By Tré Berry III | 09/25/2019
Relentless, menacing, a well oiled machine, Middleweight All-Time-Great legend 🇺🇸Marvelous Marvin Hagler (62-3-2, 52KO👊) was the closest thing to an actual 🎬“Terminator” that had touched down in the sport of boxing. Marvin was one of the most well conditioned fighters in boxing history, and also one of its most intimidating Champions, both from a physical and from a mental standpoint.
MARVIN HAGLER’S UNLIMITED ABILITIES
There wasn’t anything that he couldn’t do inside of the ring, and had every skill at his disposal. He could box orthodox or southpaw, had a fantastic jab, a rangy cross from both stances, very fundamentally sound with his defense, excellent balance, good footwork, high boxing IQ, a sneaky hook, solid counter-puncher, and one of, if not the greatest 🪨chin in the history of boxing, certainly on the short list in that regard.
He was a natural career Middleweight, and he took on all comers at ⚖️160 lbs, and because of how great he was, other top fighters outside of his weight came into his domain to try and take what was his, and Marvin would also make those propositions very difficult for aspiring opponents, as he was without a doubt one of the stingiest, most stubborn athletes of his era, who would scratch and claw to preserve his positioning as the man in his weight class, and did so as he dominated the Middleweight division for a large portion of the 🗓️1980’s, and did it while hanging his hat as a blue collar worker who worked twice as hard as anyone else towards getting everything that he had accomplished during his eventful 14 years in the sport as a professional.
A CRAFTSMEN COMING UP THE HARD WAY
Unlike some of his contemporaries, Marvin came up without any real promotional or 📺TV backing, so when he turned professional back in 1973, he had to go the ol’ fashioned way and get his start in small venues throughout Boston, and Brockton, Massachusetts. Throughout his first couple of years, he won all 14 of his fights, and most via knockout, successfully putting himself in a position to fight undefeated, heralded 1972 Olympic Gold-Medalist 🥇🇺🇸Sugar Ray Seales.
Hagler made a strong statement for himself as he proved to be too skilled for Seales, outpointing and out-dueling the Caribbean-born Gold-Medalist to a 10 round Unanimous decision and administering the first loss to Ray’s pro ledger. Three months later, late in 1974, Marvin Hagler rematch on the docket against 🥇🇺🇸Sugar Ray Seales, and this time Seales fared off much better than he did in their original contest.
Seales tacked on the rounds early, and Hagler made a late push as he forced the action down the stretch of the fight. Through their 10 rounds, this fight was ruled a draw. For the next year, Hagler would fight often and compile more victories, and eventually crossed paths with well-respected Philadelphia Middleweight 🇺🇸Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts.
Watts was a good fighter, and for this bout with Hagler, he tried to outbox Hagler from mid-distance, but in many exchanges, Marvin was getting the upper hand with superior timing, accuracy and in picking off the majority of Watts punches with his gloves and forearms. As the fight concluded, the feeling was that Marvin Hagler had this one in the 🎒bag, unfortunately for the Brockton-based fighter, he got his first taste of 🍳home-cooking, on the wrong side of the equation. With this fight being fought in Philly, which was Boogaloo’s backyard, he was awarded a hometown decision, in a fight where it was clear that he was not the superior of the two.
THE WORM GETS THE BEST OF MARVIN
While Hagler was naturally frustrated, he got back to the gym and kept himself prepared for future match-ups. A couple months later, Hagler would run into another Philly fighter, this one being the crafty 🇺🇸Willie “The Worm” Monroe.
It appeared as if Willie was the more seasoned, crafty fighter of the two, and he out-hustled the young Hagler (who was 23 at the time), and 🩸bloodied up Hagler’s nose, to where he stated that he had trouble breathing from the second round on. Monroe left no doubt in mind who the victor was in this one, and the Judges were all in agreement, awarding Willie the 10-round 📝Unanimous Decision. This was Hagler’s second loss, and the first fight in which he felt that he personally lost.
HAGLER BOUNCES RIGHT BACK ON TRACK
Hagler went right back to the drawing board, and was fully engulfed in fighting more of Philadelphia’s abundance of Middleweight talent, and at this time in 1976, he challenged 🇺🇸Eugene “Cyclone” Hart at 🏟️The Spectrum in Philadelphia.
As usual, Hart gunned for it all, but Marvin was too good and had too much of a sophisticated attack, constantly turning Hart and countering him, taking advantage of his over-aggression, where he was getting sloppy in certain spots. Hagler put Hart down in the third round with a straight left cross, and got the respect of the Philadelphia fighter from there on out. A combination of exhaustion, and frustration with both how the fight wasn’t going in Hart’s favor, and with the scoring that was taking place, Eugene Hart decided to retire on his stool for the night, and Hagler in his young career added another solid win to a 📜growing resume.
MARVIN WITH A LITTLE BIT OF PAYBACK
In 1977, Hagler would get his re-match with 🇺🇸Willie “The Worm” Monroe. Hagler had stated that he learned a lot of boxing in his loss to Monroe in their first fight, and here was a perfect opportunity to showcase what he added to his arsenal since then in efforts to try and 🔄reverse course. Instead of Philadelphia, this time Monroe would travel to Boston for the scrap. This was a fire-fight, with both fighters operating inside, which resulted in a all out war of attrition. With Worm starting to wither a little bit late, Hagler fed off the energy of the crowd, and put the pedal to the medal.
