By Fiona Manning
They call him Stitch.
When Jacob Duran, one of the most sought-after cutmen in boxing steps into the ring with a fighter, there is the reassurance that two of the fastest, steadiest hands in the business are ready to go to work.
French superstar Fabrice Tiozzo who recently went after the WBA light heavyweight title against Silvio Branco in Lyon, France, flew Duran to once again be by his side. The two men made history when Tiozzo became a three-division champion with Duran as usual in his corner.
Tiozzo, who next defends his title in four months against deposed WBO chief Darius Michalczewski, has already booked Duran.
Fresh off a UFC bout with former heavyweight boxer Cliff Couser in Tokyo, Japan and the UFC championship in Las Vegas, Nevada, Duran is also the official UFC cutman and a top K1 cornerman.
He also has a prized, busy roster of boxing stars including DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (who takes on Floyd Mayweather Jr on May 22), Ishe “Sugar Shay” Smith, Kelvin “Concrete” Davis and Raul Marquez.
“I’m the only one who works all three sports and is truthful about it,” Duran said as he prepared to host his weekly radio show in his hometown of Las Vegas.
With each new bout, each new cut on his hands, Duran might be seen to be observing things for extra footage in his searing documentary A Boxer’s Nightmare.
Duran is diligently trying to find a home for the documentary, which is chock-full of interviews with the sport’s biggest names.
“I am very disappointed with the guys at HBO and Show-time,” he said.
“Most of them wouldn’t give me the time of day when I asked them to look at it. Larry Merchant, who I know from many, many fights wouldn’t even watch it. He said, ‘What do you want me to do with it? I don’t have time to look at it.’
“[HBO executive] Kery Davis was not honest with me when he said he’d get it to the programming guys. I actually met the guys and they knew nothing about it.
“The only one who was a man about it and was straight up with me was Jay Larkin from Showtime. Jay told me point-blank that they would only do something like that in-house.”
Unfortunately for Larkin, it is highly unlikely anyone in his house could secure the dramatic footage Duran has for his documentary including 19 minutes of the most candid interviews Mike Tyson has ever given.
“I get asked all the time to sell people the Mike Tyson interview segment but I won’t do it,” said Duran. “This is my baby and I will find a home for it. I have 22 hours of material I could still use and I gather more information all the time.
“Originally, I started doing a documentary on Chuck Bodak who is a legend in boxing and the best cutman in the business. He is my mentor. Chuck has the best attitude you know because he looks out for the fighter.
“I was going to call it ‘The Shaman Of Boxing.’ Of course, once the cameras started rolling something different began to take shape.”
That something different was hours of telling testimony from boxing insiders; the fighters who have been ripped off by promoters, the fighters still trying to get respect, trying to get out of their personal ghettos; the fighters who make it, the fighters who don’t and the fighters who just don’t know when to quit.
“It’s about the boxer’s nightmares,” Duran said. “Although I did this documentary two years ago, nothing has changed. We have still haven’t honored Joe Louis’ dream of a pension fund for boxers. We still have the same medical problems in boxing.”
To that end, Duran next plans to do a three-part industry video called Cuts, Cornermen & Confidence.
“The worst cut I have ever seen is definitely on Raul Marquez when he fought Keith Mullings,” he said. “His cuts required 70 stitches and I knew they were bad in the ring but my job is to make the fighter feel like it’s nothing.
“My job is to be as calm as possible, to make eye contact with the fighter and that part is important. If I can hold the fighter’s eye and let him know he’s okay, then he is okay. I get the blood off their face as quickly as I can. I try not to let the fighter see how much blood is there.”
Duran has however, become increasingly disenchanted by the lack of professionalism he sees in other corners.
“I continually see things at fights that just sicken me,” he said. “I’ve seen cutmen use a towel to wipe down a corner and then use that same towel on a fighter’s facial cuts. It’s the grossest thing.
“When a referee tells me to wipe down a corner with my towel, I just won’t do it. I’ve seen guys with the Q-tips behind their ears or even in their mouths, putting them in on the fighter’s face. That’s bacteria right there! There’s no rhyme or reason to this. And they think they’re a legitimate cutman.
“The worst thing I have seen in a corner however, is a trainer letting a fighter go too long. It honestly is. A lot of trainers out there think they are the fighter and they push their guys too far.”
Duran feels that the burgeoning UFC business already has a handle on the issue of fighter safety.
“They have the right idea,” he said. “Me, Don House and Leon Tabbs, who is Bernard Hopkins’ cutman, we are the official UFC cutmen.
“At any given fight, Leon’s on one side of the octagon, I’m on the other. We wrap hands, we do it all. We work with everyone.
“It is all completely neutral. I think that is the best way to go. You have control that way, keeping things honest and neutral like that.
“My background is K1, so that’s kind of where my heart is and UFC.
“I am amazed by the number of boxers though who suddenly think it’s no big thing to take on UFC or K1. They’re getting their asses kicked!”
Duran pointed to former world champions “Cool” Vince Phillips and Francois Botha and Butterbean as examples of fighters who have no clue what they are doing in the kickboxing field.
“K1 is the biggest thing in Japan and they thought it was going to be easy money. They thought they were going to just go in there and blast these guys out.
“Vince Phillips broke his arm. He will never do it again. Trust me. It was a kamikaze thing to do.”
Duran talked to all the fighters (Botha and Phillips were both severely injured in their devastatingly one round KO losses) and said none of them trained properly or realized the seriousness of the sport.
“There are two that I know take it seriously and one is [former heavyweight boxing contender] Shannon Briggs who has been training at K1 for two years and I predict he will do very well.
“The other one who takes it very seriously and stands to become a superstar in the sport is Cliff Couser. And I know this because I am training him. He works very, very hard. He quit boxing when he found his niche in this sport. The Japanese just love him.
“He isn’t thinking like a boxer. He isn’t looking like a boxer. He’s thinking and looking like a kickboxer. When we go to Japan, we go there knowing all the rules and all the disciplines and how to participate in the game. These are 100% different disciplines.”
Duran will be back in plenty of time to resume chores on his Las Vegas radio show The 13th Round (1230AM KLAV, Tuesdays 7-8pm which can also be heard via internet on altalkradio.net.
He will also be back in the ring with his bucket of tricks for Kelvin Davis’ shot at the IBF cruiserweight title on May 1 against Ezra Sellers. On May 22, he will be in Tokyo again with Pancreas heavyweight star Josh Barnett.
June 19, it’s Vegas again for the UFC showdown between Ken Shamrock and Kimo.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “After all my years in this business, I still love the fights. I’m like a great big kid. I love what I do for a living.”