Panamanian boxing legend, Roberto Duran
Although but a tiny nation, Panama can claim to be the home of some fantastic athletes over the past decades. It was not an easy list to compile, but I present my all-time top 5 favorites:
5. Carlos Lee -The 6′2″, 240 lb. slugger known as “Caballito” (little horse) currently plays for the Houston Astros. The 2-time All-Star has compiled 253 homeruns and a career .288 batting average over 9 seasons. By most counts, he still has not fully lived up to his potential, yet is a solid hitter with potential for power and high .300+ average.
4. Rolando Blackman - In what may have been the golden era for the NBA, it is easy to forget just how good this 1980s NBA All-Star was. A starter for over a decade and a 4-time All-Star for the Dallas Mavericks, “Ro” Blackman was a stalwart swingman in the NBA. He ranks an impressive 60th on all-time scoring list with 16,643 points and held the Dallas franchise for 18 years (until being broken by Dirk Nowitzki in 2008). He is one of only two Mavericks to have his jersey retired.
3. Rod Carew - More than 3,000 career hits. Seven batting titles, including an amazing .388 average in 1977. Eighteen STRAIGHT All-Star team appearances. One MVP honor. The only Panamanian currently in Cooperstown. Rod Carew is simply, a baseball legend.
2. Mariano Rivera - Possibly the greatest closer in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera is a sure lock in The Hall upon retirement. 8-time All-Star MLB record for lowest postseason ERA ever. One of 2 pitchers with 40 saves in 6 different seasons. Only reliever to win ALCS MVP and World Series MVP. Only pitcher ever to close out 3 World Series.
1. Roberto Duran - It is difficult to contest that Roberto Duran is anything other than Panama’s greatest athlete. For a period, Mano de Piedra (hand of stone) WAS Panama. From the tiny town of Guarare in the Province of Los Santos, Duran is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers EVER. In 2002, he was chosen by The Ring Magazine to be the 5th greatest fighter of the last 80 years. He held world titles at four different weight classes: lightweight (1972-79), welterweight (1980), junior middleweight (1983-84) and middleweight (1989). He was also the ONLY boxer to have fought in five different decades. He finally retired in January 2002 at age 50 (not a typo), with a professional record of 119 fights, 103 wins with 70 KOs.
To create such a short list, some fantastic Panamanian athletes had to be omitted. Do you think I missed a name that should have been on the top 5? Let me know!
Duran photo from http://www.cgboxing.com/images/vs_Duran.jpg