Born in Guarare, Panama he had his first professional fight in 1967. After a initial adjustment he won thirty in a row, culminating in his first title bout in June 1972, beating Ken Buchanan in New York for the WBA world lightweight belt. He made twelve successful defences of his title before giving the belt up in February 1979. He then built up for an attempt at the welterweight title, he fought and beat Sugar Ray Leonard in June 1980 to win the title but in a re-match in November he shockingly quit in the eighth round (No Más). He took some time to recover from that fight, gaining more mass to contend for the WBC world junior middleweight title, losing in his first effort at a championship in that division on the 30th of January of 1982, against Wilfredo Benitez by a 15 round unanimous decision.After being relegated to a 10 round walk out win over tough Englishman Jimmy Batten at The Battle of The Champions in Miami, he signed with promoter Bob Arum. This marked the beginning of a comeback in which he beat former world champion and now hall of famer Pipino Cuevas, knocked out in 4 rounds, earning his second crack at the Jr Middleweight title, this time against WBA champion Davey Moore. Duran conquered his third title on his birthday, June 16th, 1983, defeating champion Moore, when the fight was stopped in the 8th.Duran later tried to take the World middleweight title, he met Marvin Hagler in Las Vegas in November 1983, and he lost over fifteen rounds. In June 1984 he lost his junior middleweight title when the WBA did not approve of his fight with WBC world champion Thomas Hitman Hearns, taking away recognition of Duran as world champion the moment Duran stepped into the ring to box Hearns. Then, he lost by knockout in round two to Hearns. Duran did not contend another title fight until 1989, he won the WBC middleweight title from Iran Barkley in February but lost it and a chance to win the super middleweight title in a third clash with "Sugar" Ray Leonard in December. Although seemingly in decline he tried to win further middleweight titles in 1994, 1995 and 1996 (for the minor IBC belt), and 1998 (WBA). After a defeat to William Joppy in three rounds in 1998 he announced his retirement in August 1998, but was back fighting in 1999. In June 2000 he won a minor super middleweight title from Pat Lawlor. He lost that title when he was beaten by Hector Camacho
After splitting fights with Jorge Castro and losing a rematch to Camacho, Duran went to Argentina to promote a Salsa music cd of his that he had just released. While there, he was involved in a dramatic car crash and required life-saving surgery. After that, he announced his retirement from boxing.
Duran's five world title belts, which he won in four different divisions, were stolen from his house in Panama in 1993, during a robbery that was allegedly staged by his brother in law, who, in turn, gave them to memorabilia seller Luis Gonzalez Baez, who now will stand trial for trying to sell stolen goods. Gonzalez Baez allegedly sold the belts to undercover FBI agents. He alleges that Duran authorized the sale of the five belts to him during a time that Duran was facing financial trouble. On September 23, 2003, a federal judge in Florida ordered the five belts to be returned to Duran.
His 69 wins by knockout placing him in the exclusive group of boxers who have won 50 or more fights by knockout.