The two men share elite status among all-time ring combatants. Sam Langford fought from lightweight to heavyweight and dominated in every division. He stood about 5′ 6 1/2″, a common height for a 135 lbs. boxer. He carried his power, agility and killer instinct all the way up to heavyweight with admirable fearlessness.
Roberto Duran was also fearless in the ring. Being a smaller man himself for most weight divisions, he was forced to face some of the biggest, strongest, and most skilled champions in boxing history in the peaks of their primes. His list of opponents include the great Tommy Hearns and Sugar Ray Robinson. He even beat Robinson the first time the met in the ring, before being psychologically dominated in the second fight.
Langford and Duran may have both fought at lightweight, but an insurmountable boundary prevented them from ever stepping into the ring together: time. Duran fought in the 1980’s and 1990’s; Langford first fought professionally in 1902. Although Duran is a famous champion, Langford never won a world title. Had he been afforded the same opportunity as some others who get to skip the line, like Vasiliy Lomachenko, who challenged for a title in his second pro bout, Langford likely would’ve enjoyed a more financially lucrative prizefighting career. Duran is now a legend due to his incredible achievements in the sport of boxing, but during his pro career he wasn’t the most popular fighter, either.
We’re lucky enough to have a few real fantasy fights happening between Stephen Fulton Jr. and Naoya Inouye, and also Errol Spence Jr. vs Terence Crawford. But have you wondered how previous legends from yesteryear would fair against more recent champions?
Langford vs. Duran: Tale Of The Tape
Politics aside, the two men stack up relatively evenly physically. They’re about the same height, with Duran standing at 5’7″ and Langford standing eye-to-eye with him at 5’6 1/2.”
In the realm of the fantastic, Sam Langford vs. Roberto Duran is a great matchup, and would very likely have great potential for rematches at additional weight classes; both men moved up multiple divisions throughout their respective careers.
Langford weighed as much as 185 lbs. during his professional career, but for a matchup with Duran he’d be limited to Duran’s max weight. Mano de Piedre put on significant weight througout his own prizefighting career, and carried his elusiveness, speed, and power up through the divisions impressively. The fascinating thing about his matchup is that depending on the comparative stages in their respective careers, Sam Langford and Roberto Duran could be matched up at multiple weight limits, probably each with slightly different outcomes.
Roberto Duran is a great, in his own right, but has a few disadvantages in the matchup. Langford has a 74″ reach compared to Duran’s 66″ arm length, and this would certainly play a significant role in the strategies of the two men. Both men are known for their ferocity and craftiness, but Langford had the better foot speed and much longer range. Aside from that, Langford was also physically stronger than most fighters his own size, which might play a role in stifling Duran’s inside game.
Duran’s Inside Game
Fighting Roberto Duran is like eating the most surprising soup with a fork; every time you try to stab it for a sip somebody wacks you in the head instead. You’re hungry for that soup, so you keep digging in, but eventually, the wacks in the head just become too much.
You start thinking about cupping the soup in the base of the fork instead of stabbing it? Wack!
Maybe you’ll try to find a spoon? Wack! It’s enough to make you say no mas!
Duran is known for his legendary defense, using head movement and agility to slip punches while advancing on his target. He uses the momentum charged up from shifting his weight and keeping his head off the line to get inside and load up on his counter punches.
Against an opponent with such a huge reach advantage, head movement would likely be a big part of Duran’s strategy against The Great Sam Langford.
The Legendary Sam Langford
Heavyweight power in a lightweight package is a devastating combination. It happens, but it’s extremely rare. There’s usually no way to see much evidence of it, as you’re very unlikely to see a professional boxer with the type of career that would span every division again.
Sam Langford was truly unique. He was considered as explosively powerful as Mike Tyson, but with all the ring experience of a veteran James Toney, and scaled down to the size of Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Langford was a helluva fighter!
He never got the chance to challenge for the heavyweight championship of the world throughout his career, due in no small part to the all encompassing racism that plagued US society in the wake of it’s eventual, begrudging separation from the institution of slavery. One can imagine that, in the years immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation, racism against the descendants of those slaves was blatant, violent, widespread, and vitriolic.
Despite the obvious societal contstraints placed tightly around his career, Sam Langford, to this day, is still known as one of the greatest fighters in the history of boxing.
Professional boxing is the purest form of recognized competition possible between two competitors. There’s no quarterback to throw a bad pass, no lineman to miss a block; no timeouts and no substitutions. In short, there’s no excuses. It’s been around for hundreds of years and has a rich history of champions and legends.
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