Hands of Stone: The Boxing Legend Roberto Duran’s Career Is Revisited
Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) is considered by most fight experts to be one of the greatest boxers of all time. He earned his nickname “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.
Born in Panama in 1951, Roberto exhibited promise from the moment he first entered the ring at the age of 8. He turned pro at 16 and won the World Lightweight title at Madison Square Garden in 1972 after Ken Buchanan (John Duddy) failed to answer the bell for the 14th round. Roberto went on to knock out over 50 foes and compiled an impressive 62-1 record as a lightweight before moving up in weight class.
When he retired in 2002, Roberto held the world welterweight, light middleweight, and middleweight titles. But despite that incredible feat, he is remembered for crying “No mas!” before quitting midway through his Welterweight World Championship rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond). And although he would eventually return to the ring, that one display of cowardice effectively overshadowed his subsequent achievements.
Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz (Secuestro Express), Hands of Stone is a biopic that humanizes Roberto and puts a positive spin on his indelible stain. This version of his career blames Duran’s failing on his manager, Carlos Eleta (Ruben Blades), and pressure from the fight’s promoter, Don King (Reg E. Cathey).
In the movie, we see the backstage image of a burnt-out Roberto bemoaning his being exploited. “I worked all my life. I didn’t have any fun, when I was a kid.” He not only began boxing young, he also married when he was 17 to Felicidad (Ana de Armas), who was only 14. However, the couple went on to have eight children and are still together after 47 years.
If the movie has a flaw, it’s in the fight scenes which leave a lot to be desired. Anyone expecting cinema verite as in Rocky or Raging Bull, will be disappointed.
Robert De Niro plays the legendary Ray Arcel who came out of retirement, in spite of death threats from the Mafia, to train a teenaged Duran. He whips the promising protege into fighting shape, and it’s just a matter of time before Roberto becomes successful.
Very Good (***). Rated R for sexuality, nudity, and profanity. In English and Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 105 minutes. Distributor: The Weinstein Company.