While I enjoy reading, I have to admit, it's far and few in between the books I can find that can instantly grab my attention to the point where I can't literally put it down. Many of those in my lifetime have usually been biographies of people involved in things that stir my interest such as the underworld, sports or historical figures.
Luckily for me, I found that and then some in 'From the Fields to the Garden: The Life of "Stitch" Duran'. Of course, anyone reading this column has to know who Jacob 'Stitch' Duran is. However, if you are just a casual fan of combat sports and may be unfamiliar with this legendary figure, he is the famed cutman for the UFC and in the world of boxing.
Wondering how a guy who inconspicuously works in the corners of fighters, quietly repairing cuts and keeping fighters safe can make such a name for himself? That is what makes Stitch's story such an interesting one and makes this book such a great read.
"From the Fields," addresses the early part of Stitch's life when he was a young boy working alongside his family in the farmlands of Northern California. An extremely humble beginning for a man who's had his image on giant like billboards outside arenas and has worked in both film and television.
"To the Garden", speaks about his dreams and aspirations to someday make it to what he deemed for himself to be the pinnacle of his sport and trade, Madison Square Garden. Well the poor kid from Planada, California has made it there and back numerous times with some incredible stories to go with it.
That is where "The Life of 'Stitch' Duran" comes in; in between the beginning and the end, there are the most interesting stories from discovering Taekwondo and Muay Thai in the jungles of Thailand while in the military, to eating and drinking in a traditional German Schnapps House. Then there are the stories that interested me the most, which are the ones you never hear about from the inner world of boxing and MMA.
Stitch's book takes you behind the scenes and in the locker rooms. It reveals the inner thoughts of many of the great and legendary fighters we have become fans of. It also explains in detail, how far both sports have come, yet how much farther they each have to go in terms of safety. This is of utmost importance to Stitch in his career as a cutman, but even more so in his compassion for the fighters he looks after.
So many of them have come to respect the man and his work. That is quite evident in the number of fighters that request him specifically and no one else when it comes to wrapping their hands. I asked Stitch how is it that he can accommodate all the requests when there are so many fighters on a particular UFC card? "It comes down to seniority, status and priority," he said. "Obviously, someone the likes of a Randy Couture, Mirko Cro-Cop or Brock Lesnar will take precedence over most fighters."
Another interesting part of the book is on his actual work and trade as a cutman, which he has helped to cultivate in his thirty plus years in the game. When I asked if he sees the cutman trade evolving in the same way fighters is constantly evolving, he said, "absolutely 100%." "Unlike cutmen in the past when I was coming up who refused to share their knowledge, I'm constantly educating through seminars and the younger people are innovating and evolving ideas from things they learn from me."
A former farm boy, baseball player, soldier, martial artist and so on, Stitch's is a real life rags to riches story; one of dreams, hopes and realities. A must have for any true combat sports fan, it is a great complement and addition to any library. It is also the perfect Christmas gift for those you know who love boxing, MMA or just an interesting story; one that will take you "From the Fields to the Garden" and then some.