(Managing Editor’s Note: Michael Angelo Serra is our newest Feature Writer here at RSR. I, along with the rest of the team, welcome him aboard.)
I will be reporting on a classic fight each month, so being the very first classic fight I felt befitted such a billing was the great Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns undisputed World middleweight title fight from April 1985.
Be sure that other classic fights in future month’s will feature lesser known boxers, but in equally great fights from yesteryear, this will in essence educate those younger or uninformed readers of the sport, that they possibly would never hear or read about these unsung heroes, so allowing myself to be their voice in essence, so let’s get on with this the very first classic fight for RSR.
Undisputed middleweight championship of the World
Marvelous Marvin Hagler
Thomas “Hitman” Hearns
Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada , U.S.A
April 15th 1985
On income tax day 1985, a taxing scenario unfolded indeed, in Las Vegas as Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, 40-1, 34 KO’s, challenged the undisputed World Middleweight Champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler over 15 rounds at Caesars palace, Las Vegas in Nevada, the fight capital of the World.
Thomas Hearns was born on October 18th, 1958, in Detroit, Michigan, and began boxing in the late 60s at the famed Kronk gym in Detroit.
Hearns had been a world champion at 2 different weights beforehand and was hoping to join the triple champ’s exclusive members club, however Hearns was the current WBC Light Middleweight Champion going into the Hagler fight, although for obvious reasons this being fought at the higher poundage, naturally his belt wasn’t on the line against the Marvelous one, however Hearn’s having held the WBA welterweight and the aforementioned WBC Light Middleweight Championships respectively, Hearns who was a excellent boxer had tremendous punching power and in knocking out ring legend Roberto Duran in just two rounds the year previously with his vaunted right hand, set up the Hagler fight that was first scheduled for 1982 when sadly it did not materialize.
At last it was happening, Hagler on the other hand had struggled with Duran winning a close points decision in the latter part of 1983, so there were the tangibles, similar to that a decade or so earlier when Muhammad Ali struggled with Ken Norton and Joe Frazier, only for George Foreman to demolish both, leading many to feel Foreman’s power would be far too much for the 32 year old Ali. The rest they say is history, boxing hey, the most unpredictable of sports, though surely it was a case of style making fights, and talking of fights, this one would prove to be “The Fight” as it was fittingly billed beforehand!
Hagler himself had everything, a great chin, power, skill, amongst other things, the Marvelous one was born in New Jersey on May 23rd, 1953, and had a hard upbringing taking up boxing and turning pro in 1973, after a successful career in the unpaid ranks winning the A.A.U National Title, as a pro he compiled 49 victories, losing 2 very debatable decisions only to gain revenge in rematches, before getting his world title chance against the rock hard Vito Antuofermo only to get a draw, much disputed as it was!
Hagler regrouped with a couple of wins to earn his crack at the new champion England’s Alan Minter whom in the interim had dethroned Antuofermo, and cut the Italian to pieces in a rematch in front of his adoring hate fuelled fans.
Foe turned friend Vito warned Marvin beforehand of the intimidating presence Minter’s mob created during the aforementioned rematch in London the previous June, however during the build up to the Hagler defense, Minter went on record as stating he wouldn’t allow “no black man to take his title!”
Much to Hagler’s disgust, a victim of such racial slurs during his formative years during the New Jersey race riots of the sixties, was now posed with the same kind of tormenter but in the confines of a boxing ring. Hagler naturally was more comfortable here than back under the table of his mother’s apartment as a small child, and could fight back and when he got the chance he beat up Minter to finally become champion.
All was not well that September night at Wembley, as the great Boxing News editor Harry Mullan stated in his ringside report of the English national anthem “it was more a hymn of hate” the victory for Hagler sparked riots due to Minter’s racist fans, who ruined the coronation of the new champion, all his career waiting for that crowning moment only for it to be robbed from him, seconds earlier dodging punches from an Englishman, now he was dodging bottle’s thrown by mad dogs and Englishmen, Minter’s hate mob that is.
Hagler returned home and vowed that he’d never fight in England again, he was robbed of his victory thanks to the ignorant few present that fateful September night in 1980, however with that terrible experience behind him. He went on to defend against all comers in compiling a record of 60-2-2, 50 KO’s, going in to this, the super fight of 1985.
The venue, the outdoor arena situated in the parking lot had seen many epic battles before…Larry Holmes vs. Ali….Ray Leonard vs. Hearns to name but a few, after both fighters entered the ring, the national anthem was played by one Doc Severinsen from his trusty trumpet!
