Sons and grandsons of famous professional athletes always deal with the inherent pressure of following in their predecessor’s footsteps.
Ken Griffey Jr. did it. So did the Mannings, Peyton and Eli. In boxing, middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh is facing the scrutiny that comes with being the grandson of Muhammad Ali.
Now, CES Boxing is banking on the relatives of two all-time greats to carry the torch in 2023 and beyond.
The world-renowned promotion recently signed long-term deals with southpaw light heavyweight James Hagler Jr., the grandson of the late “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, and super welterweight Alcibiade Duran – a.k.a. Robert Duran Jr. – the son of “Hands of Stone” Roberto Duran.
Despite taking different journeys to reach their current destination, the two are now fighting under the watchful eye of promoter Jimmy Burchfield Sr. and will make their promotional debut May 20, 2023 at the Historic Park Theatre & Event Center – 40 years since Hagler’s grandfather fought Duran’s father at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for the IBF, WBA, and WBC world middleweight titles.
“This is an exciting time for our promotion,” Burchfield said. “Boxing has evolved in many ways since the pandemic and building champions is more important than ever. There are no greater bloodlines in professional boxing than the Haglers and Durans. Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran are two of the best to ever lace up the gloves and I’m excited to see what the next generation can accomplish beginning on May 20.”
Hagler (@jameshaglerjr), 32, is the son of James Hagler Sr., the president of the American Boxing Association, whose father established a legacy as one the hardest-hitting middleweights of all time. Marvin Hagler, a Brockton, MA, native, finished his illustrious 62 wins – a staggering 52 by knockout – and holds the record for the highest knockout percentage among all undisputed middleweight champions (78) in addition to the longest undisputed championship reign of the last century, which lasted six years and seven months.
Duran (@robert.duranjr), 34, is one of Roberto Duran’s eight children, five of whom he fathered with his first wife, Felicidad Iglesias, and three whom he admittedly fathered with three different women outside of his marriage. Robert Duran was born in Miami in 1988, where his father lived and trained frequently during the height of his super welterweight title run in the ‘80s.
Roberto is the second of Duran’s sons to box professionally; Roberto Armando Durán Iglesias boxed briefly in the early 2000s and finished his career 5-1. Robert, who also goes by the name Alcibiade Duran Galván after his mother, Natalie Galván, has 14 pro fights under his belt, but little to no contact with his famous father, who held world championships in four weight classes – lightweight, welterweight, super welterweight, and middleweight – fought 119 times until retiring at the age of 50. Like Hagler, Roberto Duran is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and earned notoriety for allegedly muttering “No más” – Spanish for “No more” – in his 1985 loss to Sugar Ray Leonard.
Historical anecdotes aside, both up-and-comers are looking to carve their own legacies with CES.
Born in Atlanta, Hagler fondly remembers trying on his legendary grandfather’s boxing gloves when he was just four years old, but despite being a self-professed “student of the game” all his life, he grew up playing football, primarily because his grandfather didn’t want anyone else in the family to box.
AFTER PLAYING FOOTBALL at Alabama State University, Hagler immediately transitioned to boxing after college and turned pro in 2019 at the age of 29 after just 10 amateur bouts.
“At my age felt, I couldn’t fight much as an amateur,” Hagler said, “so I’m still learning each time I step in the ring.”
Hagler’s mother is from Roxbury, MA, so New England has always been his second home. He travels between Georgia and Massachusetts to prep for fights, training under Rhode Island’s Mike Veloz when he heads back north. His May 20 fight in Cranston will end a year-long layoff and begin a new chapter under the guidance of CES. Managerial disputes and politics will have kept him out of the ring for exactly 371 days by the time the bell rings May 20, but the time off gave him the opportunity to put his career in perspective.
The best advice his late grandfather gave him?: “Be careful who you trust. Get the right people around you.”
“I’m starting to see that with my name, I’m a big deal to some people, but they didn’t have my best interests at heart,” Hagler said. “When I ran into Jimmy, I realized there’s a lot more to this game. He’s a great man. We text every week. We’ve built a family relationship, just like my father and grandfather did with [managers Goody and Pat] Petronelli. They were family, and I consider CES my family.”
DURAN COMES FROM LEGENDARY roots, but has built his career mostly by himself, only recently getting much-needed help from his wife, Yessenia. He remembers being around the sport most of his life, even training as early as nine years old, but he spent most of his 20s running with the wrong crowds in and out of jail while living in upstate New York until his sister Dalia Duran encouraged him to put his God-given talent to use.
“It was only a matter of time,” he said. “I would’ve never made the move were it not for her. Boxing saved me. It saves a lot of lives.”
Like James Hagler, Robert Duran turned pro after a handful of amateur fights – five, to be exact – and is now 11-3 with nine knockouts heading into May 20, but the road hasn’t been easy. The Duran name only made things more difficult. Robert admits his father has never been in his corner and they only saw each other every now and then when he was growing up. The two spoke a year and a half ago with Roberto acknowledging his son’s growing career and haven’t talked since.
Along the way, Robert trained under Rhode Island legend and longtime Burchfield protégé Vinny Paz, who ironically had two epic battles with his father in 1994 and 1995. Four years later, he finally linked up with Burchfield, whom he says is an “honest man” who has helped alleviate the pressure of trying to build his career on his own.
“I worked my ass off for years doing everything I could. I was my own promoter, my own matchmaker – you name it,” Duran said. “God put Jimmy in my path. With the right promotion and guidance, I’m ready to take off.”
The clock is ticking as both Hagler and Duran enter their mid-30s, but if boxing has shown us anything it’s that it’s never too late to rewrite one’s story. The next chapter in the journey of two promising fighters looking to carve their own path beginning May 20.