In the 🛎️12th and final round, he landed a 🖼️picture perfect 1-2 combination that sent Monroe to the canvas. Monroe beat the count, but Hagler threw everything into the wind and he threw roughly 25 unanswered punches with serious power and intent on them, and the Referee stepped in to stop the onslaught, thus Hagler getting a late 12th round TKO victory over the man that had conquered him a year prior. One could make the argument that this was the first time that Hagler started to show greatness as a fighter, and boxing pundits started to take real notice of what was occurring.
RUBBER MATCH TO SETTLE THE SCORE
Hagler kicked off the year 1977 with improved confidence, and a sense of what he could do in a tough Middleweight division. He would fight Roy Jones Sr. (the father of future Hall-of-Fame legend 🥈🇺🇸Roy Jones Jr.) and quickly dispatched of him in 2 rounds by knockout. In August, Marvin would fight a personal rubber-match with 🇺🇸Willie “The Worm” Monroe to settle the official score, as each possessed a victory over the other.
Marvin was as sharp as a 📌tack in this one, using plenty of head movement, feints and working the angles to keep Willie stationary while Hagler dictated the pace and the action of the bout. This fight was all Hagler’s being fully in command, and displaying a mastery of ring generalship, to the point where Monroe, the man who once bested Hagler, looked to be outclassed from the get up.
At the end of the second round, Hagler fired a right jab, and Willie slipped to his left, but what he didn’t see was the devastating left cross that followed behind it. Willie was caught flush on the chin and slumped down to the mat immediately in the corner. Monroe tried everything he could to get up and beat the count as he got to his feet, but his legs and cognition were all away gone, and Marvin walked away victorious with the one punch knockout to put a cap to his early career rivalry. At this moment is where Hagler had entered his 📈prime years.
BLOOD, GUTS & STOPPAGES FOR FINNEGAN
Being a strong contender at this point, Marvin would go on to fight former British Champion 🇬🇧Kevin Finnegan in 1978. Despite putting up a very formidable fight, Finnegan ultimately succumbed to multiple lacerations and cuts to the face that 🩸bled out, falling to Hagler via 8th round TKO.
He had earned Hagler’s respect as a gutsy warrior, and fought a good enough fight to where Hagler would give 🇬🇧Finnegan a re-match. The unfortunate thing (from Finnegan’s vantage point) was that the re-match ended eerily similar as the first fight, where multiple facial wounds bled out, and cut his night short once again, a rough deja vu for the British fighter.
MEETING OF OLD SCHOOL | NEW SCHOOL
Immediately after this victory, Hagler would once again dip in the deep talent pool of Philly talent to face iron-clad veteran warrior 🇺🇸“Bad” Bennie Briscoe, who throughout his career had been a part of a little bit of everything, and experienced the pinnacle of the sport first hand, and experienced it often.
This was an excellent test to see where Hagler was ready to take the leap towards Championship contention. Benny was a very crafty pressure fighter who knew how to use his timing and leverage to routinely beat you to the punch, and Hagler, being 24 years of age at the time was way beyond his years when it came to using old school techniques and in setting traps for his opponents – much of that having to do with his legendary 🗣️Petronelli Trainer-duo, who had their young contender sharpened like a ginsu 🗡️knife, equipped for whatever situation that Hagler would have to face in the ring.
This was one of the rare times in Hagler’s career that he faced off against someone physically stronger than he was, so he adjusted accordingly. As Briscoe typically played the role of the aggressor, Hagler played the role of the counter-puncher in the pocket, and as a boxer on the outer range, picking his spots, circling and turning Benny, controlling the ring.
Briscoe exerted a lot of mental pressure, but it didn’t phase Marvin much, who stuck to his game plan and orchestrated it with a high degree of success throughout the rounds. Hagler in 10 rounds of high sustained action outpointed the game veteran Briscoe to a 📝Unanimous Decision, and with this accomplishment, this propelled Hagler up to 📍top-5 world contender status by both the WBA & WBC governing bodies.
BANG! A FINAL MEETING AND A KNOCKOUT
One more fight with 🥇🇺🇸Sugar Ray Seales was in order, and their third meeting would occur in February of 1979. Marvin ransacked Seales on this day, and put him on the deck just 20 seconds into the fight by landing his first power shot of the night, that being the right hook that staggered Seales, and the following left cross to knock Ray down.
Marvin a half a minute later hit Ray with a nasty 3 punch combination that dropped him to the canvas. Seales got up at the count of 8, but he was physically in very bad shape. Marvin immediately put Ray out his misery by landing a devastating 💥roundhouse left hand around the guard to the temple that closed the show on the night, and to their 3 fight chapter.
THE MACHINE FINALLY GETS A TITLE SHOT
With that quality outing, made statement, as well as 3 other solid victories to follow, Hagler’s long journey towards one day receiving a Middleweight World Title shot was granted to him in late 1979, and that would be against LINEAL / WBA / WBC Middleweight World Champion 🇮🇹Vito Antuofermo.
