Jacob 'Stitch' Duran EXCLUSIVE: My legacy is I made the game safer
Inthering.gr spoke with the legendary cutman about his new assignment, his many years in the sport, and his contribution to the game.
Jacob 'Stitch' Duran is a person who doesn't really need any introductions, as he has been considered for years to be the best cutman in the industry. Having been in the corner of all the top names in boxing he now adds one more accolade with Tyson Fury, who recruited Stitch to be by his side on the much anticipated rematch with Deontay Wilder on February 22nd.
Stitch, welcome for a second time to inthering.gr. Let's start by having you tell us how the whole thing with Tyson [Fury] came about.
Thank you for having me. You know, it’s kind of crazy how it came about. Kevin Barry, Joseph Parker’s trainer, called me 4-5 weeks ago and said ‘Hey, Stitch, I just want to let you know that Bob Arum wanted to know what I thought about you as a cutman’. And he told him I’m tremendous, I’m great, so they thought about bringing me in with Tyson Fury. So Kevin’s son, Taylor, that worked the corner with Tyson Fury last time, called me and said ‘Tyson Fury wants to meet you.’ So I went to the Top Rank gym to meet him and Tyson said ‘Welcome to the team, it’s great to have you on’. So that’s how it happened.
This week I’ll be starting camp, getting started being part of the team, so I’m stoked about it!
So things moved at a pretty fast pace.
Yes, it was already confirmed before I got there that they wanted to work with me. Something I would like to say, though, is that Jorge [Capetillo], Tyson’t cutman from the previous fight got the deal for this fight as well and he called me and said ‘Look, Stitch, I’m a novice and I know I’m a novice. But I love Tyson like my son and I told him that for this fight you need to get Stitch Duran. He’s a lot better than me.’
And he threw my name out there, which is unusual for any cutman to give away a big assignment like this.
And Jorge, of course, got a huge amount of credit for getting Fury through the Vallin fight with that monster cut.
Yes, absolutely. But this fight coming up is a huge fight and you don’t want to leave any stone unturned. So Tyson knew that he dodged a bullet in the last fight and he can’t afford to do that again.
Tyson can’t afford to have that cut opening up.
Yes, of course, you are 100% right. The first thing he did is he showed me the big cut, which has healed extremely well. The one underneath it, they did a good job on that as well.
So I said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do with you, which is what I did with Badou Jack’, because in Badou's last fight they brought me in because the previous cutman couldn’t really handle that type of cut. I told Tyson that every round I’m going to be doing preventative maintenance. So every round I’m going to keep ice on him and just focus on what was a cut and just make sure it doesn’t open up again. If there’s another cut, I’ve worked on all kinds of cuts, so that’s not gonna be an issue in his fight.
And that helps him with his psychology because he has one less thing to worry about, so he can focus on his boxing and his strategy in order to leave from that ring with the win.
You got it exactly like me, that’s exactly what I thought; he will have one less issue to worry about. As a side note, that’s how Wladimir Klitschko felt in the lead up to his fight with Anthony Joshua, he had one less thing to worry about.
That was a great fight, we were there.
Yes, it was.
Was this the first time you met Tyson or had you interacted with him before?
No, it was the first time. And I told him ‘When I saw you fight Wladimir, I thought Wladimir had a bad day, but when I saw you fight Deontay Wilder I became a big fan of yours because your defense was just outstanding.' And the fact that he was out of the ring for 2.5 years makes it even more impressive.
Let’s see what happens this time.
Yes. He’ll do his job and I’ll do mine, but it should be an interesting fight.
Moving on to another topic, what was it like being a part of the KSI vs Logan Paul experience, since it was a professional fight but not between bonafide boxers?
It was a different world. KSI came to Las Vegas and I was wrapping his hands and he asked me if I listened to rap, his type of music, and I said ‘man, I didn’t know who you were!’ But they have millions of followers each and before he walked into the ring he was a rapper, he was a YouTuber, but I didn’t look at him that way; he was solely a boxer in the gym.
And from that point on until now I’ve gotten over 12.000 followers from these YouTubers.
It’s crazy. DAZN loved it too because they got a load of new subscriptions.
So it seems like this is the current trend.
Yes, they are talking about Logan Paul fighting Antonio Brown now. I might end up being the cutman for all these fights, who knows.
That would be something.
Yes, on the marketing aspect, it would work out to my advantage. But it’s fun working with these guys.
We were going through your social the other day and saw Eddie Reynoso taping Canelo’s hands with your tape. Tell us about that.
Yeah, my tape is doing well and going platinum. Canelo is one of the guys who’s started using it and some of the other people are using it and I’m taping Tyson’s hands with it, and KSI. So, exposure-wise, I’m doing really good.