Hagler weighed in at 159 ｼ pounds, Hearns scaled 159 ｾ pounds and at 6″1 was taller by 4 inches to Hagler’s 5″9, though Hearns was really 6″ 2, but that’s another story. The “Hitman” also enjoyed a reach advantage of 78″ to Marvin’s 75″.
During the referee’s final instructions Hearns stared into Haglers eyes, the glare somewhat similar to that of Sonny Liston some 20 years earlier Cassius Clay (whatever happened to him?).
So with the pre fight instructions and questions to each fighter and their chief second out of the way from third man Richard Steele, one last question before the bell rings, are you ready for me to take you on a punch for punch guide to possibly the greatest fight of all time?
At the first bell and what many scribes have deemed “the greatest three minutes in boxing history” Hagler threw a big right, Hearns duly obliged by landing two short jabs followed by more left jabs as he circled around the champion. Hagler landed a nice right to the body followed by a left and a big right to Hearns head that backed the Detroit fighter to the ropes where Hagler unloaded with both hands, as unbelievably Hearns came punching back furiously and seemed to hurt Marvin, as both fell into a clinch as referee Steele parted them.
Hagler and Hearns traded some more as Hagler landed a good left hand to Hearns chin. They both flailed away as they stood toe to toe, Hearns landed but it was Hagler who got the better of the exchange as Hearns backed up momentarily, giving the challenger concern to stick and move, landing a nice long left hook followed by two nice right hands on the champion.
The pace was relentless as Marvin pursued his prey as Thomas picked the champion off nicely yet again, seconds later Hagler landed a nice right that sent Hearns falling into the ropes. Again the challenger pushed Hagler off and boxed on the back foot, however things took a turn for the worse as Hagler sustained a terrible cut on his forehead from one of the Hit Man’s slashing rights.
Again Hagler took another big shot, this time a Hearns uppercut, but Marvin shook off the effects of a shot that would have leveled a lesser man. He pinned the challenger on the ropes and let go with both hands as Hearns seemed to take a breather. Hagler caught Thomas on his bearded chin with a right hand and left hook to body and head on the inside as Hearns responded with a right to Hagler’s chin, but again he shook off the punch and kept flailing away as the challenger bobbed and weaved and went to Hagler’s body with both hands.
Steele would seconds later tell Hagler to “keep em up, keep em up” as his left hand sailed a little low, (they don’t call em southpaws for nothing).
Hearns counterpunched off the ropes and landed a scathing left uppercut on Hagler’s gleaming dome, as both punched away as the Detroit man got off the ropes and landed a big right, yet again Hagler responded likewise and staggered his tormentor into the ropes. This time it was Hearns who came punching back with two big rights and got off the ropes yet again, as both threw lefts that hit thin air. The Hitman banged in a right hand that didn’t and a left hand for good measure just before the bell to end the finest round of boxing in the history of the sport!
Hagler went back to his corner his face a bloody mess staring at his tormenter, it was as if they had thrown more punches in that very first round than you’d see in most 12 rounders, it was unbelievable what those in attendance and the millions watching around the world had just witnessed, one wondered what was more productive the volume of punches or the volume of the crowds’ noise, many felt the pace of the breathtaking exchanges, only two people could imagine how the two warriors Marvin and Thomas were feeling, however during the round’s interval Hagler’s corner frantically attended to the cut over his forehead just above his right eye.
In the second, Hagler opened nicely with a left hand to Hearns face as Thomas bounced up on his toes content on sticking out the left jab, as the champ fell short with his own left jab. The challenger stuck out his jab to both head and body, mixing in a nice left hook down stairs.
Hearns continued to circle Marvin and got caught but wasn’t hurt, Thomas in kind responded with a left hook and kept on his toes jabbing away. Momentarily Hearns was staggered but was more off balance than hurt due to Hagler’s treading on his foot. He regained his footing as Hagler fell short with a right, and responded with two right hands as he got on the move.
Seconds later Hagler caught his challenger with a nice right as the pace had noticeably slowed not surprising due to the torrid opener, as Hearns just kept sticking and moving as Hagler kept coming forward, moving in with a nice left hook to the chin followed by a couple of body shots.
Hearns sensibly kept moving and jabbing as the champion fell short a few times with rights as he had done earlier. Marvin switched southpaw and landed with a nice right as Hearns countered back with jabs, the Marvelous One shrugged them off as he backed up Hearns just before they fell in to a clinch for Steele to retort “punch and get out” as Steele broke the two up, Hagler tried a lunging left that missed by a mile, as Hearns continued to box nicely mixing in shots to body and head as Hagler fell short once more. The Hitman countered with a short left hook that smashed in to the champion’s chin but to no avail or effect on the seemingly iron jawed Marvelous One!
