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Friday, February 22 2019 @ 06:14 AM UTC

Area author gave his all to write book on Duran

Books & Reading
Roberto
Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran
By Sam Carchidi for the Philadelphia Inquirer - From leafy Haddonfield to the tough streets of Panama. Yes, it's been quite a journey for teacher-turned-author Christian Giudice. For that, readers of his first book should be grateful. Giudice (pronounced Jude-uh-jay) has written a fascinating, exhaustively researched biography called Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran. Duran, a colorful boxing legend who once knocked out a horse with one punch, held world titles at four weight classes and is the only man to have fought in five decades. (more)

Ironically, though, Duran is known more for his infamous "no mas" comment than any of his 104 wins in 120 pro fights. "No mas," - the Spanish words for "no more" - is what a ringside announcer said Duran uttered after his 1980 fight with Sugar Ray Leonard at the Louisiana Superdome.

Giudice traveled to Panama - retracing Duran's wild roots - to examine the boxer's complex past and his struggle to face life without a father by his side. He shows Duran's passion for battle (and for partying), and his cockiness, but he also uncovers a softer, gentler side that few knew existed.

Example: Duran would walk through the streets of Panama handing poor folks some of the winnings from his latest fight.

Giudice, 33, was tenacious in his research. Perhaps it is a quality he developed as a football player at Haddonfield High in the early 1990s.

To write the book, he spent 10 months spread over a three-year period in Panama.

In 2002, Giudice spent three months in Panama, but felt he wasn't making much progress. Using a translator, he conducted several interviews with the Spanish-speaking Duran, who was paid for the sit-downs.

Duran filled Giudice's tape recorder, but the words were somewhat hollow, the author thought.

When Giudice returned to his Haddonfield home, he came to a grim realization: If this book was going to become a reality, if he was really going to get Duran to open up, he needed to speak his language.

Literally.

"I realized there was no way I could do anything with this [project] without speaking Spanish fluently," Giudice said, "so I went back to Temple" University, where he had received his master's degree in journalism.

After studying Spanish for six to seven hours a day for a semester, Giudice was convinced that he was "as fluent as I was ever going to be." He returned to Panama and surprised Duran with his Spanish.

"I think I earned his respect," Giudice said the other night from Charlotte, N.C., where he is a ninth-grade English teacher. "It brought me to a different level with him. I wasn't a kid from the U.S. asking him questions. He respected me, and I brought 60 or 70 videotapes of his fights to his house and it broke the ice."

It took Giudice nearly five years to write the book (www.handsofstonebook.com) which he hopes to have translated into Spanish some day.

A former sports writer at the Gloucester County Times and substitute teacher at Haddonfield High, Giudice said he wrote the book "on a whim" and that his family "thought I was nuts to just pick up and go to Panama."

Meeting the people from the boxing industry of Panama - "guys who were down on their luck" but had great stories to tell - was Giudice's favorite part of the project. They opened their hearts to Giudice, and he opened back.

Duran, 56, has changed his image over the years. The once-surly champ has mellowed.

"When he was boxing, he would rub people the wrong way, especially the media," Giudice said. "But when you see him now, he'll go up to you and give you a bear hug. He's no longer the 'Hands of Stone' like he once was; he used to live life to the extreme, but he had to tone it down. He has."

Since the book was published, Giudice's relationship with Duran has soured.

"Unfortunately, there were some things we didn't see eye to eye on," Giudice said. "I wasn't willing to sugarcoat some things that happened in his life, and he wasn't happy about that. He just wanted a story that relived his glory days, and I wouldn't have been fair to myself if I [hid things]. If I did that, it wouldn't have been an accurate portrayal."

Give Giudice credit for sticking to his guns. As a result, the book oozes with credibility, and the readers are the winners.

Post a question or a comment for Sam Carchidi

at http://go.philly.com/asksam. He can also be reached

at 215-854-5181

or scarchidi@phillynews.com.

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