When Lou Bizzarro, a good fighter, fought a great fighter, Roberto Duran
1976, part May 17-23, Erie, PA (County Field House) – ROBERTO DURAN KO 14 LOU BIZZARRO / Don King Productions
There he is, on the ring apron, the “tallest man in the world” as my surrogate father, Jack Obermayer, called him.
Don Elbaum stood in Lou Bizzarro’s corner, looking through an expansive ring at great lightweight champion Roberto Duran. Elbaum, then with bushy black hair and sideburns in a sheep’s cut, had maneuvered to secure Duran’s first U.S. title defense against Erie against the locals. Lou Bizzarro, who was 22-0 and never beat a soul.
Duran, 25, was 55-1 and nearing his peak. No one was calling him the greatest lightweight yet – and Duran’s performance this Sunday afternoon would not change his mind. The great Duran doesn’t even mention this fight in his autobiography.
The Duran crew traveled to Erie four days before the fight and got lost along the way. Once there, they couldn’t find any friends and couldn’t even get in touch with the boxing commission.
Coach Duran Ray arcel saw the ring the day before the fight and deemed it the biggest he had ever seen. He told Elbaum he should be ashamed of himself. Elbaum was so proud that over the years this ring has grown to 30 out of 30 inside the strings. That’s not true, says Bizzarro, who kept the ring and displayed it in his bar / restaurant Erie. It was a large, but regulatory, 24 by 24.
Bizzarro needed every inch. The Italian-born local, who had followed his older brother Johnny into boxing, moved as fast as possible to the back, sometimes stopping to shoot the champion with quick rights, bringing life to the crowd curious.
Duran stalked patiently, keeping his cool as he realized after the first few moments that his title was not in danger. Elbaum, the eternal optimist, dreamed of winning Bizzarro. “He (Lou) could back down faster than anyone could move forward,” Don said during fight week, perhaps the only real statement he made that week.
But if Bizzarro shared Elbaum’s fantasy of winning, he would eventually have to slow down and bite and strike. Bizzarro realized early in the fight, after feeling Duran’s power, he didn’t stand a chance. “It was a bit too much for me,” he admitted.
Duran eventually caught the flying Bizzarro in tenth place, dropping him twice to the ground. Lou had his best round of the bout in the 11th, showing his greatest asset was the heart. The end was brutal. Bizzarro fell twice more in the 14th, ending the fight on his back. He was making every penny of his $ 15,000. (Elbaum liked to tell people it was $ 100,000, but he must have mixed his man’s purse with Duran’s).
Lou fought six more years, losing just one more time, but never seriously fighting for a title. He retired and found success with his bar and car dealership.
Ironically, later in his career, Duran was led by Mike Acri, a lifelong resident of Erie. This brought Duran to Erie at times and once he visited Bizzarro’s Ringside restaurant, which houses the infamous Ring and other memorabilia from the fight. Bizarro found a completely different Duran from the surly champion of 1976. Duran was fat and happy and he got drunk with Bizzarro.
“You were a good fighter!” Duran said at one point.
“Thank you. You too,” Lou Bizzarro replied, still quick with a counter.
Duran almost fell from his chair, laughing.