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Thomas Hearns Vs Marvin Hagler: Still the Best Boxing Match of all Time

By Joe Wilson

Today notes the 25th anniversary of the match-up between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns.

These two world-class fighters stepped into the ring one night at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. There were only three letters to describe that night, and they spelled “WAR.”  The buzz leading up to that fight could only produce something “remarkable and special.”

It was the “golden eighties.” That era was the era that produced new boxing fans around the world. Coming off two decades of the greatest fights of Muhammad Ali’s career in the heavyweight division, this offered something new. Out of nowhere came these young fighters who lit up the welterweight and middleweight divisions. These smaller weight divisions dominated the sport of boxing.

It was out of the welterweight division that Thomas Hearns emerged.

He was a devastating puncher who demolished his opponents at will. The only loss he had on his record was the loss he suffered from Sugar Ray Leonard. That fight was his first big fight. He was motivated by that loss and seeked revenge on anyone who stepped in the ring with him. Moving up in weight was his goal.

Hearns aimed at the Middleweight Champion Marvin Hagler. “Hit Man” Hearns called him out on a few occasions. There were public shouting matches between the two. The reason for the fight delay in the beginning was…Hagler’s demand for money. I guess it was all for good reason; after all, he was the Middleweight Champion World. 

What was strange about a fight of this magnitude was the build-up. These two fighters did not over hype the fight. They were both somewhat quiet during the promotion of this event. Bob Arum promoted this fight. Going into it, Hagler had defended his world middleweight crown ten times, with nine of them by knockout.

There was talk of this fight back in 1982, when Sugar Ray Leonard retired from boxing with a detached retina. Hearns became Hagler’s most likely big name opponent. Injuries and bad timing also delayed the fight. Remember that these fighters fought for fifteen rounds. Conditioning was always a factor.

Unlike today, very rarely did a fighter show up in that era not being able to fight for fifteen rounds. These fighters took unparalleled punishment throughout the fight and stilled stayed on their feet for fifteen rounds. I just recently read a remark made by Former Heavyweight Champion Larry Holmes, where he said “the fighters today do not like to train.” He then said, “Fighters during his era did nothing but train.” 

April 15, 1985, was the set date for Hagler and Hearns, the two best middleweights in the world would fight for the WBC, WBA and IBF belts, as well as the moniker “Undisputed Middleweight Champion.” And to top that off, these two fighters did not like each other at all.

It is kind of like the bad blood between welterweight champions “Sugar” Shane Mosley and Floyd “Money” Mayweather,” bout coming up May 1st.

HBO Broadcaster Larry Merchants said it best when describing both fighters, he said, “Hagler is the strongest fighter Hearns has ever fought. Hearns is the best fighter Hagler has ever fought.” The odds catered much to that sentiment. Hagler open up as a slight favorite, but by fight time it was pick’em. Merchants have always used this fight as a measuring stick to judge other action pack fights.    

The first round of this fight was one of the most famous openers in boxing history, because of its steady action and ferocious aggression. In the beginning of most fights, Hagler usually starts out slow, but not this fight. He came in very aggressive digging to the body of Hearns. These two fighters fought the first round as if they only had three rounds to fight!  Well…who knew?

The second round was just as exciting as the first. Hearns hit Hagler with every power punch he had, and Hagler kept coming forward. Hagler landed clean many times on Hearns, but there were no signs of slowing down or damage to either fighter. These fighters continued to trade blows. I had this fight dead even going into the third round.

Hearns’ world-class trainer and now Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward was very concerned about Hearns’ legs. Steward mentioned his concerns when he noticed Hearns getting his legs massaged and rubbed down before the fight with baby oil. “Something a fighter should never do,” says Steward. He noticed a weakness in Hearns’ legs ending round two.

At the beginning of round three these fighters were up and ready. Once again they battle in the square ring. These two fighters went to war for three rounds non-stop action. It was the most exciting three rounds I had ever witnessed before in a boxing match. Hagler won this fight by knockout and it was this fight that gave him worldwide appeal.

Still today, there are those who watched that fight on April 15, 1985, rank those three rounds as the best ever.

If Mayweather versus Mosley can produce half of what we witnessed against Hagler/Hearns spreaded out over several rounds; we the fight fans will be in for a nice treat.

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