Fight of the year 1985 – Hagler v Hearns (30 years ago) – Part 3
By Gav Duthie: Promoter Bob Arum labelled the 1985 super-fight between Marvelous Marvin Hagler 60-2-2 (50) and Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns 40-1 (34) simply ‘The War’. He certainly wasn’t wrong, what transpired was arguably the greatest 8 minutes in boxing history.
This fight had its 30 year anniversary just last week in an era that many fans call the best ever. Hagler and Hearns made up one half of the fabulous four alongside ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.
Hagler had made 10 successful defences of his title and at this point held the WBC/WBA and IBF middleweight titles. He was four defenses away from then record holder Carlos Monzon and was 10-0 (9) for title fights since he won his first belt. His only points victory was a hard fought match against Roberto Duran. Hagler is considered to have one of the greatest chins of all time but he had tasted the canvas for the first and only time two fights previously against Juan Domingo Roldan (Hagler maintains to this day it was a slip). His two defeats up to this point had come against relatively modest opposition in Willie Munroe and Bobby Watts. However he had subsequently knocked Munroe out twice and Watts in the second round in a rematch. Coming into the Hearns fight he had just knocked out Mustafa Hamsho in 3 rounds.
Hearns was the current Light Middleweight world champion and was on a great 8 fight winning streak since his solitary loss against Ray Leonard. Tommy was up on all cards when Leonard rallied in the 14th round to stop ‘The Hitman’. The best of Hearns victories to this point was undoubtedly against Roberto Duran. Duran (77-5) at the time had never been stopped (Less the No Mas fight) and had only suffered a couple of flash knockdowns against top lightweight Esteban De Jesus. As mentioned Duran ran Hagler close so his fight against Hearns was a big surprise. Tommy was relentless and knocked Duran out cold in the second round. A huge right hand followed a couple of body faints sending Roberto face first to the canvas. Before facing Hagler he had also stopped Fred Hutchins inside 3 rounds.
In hindsight boxing politics seemed simpler back then. The best fought the best. Hagler, Hearns, Duran, Leonard and Wilfred Benitez were all extremely talented fighters and the first four all fought each other. We often look back with rose tinted spectacles and nostalgia. In truth Leonard in particular was very frustrating during his career, a fight with Aaron Pryor fell through and Sugar Ray made more retirements and comebacks than Frank Sinatra. Hearns struggled to get a third fight with Leonard after being robbed in the second bout and a Hagler-Hearns rematch was also on the cards. In the end though these guys all got in the ring together to give fans some fantastic fight night with Leonard considered the best of them all.
Were there any? Perhaps Hearns having destroyed the solid Duran and watching Hagler go down two fights previous felt he could take him out early. Hagler was a notorious slow starter. He would often switch between southpaw and orthodox to figure out his opponent. Reading Hearns autobiography there was massive controversy regarding a pre-fight massage leaving Hearns rubbery legged before the start of the fight. Hearns reflected that he couldn’t feel his legs so his only option was to go for the knockout. If he had been fighting anyone else that night he would have got it.
Hagler forgot his normal slow start. Although he was a big puncher he was a boxer first. Likely realizing he would struggle to box Hearns at range he came straight after him to get on the inside. Hagler fought exclusively as a southpaw in the first round and went straight for Hearns body. As he did this though with his head low Tommy stepped back and landed a huge uppercut that jolted Hagler in the first 20 seconds of the fight. Hearns opened up a bad cut on Haglers head and was landing the better shots. Hagler was more suited to trench warfare though and as the round went on he started to land better and some solid shots at the rounds end.
The rest of the fight
Hagler was making Hearns reach advantage completely non-existent jumping in with lead right hooks. Hearns was trying to box but even as he landed a decent left hook of his own he stumbled backwards with commentators noting he was looking rubbery legged in round 2. Hagler briefly changed to orthodox but his right hook was doing most of the damage so he switched to southpaw before the end of the round. In the third Hearns stamina and legs had caught up to him and only seconds after the ring doctor checked Hagler’s cut he went in for the kill. He landed a right hand sending Hearns staggering to the ropes and sprinted towards him to land another as Hearns tried to throw a left hook. Hearns slumped face forward into the canvas and although he somehow beat the count by getting up at 9 referee Richard Steele correctly stopped the fight. He was practically holding Hearns up as Hagler celebrated his 11th title defence.
Despite being in his prime Marvelous Marvin only fought twice more. After Hearns he took on John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi 25-0 (25) at the time. He fought this to another fight of the year in 1986 standing toe-to-toe with the hard hitting Mugabi and winning by 11th round knockout. In his final fight he lost a split decision to Sugar Ray Leonard and hung up his gloves right after.
Hearns on the other hand fought a further 25 times with a future record of 21-3-1. Two of his losses came against Ivan Barkley and the other against Uriah Grant when Hearns was well past his best. His draw was a rematch against Sugar Ray Leonard which he should have won. Hearns won world titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and the less regarded IBO title at Cruiserweight cementing his legacy as one of boxing’s best.
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