Making it to the hands of Canelo is a big deal; he doesn’t just pick things randomly.
Yes, these are A-level professionals and, in fairness, everything that I put into my tape, nobody has; the additional glue, the water repellent, making it easy to tear. All the functions of wrapping hands on a regular basis. And just to have my name on a lot of guys’ hands is a confidence builder. I’m here for the safety of the game.
Wasn’t it when you were here in Athens a couple of years ago that you introduced it?
I had it from before but I really started putting more focus on it when I came to Athens. We used it during the cutman championship.
How important is it for you to pass on your knowledge to the newer generation?
It’s part of my m.o. that I never want to give up. I’ve always said, a coach is by a fighter’s side but no one has shown the coach how to take care of fighters. I want to teach, that is one of my objectives. At the end of the day, when my career is over, that’s the legacy I am going to leave, that I helped make this game a lot safer for fighters.
Something you might not have thought about, but is very important, is that you make it enjoyable for the viewer as well. If you keep a fight going from the 3rd round say to the 10th, that provides value to the viewer. They get to watch the show that they wanted because of you.
You are good, brother! You are way beyond me! I understand what you are saying and you are absolutely right about the entertainment value to the fan, and people don’t look at that.
As students of the game, what can you tell us about people that mentored you, such as Chuck Bodak and Al Gavin?
You are good, brother! Chuck Bodak was my mentor. I’ve been in Las Vegas for 26 years but before I moved out here, I was living in the Bay Area, learning how to be a cutman. I was still really green and I went to this fight, I remember, [James] ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith fought Marvis Frazier [in 1986] in Richmond, CA. And I’ll never forget there was this guy that did a good job on the cuts. So I went up to him and I said ‘Hey, I’m trying to be a cutman, can you tell me what you did?’ He looks at me and he says ‘Fuck you, I’m taking this to my grave. You gotta learn just like me’, and he walked away. And I felt so embarrassed that I thought ‘I’m never going to be like that guy.’
So when I moved to Las Vegas, my first big coming-out fight was Raul Marquez vs Keith Mullings and Raul ended up with five big cuts; two on the eyebrows, two on the cheeks, one on the nose, needed something like 70 stitches altogether. I kept him in the game and he ended up winning. And then Chuck Bodak came up to me and honorably said ‘Man, you did a great job and it was a pleasure watching you work’, so for me that was a big surprise because he was the king of cutmen at that time. And for him to come over and be the opposite of that other guy who blew me off, he encouraged me. We became friends and I followed him as a mentor since that day.
How many years were you under the tutelage of Bodak?
Until he passed. We always stayed friends for many, many years and then the first movie I did was Play It to the Bone with Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson and Chuck and I were the cutmen. I, of course, wanted to be with Antonio Banderas because he was Latino. Chuck got in my way and he ended up being the cutman for Banderas because he was the bigger star at the time, but during the movie Woody Harrelson was the one to get cut and the promoter and cornerman were saying ‘ah, don’t worry about it, you got the best cutman in the business’ so Chuck said ‘man, you got all the work’ and I said ‘yeah, but you got Antonio Banderas!’ (laughs)
Did you also work with Al Gavin?
I met Al Gavin but I never worked with him. He was very giving also and just a super good guy.
Did you ever get a chance to meet Ray Arcel?
I never did and I always wanted to. Roberto Duran was one of the guys who I always favored as a top fighter, but I never did. I wish I would have. Angelo Dundee got to meet him.
We know that besides a legendary trainer Arcel was also a great cutman.
When he was at his peak, I was starting and I never got to be at those types of events, being a rookie. But I would have more than loved to have met him.
What else are you working on right now?
I’m working on another product, a new CBD cut cream that this company in Los Angeles called CBD Science created, and it’s a healing cream after the fighters get cut. It has stem cells, vitamin E, collagen, and of course CBD. So when they called me I asked what kind of proof source they had, because there are many CBD companies that claim many things. So I told them that I’m working with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), which is a new sport here in the States, and it’s doing extremely well and suggested to use it on these fighters because they all get cut. And the progress we saw has been outstanding. So the owner of the BKFC told me that I will be meeting with investors on the 15th of the month in Miami to discuss expanding the CBD cream.
So there are no plans for Stitch Duran to retire anytime soon.
No, not at all, I’m just warming up. This group contact me about three months ago to starting film a new documentary on my life and the ending was at Madison Square Garden at the GGG fight [in October]. So the footage that we got is tremendous; we got people scheduled for interviews such as Mike Tyson, Wladimir Klitschko, GGG, Andre Ward, and others from MMA. And of course Michael B. Jordan, who I worked with in Creed.
When all of this is over you can come back to Greece in the summer.
I love Greece, I had a tremendous time last time!