Vito’s was a grizzled veteran, who had a rough, unorthodox style of charging in, with punches fired at unexpected times allowed him to hold his own early on in the fight, although Marvin assessed and picked up his tendencies well, and still gained control of the fight from the onset. After Hagler raked Antuofermo repeatedly with sharp combination after sharp combination, Vito 🔋stepped up his aggression from the 4th round on, and was really adamant about getting into the kitchen of the heralded challenger, to put some work in downstairs and increase the mental pressure on Marvin.
One problem that Vito Antuofermo always had was that, you could essentially stare for a duration of time, and he’d start bleeding (😂laughs), although it made him look like the warrior he was, but I digress. Hagler opened up multiple cuts above and under both eyes in the middle rounds, and some worry crept into Vito’s corner. Hagler started to separate himself in the middle rounds with superior punch placement and ring generalship, but it didn’t discourage the gutsy Champion from coming forward and putting the pressure on.
That relentless nature by Vito however started to make an imprint once the last third of the fight came about, and started to score more frequently at will. As the 🏆Championship medal poured from the Italian fighter, Marvin refused to buckle as he did what he could to try and thwart the attack that Antuofermo brought down the stretch. Vito had his best round in the 13th, and momentarily staggered the iron-jawed challenger from Brockton, reasserting his positioning.
The fight went the full 15, and Vito did himself proud with his usual gutsy effort, and gaining an upper hand late, however the uncertain nature of how this fight would be scored was up in the air, as throughout most of the fight, Hagler proved to be the superior technician, and more accurate fighter of the two. To Antuofermo’s benefit, and to the chagrin of Marvin Hagler, the 🗣️Petronelli’s, and to most observers, the fight was 📝ruled a Draw, and due to Antuofermo having all of the hardware, he retained his RING/WBA/WBC Middleweight belts.
HAGLER LEAVES NO STONE UNTURNED
Frustrated about how events unfolded in his World Title opportunity, Marvin would set his 👓sights on a 2nd fight with 🇺🇸Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts. Marvin wanted to reverse what was on official record, a highly disputed loss 4 years prior.
Hagler hurt Bobby early and often as this proved to be a mismatch at this juncture. Watts went down from a strong combination in the 2nd round and took more of a beating inside the round on unsturdy legs, and Boogaloo was caught with a leaping in right hand that crumbled him to the canvas for the 🛑TKO stoppage victory in Marvin Hagler’s favor with seconds left to go in the round – fortunes officially reversed.
Technically by Maine Boxing Rules, Watts should have been saved by the bell to where he would be allowed to go to his corner in continuance of the fight, but seeing how this fight played out, all that is academic and bares no real importance…nonetheless, Hagler had once again flipped the tables on an opponent that he had an official loss against.
MARVIN HAGLER’S TRIUMPHANT MOMENT THAT SADLY COULDN’T BE CELEBRATED
On September 27th, 1980, Marvin would get a second crack at the World Middleweight Championship, but instead of the rematch he coveted, it would come against tough British boxer 🥉🇬🇧Alan Minter, who took the LINEAL / WBA / WBC World Titles away from 🇮🇹Vito Antuofermo, and dispatched of him impressively in back-to-back outings earlier in 1980.
This time, Hagler would have to travel overseas to Wembley to fight in front of a British crowd in pursuit of glory. The Champion Minter tried to press Hagler and trade with him, but he realized early that was a dangerous proposition after getting a taste of Marvin’s power, so in the second half of the first round, he decided to circle out and box the Brit.
Hagler would cause Minter’s nose to start bleeding profusely in the second round, which brought forth some 🔥fiery exchanges and tough moments between the two. Everything began to unravel for the Champion Minter when Hagler opened up a nasty cut over his right eye with a “45” angled hook, and immediately jumped on Minter once he seen that the British boxer was bothered by the blood pouring down.
Hagler emptied the 🧰toolbox and landed everything in the book, and had Minter in all heaps of trouble. Referee 🕴🏽Carlos Berrocal called for a timeout and asked for the Ring Physician to take a look at Minter’s cut, and after getting an in-depth view of the severity of the cut, decided to call a half to the bout, and it was waived off. Hagler had finally achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a World Champion, and he went and slumped down to the canvas in celebratory fashion.
Unfortunately Marvin has not able to fully bask in the glory of his monumental achievement as it turned into a disgusting display by the disgraceful fans at Wembley stadium chucking 🍺 beer and 🍾🍾open bottles into the ring, firing away at will.
Hagler and his people had to run back to their dressing room accompanied by a line of Security to keep them unharmed. Because of the classlessness of those in attendance who participated in the putrid scene that occurred, Hagler was not awarded his Title in the ring, nor could he fully take in the moment, or talk to 🎧🎤reporters in-ring after the fight to share any message that he wanted to get out to the public.
THE START OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP RUN
Heavyweight legend 🥇🇺🇸“Smokin” Joe Frazier once famously told Hagler when he was coming up and struggling to get opponents to fight him, that “You have three strikes against you, you’re black, you’re a southpaw, and you’re good”.
With that being said, for Marvin to finally stand on top of the Middleweight division after his long climb to the top, and subtly working around some of the roadblocks that were put in his way was rewarding in a sense far more than just the World Title Belts that he had acquired on his journey.
