Jacob 'Stitch' Duran and the art of gore

Have a cut? No big deal -- if Jacob "Stitch" Duran is in your corner, at least. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Confidence is a big key to any fighter's success.

He must go into battle believing that all bases are covered; this includes having a highly skilled cutman in his corner.

Next to the lead trainer, no one is more important to a fighter's success than his cutman. The impact a cutman can have on a fight isn't lost on boxers or mixed martial artists.

When that cutman is Jacob "Stitch" Duran, a fighter's confidence reaches extraordinary heights.

Part of that confidence comes from knowing that Duran has been attending to fighters' wounds for nearly 30 years.

He has seen every type of cut inside a boxing ring or UFC Octagon. When one of his fighters returns to the corner a bloody mess, Duran is the first to greet him, calm him down and fix him up.

It's one reason some of the world's best boxers and mixed martial artists love having him by their side on fight night. They believe he gives them an extra advantage over their opponent.

"Having Stitch in your corner is a huge advantage," UFC light heavyweight contender Jon Jones told ESPN.com. "He's been around a long time and has earned the respect that he gets; it wasn't just given to him. It's like having [highly respected MMA trainer] Greg Jackson in your corner: You know you are dealing with the best of the best. It increases your odds of winning the fight."

Along with years of knowledge, Duran brings a level of confidence and professionalism unmatched by most cornermen. Duran acquired these character traits during his childhood.

I never forget where I come from. I always use it for motivation. … I don't mind telling people I grew up poor, but I grew up proud.

-- Jacob Stitch Duran

The 58-year-old Duran spent most of his youth in Planada, Calif., a small San Joaquin Valley-based farm town. In Planada, hard work and low wages were the norm.

It was also dangerous work. Some workers were exposed to the pesticides that were sprayed on nearby crops.

Duran figures fewer than 2,000 people lived in Planada year-round, but that number tripled during the summers. People migrated to Planada to work in its fields.

Most arrivals were of Mexican descent; some were illegal aliens. Duran remembers many illegal immigrants, fearing deportation, running through the fields upon seeing "La Migra" (border patrol officers).

On occasion, Duran and his friends would join the illegal immigrants in running from La Migra. For Duran and his buddies, all of whom were American citizens, this was one way to have a good time.

"It was fun," Duran told ESPN.com. "What could [La Migra] do to us? We're U.S. citizens."

Other than fleeing La Migra, there wasn't much else to do for fun in the fields. The overwhelming majority of Duran's time there was spent working in the hot sun chopping cotton.

Duran was one of eight children born to Benjamin Tamayo Duran and Maria Inez Duran. Both of his parents grew up in Mexico -- Benjamin from the state of Guanajuato, Maria Inez from Chihuahua -- and each brought their cultural values to America.

Among the values Benjamin and Maria Inez Duran passed on to their children was hard work. That strong Mexican work ethic was most evident in the Duran family during summer months -- the height of farming season.

Throughout the summer, Duran and his siblings were in the fields each weekday by 6 a.m. picking crops. Duran and his family worked from sunup till sundown.

It was difficult work, but Duran never complained or made excuses. This was his family's means of making a living, and everyone pitched in.

From this experience, Duran developed the discipline that would carry him to success as an adult.

"I still remember chopping cotton," he said. "Yeah, that was a discipline thing. It gave me the discipline and motivation for what I do today.

"I never forget where I come from. I always use it for motivation. … I don't mind telling people I grew up poor, but I grew up proud."

Besides discipline, motivation and cultural pride, Duran also possesses nerves of steel. The man is simply fearless; the sight of blood has never rattled him.

In fact, Duran worked on his first cut years before becoming one of the fight game's most recognizable individuals. The wound was his own.

While playing in a canal near his home, Duran was pushed into the water by his older brother Jimmy. Duran's right hip hit a slab, causing a large cut. Blood began pouring from the wound, creating panic among the youngsters.

But Duran kept calm. He didn't want to go home and tell his parents what had happened -- he knew they would surely prevent him and his brother from playing in the canal again.

Being banned from the canal wasn't an acceptable option, so Duran tended to his wound himself. He stopped the bleeding and his parents never learned of the ordeal.

That was the day "Stitch" was born.

"The cut got pretty deep and pretty shredded," Duran said. "It took a pretty nice chunk of skin from my hip. That was probably the first cut I ever attended to. It made a difference in somebody's career."

Duran's presence has had an impact on many of today's top fighters. Undefeated WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward, one of the pound-for-pound best boxers, considers Duran essential to his success.

"When an individual has the potential to make or break a fight, meaning to stop a cut and allow you to continue to do your work, you look for reputation and experience," Ward told ESPN.com. "Stitch has that and more.

"He makes me feel comfortable. I'm fighting at a high level, and there is a lot of pressure. Stitch comes in and he's at peace, he's ready, he makes the situation feel good, he's not nervous. I appreciate the spirit that he brings."

Duran also carries high standards into the ring and Octagon. Hygiene tops his priority list.

Many boxing cutmen are often seen walking toward a corner with a swab in their mouths or ears. Duran says that is a no-no.

His feeling against cutmen putting swabs in their ears or mouths is so strong that he worked diligently to ban the practice in UFC. He'd like to see boxing cutmen follow suit.

"There are a lot of myths in boxing, like putting a swab in your mouth or ear," Duran said. "That gives the cutman an identity: 'I'm a cutman.' But it's really nasty. I've always preached against putting swabs in your mouth and ear.

"In boxing you will see it all the time. But you will never see any of the four cutmen in UFC put a swab in his mouth. I can guarantee that, because I put a stop to that."

Another issue Duran has been tackling is the improper use of an end-swell. He says too many cutmen are doing more harm than good to fighters by using the end-swell improperly.

"When a guy starts bruising up, a cutman will get the end-swell and begin trying to move that swelling away," Duran said. "The proper way to use an end-swell is cold, direct pressure. You want to close the blood vessels that are creating the swelling, because the blood is leaking underneath the skin.

"What guys are doing is trying to move that blood clot away, but they're actually pushing it into tissue that is not damaged, and eventually the blood clot will move right back into its [original] position.

"They do it because they see other cutmen do it. When you watch the next boxing fight, think of me, because I guarantee a guy will be doing that."

The success Duran has experienced inside the ring and the Octagon hasn't gone unnoticed. He has appeared in three movies -- "Play It To The Bone," "Ocean's Eleven" and "Rocky Balboa."

Duran is also the subject of a new book, "From The Fields, To The Garden: The Life of 'Stitch' Duran." It's a good read, but it is far from complete.

There are many more chapters yet to be written in the life of Jacob "Stitch" Duran.

Franklin McNeil is a contributing mixed martial arts/boxing writer for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.