their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali—to email or write a request for a complimentary copy: editor@poetryflash.org, or  Poetry Flash, 2450 Fourth Street #4, Berkeley, CA 94710. Subscriptions: $16 (6 issues)


Roberto Duran: Hands of Stone - by Arturo Gastelum

 

In the ring Roberto Duran was the epitome of "macho"—a ruggedly handsome, rough and tough hombre who embodied what all fightres aspire to be: a Champion among Champions.

 

Most hitting machines, as he was, do not have good defense but Roberto was a master hitting machine as well as a master of defense. Relaxation was his truest gift. Even compared to punchers like Esteban DeJesus, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, and Iran Barkely, no one rolled with punches better than Roberto Duran. In the milliseconds after his opponent threw, Roberto would begin to roll his face so that the hardest punch grazed off him, leaving his opponent open to Roberto’s wicked and effective counterpunch.

 

For those who were going to fight Duran the word was "don't look into his eyes". Mills Lane (“let's get it on”) said the coldest eyes he'd seen in all his years as a referee were those of Roberto Duran. When former World Champion welterweight Carlos Palomino fought Duran he felt like he was looking at a demon.

 

Yes, Roberto Duran had an intimidating, tough and rugged look, but his mastery over the beautiful sweet science of Boxing made him a tornado with a purpose. His knockouts surpass any choreographed fight scene in movies. His defensive grace leaves you amazed. His ability to rise from the ashes is unequaled in the sport. Many times written off as washed up he came back each time to defy the odds, and even at age 46 proved credible enough to challenge for the middleweight crown. Once, when asked when he'd finally quit, Roberto answered, "I'd like to die in the ring". Had it not been for a car accident that damaged his kidneys at age 50 it’s likely he'd still be fighting.

 

Roberto Duran won four world championships throughout his career that started at the age of 15 and ended at 50. He is in the world records for the longest boxing career and is soon to be placed in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

 

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Photo by Trudy Fisher

Arturo Gastelum in His Own Words

 

It didn't matter that my father had taught me how to throw the jab as early as I could walk. It didn't matter that my father (a professional singer who worked out with pro fighters) learned Boxing basics from the great fighter/instructor Kid Rapidez in Mexico City. It didn't matter that every Saturday my father hogged the TV to watch fights from "El Coliseo" (Mexico's equivalent to Madison Square Garden). It didn't matter that those fights were often more exciting and dramatic than any of the Rocky films.

 

Boxing began to matter the night I saw the man they called the "hands of stone"(manos de piedra) Roberto Duran beat Sugar Ray Leonard in Montreal. The man I saw that night couldn’t have lost—I saw a ferocious animal who was also fighting scientifically. There was a method to his madness.

 

It began to matter more when my 6th grade teacher announced that Jimmy Ford had gone to Texas to compete in a national silver gloves tournament, and he was ranked #1 in the nation. "You mean that innocent looking kid who I play hoops (basketball) with in the morning before school?" Wow!

 

It mattered even more when I, son of one of the baddest bar brawlers I've ever seen, son of a mother who threw the One, Two like Joe Louis, stepson of notorious Hell's Angel Harry "The Horse" Flamburis , and the younger brother of one of the baddest homeboys to come out of San Francisco's Mission District, I—a proud, tough Mexican thug who'd already scored a number of victories with mostly older kids—got completely outclassed by a nerdy, lanky kid named Josco Lucin. Not once but twice. Ouch.

 

I even picked a third fight with him, which he rejected—ignored me even when I threw a basketball at his face. I couldn't comprehend how this nerdy square could pick me apart, but when I looked into his eye's I knew I was the stronger one. I knew I was stronger in my heart and soul—still, he'd picked me apart. How come? Well hell, I thought, I’ll just ask. Turns out his father had made him box so he could defend himself from thugs like me. Suddenly I’d been blinded by Science -- the sweet science of Boxing. And I've been hopelessly devoted to it ever since.

 

As a kid watching Roberto Duran on TV I never imagined I would one day meet him—and be managed by his former manager Freddie Martinez who, along with Team Freedom's Luis De Cuba, rallied Roberto Duran for his last big Hurrah against Iran Barkley. Taking on the challenge of a professional Boxing career at the late age of 36 I am now faced with some of the uphill challenges Roberto faced, but because of the standard placed upon me by one of my biggest idols I will not fail. I will not let Roberto down. He never let me down.


The challenges of Arturo Gastelum’s journey into prize fighting will be chronicled by writer Mickey Disend, and will also be filmed for a documentary.  He fights under the name Arturo Coronado.

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Speechless Spring 2007
Copyright © 2007 Published by
Tebot Bach