For his first title defense, he would face Venezuelan unbeaten contender 🇻🇪Fulgencio Obelmejias from Venezuela. Hagler was in top form and easily dispatched of the challenger through 8 rounds of work, en route to the TKO win.
MARVIN HAGLER SAYS TO VITO YOU WILL NOT TAKE WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY MINE
For what was Hagler’s second World Title defense, he would get the re-match that he had wanted against former Lineal / Undisputed Middleweight Champion 🇮🇹Vito Antuofermo a year and a half after their brawl with questions surrounding the verdict. Vito wanted to win back what he once had, and Hagler wanted to make the match-up definitive in his favor to where there we no more questions to be asked.
Antuofermo came charging out of the corner as if it was round 16 and bulled the Champion, but Hagler was still catching him with ⏲️well timed and quality placed shots even when he was forced on his back-foot from the physical pressure exerted. For Antuofermo, his problem with cuts unfortunately reared its ugly head again, and a 🩸gash was opened up on his forehead in the middle of the first round.
This time around, Marvin did a better job of taking advantage of Antuofermo lunging in, and was more accurate with his punches in space. This was evidenced by a clean straight left cross that put Vito on his backside. He got up immediately, though the tone of the fight did not change in his favor.
Instead, Marvin continued to work on the cut, and opened up a new one over Vito’s right eye which was much more problematic, due to the placement of the cut, and how frequently it bled. After the 4th round, there was heavy attention to the cut over the right eye by Vito’s corner, as well as the Referee who crept over and took a close look at it.
As the time between rounds were coming to a close, the Referee decided to call the bout, and Hagler got his definitive victory over the grizzled Italian warrior, and officially secured his second defense of his 👑RING / WBA / WBC Middleweight World Title belts, and turned the page to new prospects.
SHARPEST PERFORMANCE OF HIS CAREER
In October of 1981, Marvin Hagler would give a shot to rough & tough Syrian contender 🇸🇾Mustafa Hamsho. Hamsho was riding high after winning a close Decision verdict over former Middleweight King 🥉🇬🇧Alan Minter to finally get his shot.
In my personal view, this may have been Hagler’s finest overall performance (a masterpiece if you will), as he clicked on all cylinders and showcased every single 🔧tool that he had in the 🧰toolbox that made Marvin Hagler the revered Champion that he was. Hamsho was a rough customer, and had a “coming to get you” style that got to weaker minded fighters.
Fortunately for Marvin, that never been a problem of his, being that he was as mentally tough as they come. Everything that Hamsho tried, Marvin had an answer for, using his aggression against him, counterpunching, use of distance, combinations, and footwork to out-think, befuddle and dominate the top challenger at every whim.
The one-sided punishment grew drastically as Hagler beat Hamsho from pillar to post, eventually forcing the Referee to stop the fight in the 11th round in a TKO victory for Hagler.
HAGLER BOMBS OUT THE CAVEMAN IN 1 – AND A NETWORKS DISPUTE IN A NAME
For Hagler’s 4th defense, he fought 🇺🇸Caveman Lee, and this fight stuck out for a multitude of reasons, both for his performance inside the ropes and a dispute outside of them.
It took all but 66 seconds for Hagler to bomb Lee out of there, with the peril initiated by a thunder jab, followed by a big left hand to put him down. Hagler punished him for the rest of the fight and had Caveman slumped all the way backwards, hanging on the bottom rope & defenseless, as 🕴️Larry Hazard Sr. appropriately stepped in to stop the fight.
Hagler as he should be was very happy about his performance, however he and his team expressed frustrations that ABC’s crew refused to announce him as “Marvelous Marvin Hagler”, the moniker that he wanted to use. They were told by the network that 🗣️“If he wants to be called Marvelous Marvin at ABC, tell him to go to court and have his name changed”. Hagler took this quote to heart, and 6 weeks later would legally change his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler from this point on out…now that’s taking matters into your own hands.
PEAK HAGLER MAKING HIS PRESENCE FELT, RACKING UP TITLE DEFENSES
Hagler fought in a re-match with 🇻🇪Fulgencio Obelmejias and systematically took the challenger apart meticulously through 5 rounds of combat, erasing him with a massive right hook, knocking Obelmejias out for a second time in as many fights.
United Kingdom’s 🇬🇧Tony Sibson was next on the docket, coming in as a #1 contender. Hagler went on to put forth a beautiful boxing display, and relied heavily on his footwork to keep Sibson off balanced, and capped his night off by chopping Sibson down with a perfect right cross from the orthodox stance, slumping the British fighter down face first. Sibson got up wobbly during the count, and Referee 🕴️Carlos Padilla immediately waived off the action in the 6th round.
Marvin’s 7th Title defense would come against #1 world contender 🇺🇸Wilford Scypion of Houston, Texas. Added to the pot was the IBF World Middleweight Title being put up for grabs in this contest as the International Boxing Federation had manifested as boxing’s newest sanctioning body.
Hagler was in peak form, and seemed especially quick in this one. His defense was on point as he exerted his dominance over Scypion through 4 rounds. At the end of the 4th, Hagler put Wilford Scypion away with a heavy 2-fisted attack of combinations and put him flat on his back for the knockout.