Hearns made Hagler miss again and again the cut started to flow. Hearns kept jabbing as the champion unleashed a left hook that just missed the intended target.
Marvin did find the target this time with a sneaky right to Thomas’ chin, again they clinched as Steele told them to “punch and get out.” Hagler threw caution to the wind with three lefts to the challenger’s head for good measure while the aforementioned was grabbing Marvin’s right glove in the clinch, as they broke both traded right hands that both missed, but it was Hagler who soon hit the target with a left hook to Hearns’ chin and then a lead right as Thomas missed with a looping left hook.
Marvin nicely countered with a nice left hand of his own that backed Hearns onto the ropes and slipped inside of his jab to land again with a right this time to the midsection and a nice left-right to the head. In reply, Hearns threw a feeble looking jab and missed again with a looping left hook that Hagler ducked under to unleash a left to the body and an overhand right flush on the jaw.
The challenger was visibly tired as he lay on the ropes and as Hagler went to body and head with a nice short left hook. The Hitman looked a bloody and tired mess as he just landed a few soft shots. Hearns, sucking it up, landed with a right to the chin just as a reminder to how he was still there. The champ responded with a left hook that bounced off the challenger’s head right at the bell to conclude the second.
In the third, both claimed the center of the ring. Hearns took the initiative jabbing and moving, as Hagler scored nicely over the top of Hearns, left lead with a right hand. Hearns responded with a single jab and ducked under a sweeping Hagler right. The challenger fell short with his jab as did Hagler with another right, however Hearns moved to the left then the right has he danced around the champ, this time landing the jab.
Hagler cut off the ring and cornered Hearns landing a sneaky left hand to the body as Steele separated the pair. Hagler tried a desperation right that missed as he tried to continuously cut off the ring. However it was the other type of cut that was proving a problem for the champion, when all of a sudden referee Steele called a time out for the cut to be inspected by the ringside doctor.
Hagler asked Steele: “I aint missing him,am I?” Luckily Hagler was allowed to carry on, and with time running out, needed to do something and fast if he was to hold onto his reign.
Both caught each other with long left hooks, as Hearns got in with a left hook, then a left jab, as Hagler measured him with a right lead. Thomas missed with a right lead himself, as Hagler did like wise with a left jab followed by a big right that hurt Hearns, backing him the Detroit man up yet again on the ropes.
The Hitman looked rubbery as Hagler hit his waistband on his trunks with both hands landing a nice right uppercut that made the challenger hold on. Steele broke them as Hearns stuck out his jab. Hagler’s left hook missed by a proverbial mile, as both fell short with right leads. The Hitman beckoned Hagler to “come on” with his right glove, and he did, scoring with a left lead this time as he switched stances. The shaven headed champion then smashed in an over hand right that caught Hearns flush, badly dazing him, he turned his back on Hagler and skipped along the ring.
Marvin ran across the ring after him smashing in another big right on an unprotected Hearns. He wasn’t to be denied as yet another big right landed smack on the challenger’s bearded chin. Thomas fell drunkenly onto Hagler as Marvin scored with a sneak left hook that dumped Hearns to the canvas in a heap, as Steele tolled the fatal ten as the challenger lay on his back under the Vegas sky, eye’s vacant staring at the stars above. Hearns got to all fours at the count of seven, and somehow managed to get to his feet at nine, but was on very unsteady legs as referee Steele waved the bout over.
Hagler raised his hands in triumph with his face a bloody mess. He had shown grit and determination, the sign of a great champion to turn an almost certain defeat into victory within seconds. “The Fight” as it was billed lived up to its name and has been considered ever since one of, if not the greatest fight in boxing history, although it only lasted barely nine minutes, it was the stuff of legend, no one could argue with that!
In the after fight interview Hagler said in true video game terminology he was going to eat up Hearns like “pacman. Only some two years later, Hagler and Hearns would be created in an arcade game by Sega called “Heavyweight Champ.” Hagler fittingly the champion and known as Willie “vulture” Wilson and Hearns as Jerry “cyclone” Charger, it seemed life had imitated art, as the bald vulture had indeed feasted in the Nevada desert on the Jerry curled one!
The fight had been named aptly as not only the “fight” but also as “The War” in the bouts aftermath, it was a befitting tribute indeed to such a classic fight as “Hagler versus Hearns.”