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Mike Culbert Remembers Facing Roberto Duran 1996

By Scoop Malinowski

Mike Culbert fought Roberto Duran in 1996 in Chester, West Virginia. The four division world champion who boxed from 1968-2001, was 45 years old at the time, with a record of 97-12. It was a super middleweight fight after Duran had fought Hector Camacho and before his two fights with former champion Jorge Castro and WBA Middleweight champ William Joppy…


Mike Culbert’s memories of facing Roberto Duran…

“I started watching boxing when I was about ten. Muhammad Ali was my favorite fighter until my gym teacher told me to watch Roberto Duran when I was eleven in the 6th grade. He fought Alvaro Rojas on TV. He was my favorite fighter from that moment until today. I followed boxing pretty closely until around 1978 when I was twelve. On the night of November 30th 1979 hometown hero Marvin Hagler fought for the Middleweight title. He got screwed when his fight with champion Vito Antuofermo was declared a draw. Some time around the following April I saw KO Magazine with Duran on the cover at the convenience store up the street. I bought the magazine and was hooked again. I started boxing three or four months later. I fought the guy on the cover about sixteen years and around 90 fights later. Life is crazy sometimes.”

“When I fought Duran, he had just fought Hector Camacho three months before when he was in his best shape in years. He was still in shape. We thought he would over look me because he wanted a rematch with Camacho but we were told he stayed in the gym. He fought about three weeks before we fought and scored a first round KO (vs. Ariel Cruz in Panama City).”

“I didn’t have a lot of time to focus in on him. I agreed to the fight ten days before but it wasn’t confirmed until seven days before. I was walking on air for almost six days. Then the nerves hit me halfway through the flight to Pittsburgh.”

“We had two different (pre-fight) incidents. He asked me at the weigh-in if I was ready and I barked back at him, ‘Are YOU ready?’ The next day he was walking down a long hallway alone in the hotel. I stepped in front of him and he looked up at me and started swearing at me in Spanish.”

“His defense surprised me but his body shots really did me in (in round six). I tried to stare with him at ring center until I realized where I was then I almost started laughing.”

“I had fought the week before but it was against a guy I had beaten twice (TKO 3 Milton Leaks in Boston). I wasn’t partying but I wasn’t going 100% in the gym.”

“I have been so fortunate to train with Marvin Hagler and fight Roberto Duran. I don’t even believe it myself sometimes.”

“He didn’t really hit me with a good shot to the head until the end of the fourth. It buckled my knees.”

“This guy was my favorite fighter since I was eleven so it was kind of surreal. His power was good but I have been hit harder to the head. He left bruises on my body for two weeks. I caught him clean five or six times. I hit him with a real good left uppercut in a fourth round exchange. It snapped his head up and I felt it down to my elbow. It didn’t seem to bother him. I also caught him with a nice 1-2 behind the ear. He looked real surprised. I caught him that clean. On the video it’s hard to tell because of the camera angle. He dropped me with the right hand.”

“After the fight he kissed me on the cheek in the center of the ring, after the referee stopped the fight. So he couldn’t be that bad a guy. We were supposed to have a beer together later but it never happened unfortunately. 26 years later and I’m still disappointed that we didn’t. He speaks English much better than he lets on.”

“The Duran fight was the best payday of my career. I didn’t get paid for the fight what I was supposed to but that’s another story I won’t get into. I took the fight on ten days notice and thought their figure was low. I found out why years later. I have never seen him kiss an opponent on the cheek after a fight but he may have. Let’s just say I was pretty surprised.”

Mike Culbert’s final ring record was 30-4-1 with 6 KOs. After the Duran fight loss in the sixth round, Culbert fought ten more times and did not lose. His final pro fight was an eight round split decision in June 2006 vs Khalif Shabazz in Memorial Hall in Plymouth, MA.

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