MARVIN HAGLER’S FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH A LEGEND – EARNED RESPECT
Hagler would finally get one of the marquee names in the ring, and it came in the form of a legend, and that was Panamanian All-Time-Great 🇵🇦Roberto “Manos De Piedra” Duran, who was personally hellbent on becoming a 4-division World Champion (won Titles at ⚖️135, 147, 154), and looking to add to his legacy while Hagler set out in pursuit of gaining absolute respect in the pantheon of boxing. With all of Marvin Hagler’s World Titles up for grabs (🏆RING/WBA/WBC/IBF), there was far more on the line than just bragging rights for these two esteemed boxers – legacies were on the line.
In recent times, with Duran moving up in ⚖️weights, the ongoing question would always surface about what type of shape Duran was in, as he had very sporadic outings due to his shaky training habits, however for his sake, and for boxing’s sake, he showed up to this fight in 🔺top condition, ensuring that both were to meet in the center of the ring at their best.
The fight was a beautifully fought skilled bout, predominantly fought in middle distance, with each fighter looking to counter the other in what was a high octane ♞♝chess match-up from the onset between two of the most intelligent craftsmen that were around at that point in time.
Sprinkled in between the textbook boxing were some violent exchanges between the two, mostly spearheaded by Duran, but sequence-by-sequence each fighter would work feverishly to gain the upper hand by constantly switching up their movement and combination patterns.
Hagler started to gain control of the fight around the 4th round by fully establishing an authoritative jab to keep Duran busy and at his desired range, reminded by his Head-Trainer 🗣️Petrinelli to continue boxing, putting emphasis to not over-press the action and get careless by looking for the knockout.
Duran looked for ways to get inside and do what he did better than the rest…but he couldn’t get there as often as he would have like to have been throughout the fight. By the 6th round, Hagler went into full seek-n-destroy mode, and Duran opened up as well, exchanging power punches on the inside.
Hagler still had the upper hand in those moments, so Duran started to face the problem of not being able to take over the fight and dominate on the inside, while Hagler could also outbox from from long range; A quality that Duran himself did not possess in his arsenal.
Duran made a conscious decision to step up his aggression, and switch up the variation of his attack as it got to the second half of the fight, making the fight a little more competitive in exchanges, and on the cards. As it got interesting down the stretch, the Championships rounds are where Marvin put his 👣foot to the gas pedal and separated himself from Duran.
In my estimation both the 14th and 15th rounds, Marvin grabbed the reigns and put enough 💰collateral in the bank for the 📝Unanimous Decision victory verdict. Hagler had beaten an established legend, and Duran gave a good enough account of himself to where they both benefitted from their contest, as there were 📍definitely no losers from this fight.
MARVIN SETTING HIS EYES ON DESTINY
Riding high and now being universally recognized as one of the best, if not the best fighter in the world at this juncture, Marvin would turn his full-on attention over to Argentinian rough warrior 🇦🇷Juan Domingo Roldan. Marvelous was incorrectly ruled down for the first time in his career after a Roldan left hand grazed the back of Marvin’s head, and made Hagler hit the canvas in the first 10 seconds of the bout.
Hagler protested in frustration and mouthed to Referee 🕴️Tony Perez “that was a slip”. Marvin let it go and handedly defeated Roldan, knocking him down in the 10th round, where Roldan motioned to the Referee that he had nothing left to continue.
With Hagler attempting to go for his 10th successful defense of his Lineal/Undisputed Middleweight World Titles, he had his eyes set on the great 🇦🇷Carlos Monzon’s Middleweight record of 14 Lineal Title defenses, and sat in 2nd place among a long list of legendary Middleweights for that distinction.
MAN ON A MISSION – HAMSHO AGAIN NEXT
He would fight a re-match with 🇸🇾Mustafa Hamsho, who once again worked his way up to Title contention. He even had a strong victory months prior against Puerto Rican boxing savant 🇺🇸🇵🇷Wilfred “El Radar” Benitez, enforcing to Benitez that he had no business at Middleweight, as Hamsho threw his weight around in the ring, with positive results.
As for Hamsho’s second match with Hagler, it was much like the first one as Hagler showed to have every tool in the book, while Hamsho’s approach was limited to rough-housing his way in, not scoring the way he would like.
Hagler knocked Mustafa down for the first time in his pro career, and finished him off by putting him away with a long right hook for a second knockdown. Immediately following was Hamsho’s Head-Trainer 🗣️Al Certo jumping into the ring while his fighter was on the canvas to signal the end of the fight, and to come to the aid of his fallen warrior.
THE GREATEST FIGHT OF ALL TIME?? – HEARNS AND HAGLER GO TO WAR
There had been long tensions brewing between two of the most dominant pugilists in the sport of boxing in the 1980’s, and the 🍲pot began to boil as a blockbuster super-fight was agreed upon for a date on April 15th, 1985 between Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and ever-dangerous 🇺🇸Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns. They had something agreed upon 3 years prior, but had to call the fight off due to a hand injury that Tommy suffered, so they went their own ways.
Hearns had the reputation of being Pound-4-Pound one of the hardest hitters to ever lace the gloves on, and his freakish punching ability was perhaps never showcased any better than when he nearly decapitated 🇵🇦Roberto Duran with one historical absurdly devastating right hand that crumbled “the Hands of Stone” in the 2nd round of their contest.
To put it in perspective, Roberto Duran was just one fight removed from his legendary, competitive fight with Hagler, so that was an extra feather in the cap for Tommy coming into this one. With Hearns being the hardest hitter in boxing, and Marvin having boxing’s best 🪨chin, something had to give, and there was plenty testing that went on in what resulted in the greatest ⌚8 minutes in the history of boxing.
In the moment leading up to the fight after the boxers were introduced, you could sense added intensity to Hagler who looked like he was ready to 🍲eat, more-so than you would normally see him as a roaming predator, even though he was naturally menacing. Hearns also had the look in his eyes, as if he was going in there, looking to kill Hagler.
Hearns came out exactly the way you’d expect him to after that staredown, and immediately landed a ⚡thunderous right hand that staggered Hagler badly (a very rare occurrence) and immediately got his attention as Hearns flooded him with bone-crunching combinations that literally would’ve had anyone else’s night cut short quick, but somehow Hagler made it through, and continued on the hunt, even though Hearns opened up a 🩸horrible gash on Haglers forehead.
Marvin Hagler immediately came back and pushed Tommy Hearns on his backfoot as he let out a high octane assault with nonstop right hooks and left crosses, getting into Hearns chest. At some point in this brilliant showing of the 1st round, Hearns hurt his vaunted right hand, and could no longer commit full power on it like he routinely did, and this was a fight he really needed his hands at full health…nonetheless, Hearns fought Hagler 🔥fire-with-fire and delivered some of the most blistering action that has ever been seen in boxing, and it culminated with a stare down at the 🛎️bell, as the greatest round in boxing history had just happened.
Hagler immediately started the 2nd round off with a long left hand. Hearns, from the combination of him breaking his right hand and feeling the overall strength and tenacity of Hagler, decided to bounce outside and try to box him from distance relying on the jab and the check-hook, however he had severe difficulty with his balance, much to do with Hearns getting a leg massage in the dressing room that relaxed the muscles and messed with his overall coordination, so his legs were in bad shape to where he repeatedly stumbled on his back foot.
As this was going on, Marvin upped the ante and was on a prowl, maliciously stalking Tommy while blood was streaming down Hagler’s face, and hurt Tommy repeatedly with left hooks and right hands, as he switched to fighting orthodox in certain key points of the fight.
The third round, Hearns decided to use all the space in the ring and pick at Hagler while he was feverishly pressing forward, and Hearns blew up the cut on Hagler’s forehead that prompted Referee 🕴️Richard Steele to call a timeout to get the 👨⚕️Ring Doctor to take a look at Hagler’s cut. The doctor asked Marvin Hagler about his vision, and Hagler’s response to him was 🗣️“I ain’t missing him, am I?”…a compelling enough answer it was, and the Doctor allowed the fight to continue…but it was at this point that Hagler knew that he was in a bit of danger due to the severity of the cut, and knew he had to do something, and do it fast.
He got right back out there and hurt Hearns with a right cross while Hearns back was to the ropes. Marvin then began to press forward harder than any other time in his career, then all of a sudden, bang!😲…Hagler belted Hearns with a long leaping-in right hand that caught Hearns on the temple and had him severely disoriented. Hearns cognition was completely gone, and Marvin ran to him and hit him with another big right hand. Hagler missed a left hook, but landed the homerun punch which was a 💥right hand that landed on the button to the jaw, with an inadvertent headbutt that followed, and Hearns dropped down flat on his back, and looked to have no energy, or where-with-all to get up.
Tommy actually made it to his feet at the ⌚count of 9, but he was in terrible shape, with his mind somewhere orbiting Jupiter, and after 🕴️Richard Steele took a long look at him, the historic fight came to an end, and Hagler had just secured the biggest win of his career, in the most violent fight that he was in, albeit only lasting 3 rounds. Hearns was carried back to his corner by his half-brother, exhausted and battered, and a more celebratory than usual Hagler fully basked in his monumental accomplishment, and cemented himself as one of the 📜greatest Middleweights in boxing’s long history.
ALL GUTS, AND ALL GLORY FOR THE KING
Two questions at this point lingered around the Middleweight World Champion, 1) What can’t Marvelous Marvin Hagler do? and 2) Who could possibly beat him? given his seemingly indestructible nature. His next fight, and 12th World Title defense was to be against former Junior-Middleweight Champ and devastating powerpuncher 🇺🇬John “The Beast” Mugabi, who had knocked out all 26 fighters that he had faced.
This was one of Hagler’s most exciting fights in his career, and he fought toe to toe with Mugabi throughout the fight. This fight was the first sign of some 📉gradual decline from the Super-Champion, as his handspeed seemed slow, and his reflexes were a little lethargic, as he was getting hit with shots that we weren’t accustomed to seeing him get hit with.
This was a man’s fight, as they left much of what they had in the ring. Mugabi for much of the fight loaded up with every shot and walked Hagler down, trying to take him out, while Marvin was applying the mental pressure from mid-range and relying on his mastery of 🏹timing and distance. Hagler hurt Mugabi bad through attrition in the 6th round, though Mubabi fought through it, trading blows with the Champion.
John Mugabi had the appropriate moniker, with him being labeled as 🦍“The Beast”, and as he prowled towards Hagler, he hit him with every type of power shot he could, but Hagler was indestructible, and wouldn’t allow himself to be hurt by any of them. Hagler stepped up his tempo/pace, and Mugabi eventually fell in the 11th round by KO via spectacular finish by Marvin to put him away. Mugabi was never the same since this fight, and Hagler had successfully put a 12th World Title defense up for his Undisputed/Lineal Middleweight Crown.
THE BATTLE FOR FIGHTER OF THE DECADE – PIVOTAL, CONTROVERSIAL, LEGACY BUILDING AND LEGACY DEFINING
After years, upon years of speculation, retirements, taunts, and dangling the 🥕carrot in front of the 🐎mule (the mule being of course being Hagler in this case), legendary Hall-of-Famer 🥇🇺🇸Sugar Ray Leonard decided to come back after being 3 years removed from the ring due to complications of his eye injury to take on the daunting task of fighting Marvin.
Ray had analyzed Hagler while he was sitting ringside at Hagler’s fight with John Mugabi and noted that Hagler was beginning to slow down a bit, so considering the circumstances, with Hagler’s invincibility starting to fade a little bit, and with Ray’s inactivity, he decided that the time was right to fight the man known as Marvelous.
There was a lot riding on the table for this one, with Hagler’s LINEAL claims, his RING/WBC Middleweight Titles up for grabs, and with bragging rights of the greatest fighter of the 1980’s added to the pot for the winner of this mega match-up.
The WBA Middleweight title was stripped from Hagler for bypassing his assignment with 🇬🇧Herol Graham to fight Leonard, and the IBF decided not to sanction this fight, but all in all, we knew that this coming match-up had historical & Undisputed implications attached to it, regardless of what hardware was being defended. Who would prevail? the answers came on 📅April 6th, 1987, but some questions followed this pivotal, era-defining bout.
SOME LOST PERSPECTIVE – As the opening bell rang, Hagler decided to start the fight right-handed and did so for the first couple of rounds. Many people, frustrated with this tactic would often ask “Why did he do that?” the simple answer is that Hagler typically did it most of his fights to get a gauge of his opponents tactics before he turns around in stances to take advantage of the info he picked up. That seems to have been lost in translation throughout the years in the realm of logic…but the real reason why people raised their eyebrows to that in the first place was that this was the very first time in Hagler’s career that it 🚫didn’t result as an effective move, or gave him any advantages, as Ray Leonard came out sharp, peppering the jab and using the big “21×21” foot ring that he successfully negotiated for, using his superior footwork and keeping Marvin Hagler out of arms length.
Hagler would look to find ways to get closer to Ray after a methodical start, slide stepping and jabbing his way in until he found his comfortable range around the 4th round, and that’s where the mega-fight really began to 📈take off and turn into the classic that it ended up being.
Hagler would finally get in close, and as the Sugar man was focused on trying to land flurries inside, Hagler caught him with a short 🦾right uppercut while Ray was leaning in during the end of the 5th round and wobbled the legs of Leonard, and Hagler made his presence be known down the stretch while Ray’s back touched the ropes. It was after this round where you got the feeling that the real fight had just started.
After jumping out to a lead early, Ray started to look very vulnerable, as Hagler was starting to zone up and get the jump on Ray’s timing, and began landing 🥊🥊heavy leather on Leonard with lumbering uppercuts upstairs, also with hooks both to the head and to the body. Though Ray’s legs were getting a little choppy at that point from the effects of those punches, he continued to fire away, trying to maintain control of the fight, but getting increasingly more difficult to do so in holding his positioning as Hagler started rallying on.
The eighth round was much more the same for Hagler, with him slide-stepping to cut the ring off better than he had started off the fight doing, and tacking on the points while Ray was searching for something to exploit. The 9th round was the 📼📺stuff of legends, and brought out the best of both Ray and Marvin, as they dug down in spots where they really needed to showcase their intestinal fortitude to stay afloat.
FORTITUDE & THE STUFF OF LEGENDS – In the middle of the round, Hagler landed a couple of thudding body shots that took the mobility of Ray’s legs away, then caught Leonard with a beautiful 💥short left cross on the chin that rocked Leonard, and made him stagger back to the ropes.
Marvin continued to fire away, carefully placing some bombs and flicking out the power jab to keep Ray on the ropes, who appeared to be in big trouble at this point, when all of a sudden, Ray explodes and fired multiple flurry combinations n a gutsy display of epic proportion to get off the ropes, fighting fire with fire and entering the 🦁lions den. Marvin continued to land big, while Leonard fought fantastic in spurts, and as the 9th round concluded, Ray looked dead tired going back to his corner, giving all that he had in the moment.
Leonard to the surprise of many got his second wind, and authored up strong outings in the 10th and 11th rounds, the confidence of Leonard grew, as well as the confidence in legendary 🗣️Head-Trainer Angelo Dundee, and a swell of support swept over the crowd towards Leonard for what he had provided up to this point.
With the historic match about to enter the 12th and final round, the consensus feeling was that this fight was hanging in the balance, and whoever pulled out this stanza may possibly win the fight. Early in the 12th, Marvin landed some heavy shots, while Ray was looking to counter and pick away at spots. Hagler in the middle of the round worked Ray to the ropes and wailed away at his body, and Ray in a fit of guts returned fire with both simultaneously firing off roughly 10-punch combinations to the body for each, sending the crowd into a fit of ❗pure unfettered euphoria.
For the next minute, Ray circled the entire ring without throwing of anything, looking in his corner for instruction, while Hagler kept calling him forward to fight, but Ray wouldn’t bite. By this time, the Ray contingent in the crowd reached a feverish pitch, screaming 🏟️“Sugar Ray! Sugar Ray! Sugar Ray!”…you got the sense, and rightfully so that the final verdict for Leonard’s sake didn’t matter anymore, as he had put up a historic effort, and doing so while being 3 years out of the ring, which was an unprecedented feat in and of itself.
Ray clowned towards the 🛎️final bell, while Hagler did the same, and boom, just like that, we had 12 rounds in the books. Angelo Dundee was jubilant about his fighters performance while Ray celebrated with the crowd, and Hagler was very happy about his performance, doing a jitterbug dance while greeting his people center ring. I felt this was one of the hardest fights in boxing history to score, yet every time I revisit it, I come back with the score of 114-114, a draw. The scorecards were read, and 2 Official Judges actually watched the fight, as there were 📝2 scores of 115-113, one for Marvin Hagler and one for Ray Leonard…however Judge Jose Juan Guerra’s scorecard was pure 🗑️garbage, as he scored it 118-110 for Leonard. That card proved to be the difference of what was a draw’ish type fight, and Sugar Ray Leonard became the new LINEAL/WBC Middleweight Champion of the World.
The crowd erupted at 🎰Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, rejoicing at Sugar Ray’s monumental achievement. Hagler was visibly disgusted at the verdict afterwards, citing a robbery, and in utter disbelief during his brief post-fight interview.
Hagler was adamant that he did enough work in the fight and pressed the action, as well as doing the bulk of the damage. When prompted via question if he would ever return to the ring to fight Leonard again, or to return period, he didn’t give a straight answer, and said that he had to think it over. Unfortunately…this was the final time that 📜Marvelous Marvin Hagler would ever stepped inside of a boxing ring as a fighter. The ⛰️Hall-of-Fame would await his arrival.
TALK, RETIREMENT, AND ENTERTAINMENT
There was talk of a re-match with 🇺🇸Ray Leonard for about a year, but it was just that…talk, as nothing manifested from it. In Marvin’s retirement, he moved out of the United States full-time to live in Milan, Italy, and actually acted in some local 🎥🎬Italian movies over there, an interesting path for his post-retirement. No matter what Marvin does, or where he goes, the legacy he has carved out will never leave the memories of boxing fans around the world as he turned himself into not just one of the greatest Middleweights in the history of the sport, but also one of its greatest fighters, and one of his best ambassadors. Here are a list of his many accomplishments authored up inside of the ring. 🖼️
– Undisputed Middleweight World Champion (1980-1987)
– Lineal Middleweight World Champion (1980-1987)
– Won 13 Lineal World Title Fights
– Defeated 7 World Champions
– Has Victories Over 8 Undefeated Boxers
– 2nd Longest Middleweight Reign with Lineal Defenses (12)
– 2 Wins Over an Olympic Gold-Medalist (Seales)
– Defeated 2 Esteemed Hall-of-Famer’s (Hearns, Duran)
– 1980 Sports Illustrated Fighter of the Decade
– 1983 Ring-Magazine Fighter of the Year
– 1985 Ring-Magazine Fighter of the Year
– 1985 Ring-Magazine Fight of the Year (Hagler/Hearns)
– 1987 Ring-Magazine Fight of the Year (Hagler/Leonard)
– 1987 Ring-Magazine Upset of the Year (Hagler/Leonard)
– One of the Most Well Conditioned Fighters in Boxing
– Revered by Many as the Best Middleweight of All Time
– Seen by Some as Possessing the Greatest Chin in Boxing
– International Boxing Hall-of-Fame 🏆(1st-Ballot in 1993)
SIGNATURE MOMENT – In terms of standout moments, it’s hard to top the armageddon that was arguably the greatest fight of the century in 1985 where Hagler came out on top, knocking out Thomas Hearns. In terms of peak performances, Marvin was perhaps at his greatest form in the first Mustafa Hamsho fight in 1981
NOTABLE WINS – 🇺🇸Thomas Hearns, 🇵🇦Roberto Duran, 🇮🇹Vito Antuofermo, 🥉🇬🇧Alan Minter, 🥇🇺🇸Sugar Ray Seales (2X), 🇺🇸Willie Monroe (2X), 🇺🇸Bennie Briscoe, 🇺🇬John Mugabi, 🇸🇾Mustafa Hamsho (2X), 🇺🇸Eugene Hart, 🇦🇷Juan Domingo Roldan…..robbed against 🇺🇸Bobby Watts, and a controversial, well chronicled loss to 🥇🇺🇸Sugar Ray Leonard.
NOTABLE DRAWS – 🥇🇺🇸Sugar Ray Seales…..a very controversial draw given against 🇮🇹Vito Antuofermo.