30 Years Later We Appreciate How Hagler And Hearns Elevated Each Other

Marvin-Hagler-Thomas-Hearns

It was early spring of 1985.

Larry Holmes was undefeated and considered the baddest heavyweight in the world.

Mike Tyson was 2-0 as a pro.

Michael Spinks was the undefeated/undisputed light heavyweight champ.

Sugar Ray Leonard was 11 months removed from his latest comeback fight.

Marvin Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champ and very disappointed that Leonard retired after beating Kevin Howard in his last fight.

Thomas Hearns was the WBC junior middleweight title holder and was lobbying for a fight with Hagler.

In 1985 boxing was thriving. Khaosai Galaxy was the man at junior bantamweight. Jeff Fenech, Daniel Zaragoza and Richie Sandoval were fighting it out at bantamweight. Juan Meza and Lupe Pintor were title holders at junior featherweight. Eusebio Pedroza, Azumah Nelson and Barry McGuigan were passing the title back and forth at featherweight. Julio Cesar Chavez, Rocky Lockridge and Wilfredo Gomez were title holders at junior lightweight. Hector Camacho, Livingstone Bramble and Jose Luis Ramirez were the top lightweights. Aaron Pryor was the king at junior welterweight and Donald Curry was going through the welterweight division like a hot knife through butter and would be the undisputed champ by year's end.

Today, professional boxing is driven by the so-called must see fights that do nothing to enhance the sport usually headlined by Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, available only via PPV.

In 1985 there was only one PPV bout, Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns on April 15th for the undisputed middleweight championship (a fight that was originally scheduled for May of 1982. However, Hearns hurt his right hand and the fight was cancelled and never rescheduled, much to Hagler's dismay, though they tangled in 1985).

At the time due to Sugar Ray Leonard's retirement, Hagler 62-2-2 (50) and Hearns 40-1 (34) were the two biggest pound-for-pound stars in boxing. Both had their eyes on Leonard, who was either starting or squashing rumors that he was returning to the ring. Hearns felt that he had Leonard beat when they fought in their 1981 unification showdown before being stopped in the 14th round, and was trying to goad him into a rematch. Hagler felt stood up at the altar when Leonard invited him to his special dinner “A Night With Sugar Ray Leonard” in November of 1982, then looked Marvin in the eye and said that a fight between them is never going to happen.

Hagler smiled and kept churning along and beating every middleweight in the world who was qualified to fight him, and doing so in a convincing fashion. But Marvin was always griping about how much money Leonard made and often spewed he just wanted some of it and only fighting Leonard could bring it to him. At the time Hagler hadn't lost in nine years and avenged the only two losses on his record by stopping the perennial Philadelphia contenders who beat him, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts and Willie “The Worm” Monroe. Hearns was 8-0 since losing to Leonard and 10 months before fighting Hagler, knocked out Roberto Duran face first for the count, the same Duran who seven months earlier had gone 15 full rounds with Hagler for the middleweight title and was never hurt or in trouble once during the bout.

With Leonard on the sideline and working for HBO as color analyst, Hagler and Hearns was the next biggest fight that could be made. Hearns, 26, figuring that he was never going to get a rematch with Leonard, rationalized that beating Hagler would quell the sting he carried with him after losing to him.

As for Hagler, 30, the closest he'd ever been to a super fight was his battle against Duran a year and a half earlier. And in the eyes of the public, Marvin underperformed because he had to rally back during the last third of the fight to secure the decision victory he rightly earned. In the back of Hagler's mind he had to take Hearns out faster and more impressively than Leonard did because everybody was using Duran as the measuring stick to compare him with Hearns. And Hearns never let Hagler forget during their press tour that he devastated Duran in two rounds with one punch, whereas Marvin had to go the full route with the former lightweight and welterweight champ. Which led many to speculate and believe that the matured Hearns would be too much for even a monster like Hagler.

The disdain between Hagler and Hearns was real and they almost came to blows more than once during the press tour to promote the fight. Hearns repeatedly called the 5'9″ Hagler a midget, and Hagler reciprocated, labeling the 6'1″ Hearns a freak. As the fight grew near the fighters personalities changed. Hagler closed his workouts and was very secretive and appeared uptight, whereas Hearns trained in front of the public and mixed with the crowd after his workouts. A confident Hearns quit sparring almost a week prior to the fight opposed to Hagler, who sparred as recently as two days before the bout.

The goal for Hearns going into the bout was to keep Hagler at the end of his long left jab and in line for his right hand that carried fight ending/altering power with one clean connect. For Hagler, he knew that allowing Hearns the distance to set up his right hand was the last thing he could do. Marvin was cognizant that he had to smother Hearns and force him to rush his right hand and not allow him to set it up. Hearns was a fighter who could really box and punch, and sometimes came out fast and sought the early knockout. That wasn't Hagler; as champion he only won inside of three rounds three times in 10 title defenses before defending against Hearns. Hagler opened as a 13-10 favorite but a lot of late Detroit money came in and by the day of the fight Hagler was a 6-5 favorite.

Right before the bell sounded for the first round HBO's Larry Merchant said, “Hagler is the strongest fighter Hearns has ever fought. Hearns is the best fighter Hagler has ever fought. We’re here to get the answers.”

During the pre-fight, Hagler proclaimed the fight “WAR” and that's just what it was. Hagler started uncharacteristically fast against Hearns and forced the action with the first punch he threw. There was no feeling out process and he never gave Hearns a chance to box. Within the first seconds of the fight Hagler and Hearns were exchanging their Sunday best punches, and in the very early going Hearns really shook Hagler. However, Marvin had an all-world chin and Hearns fractured his right hand on Hagler's head. They exchanged bombs for the entire first round, a round that many feel was/is the most exciting three minutes in boxing history, and it could've been scored for either fighter.

If you were a fan of Hearns you had to feel uneasy going into the second round because he nailed Hagler with the same right hand that pulverized Pipino Cuevas, Roberto Duran and changed the geography of Sugar Ray Leonard's cheek and eye socket, and Hagler was still coming at him as if nothing happened. In the other corner if you were rooting for Hagler, you had to feel pretty good knowing that Hearns couldn't hit him any harder than he already did and it wasn't like Hearns was going to grow stronger as the fight progressed.

The intense pace resumed in the second round with Hagler still forcing the action and Hearns looking to find the time and space to launch a fight changing right hand with the hopes of impeding Hagler's aggression, but it never happened. Tommy got off with some good right hands but he was usually off balance because of the non-stop pressure he was under. By the end of the second round Hagler looked strong and Hearns seemed to be running out of steam. In the third round Hagler went right at Hearns as he did in the previous two rounds, but the fight was briefly stopped because of a cut he sustained in the first round. When the ring doctor allowed the fight to continue Hagler went at Hearns as if living meant knocking him out and dying would be having the fight stopped because of the cut and losing. Hagler unloaded everything he had and knocked Hearns out at 1:52 of the third round.

This was Hagler's finest hour as a pro and the showing had many observers saying “Sugar Who?” Today, 30 years later, everyone who saw the fight can recall it as if it were yesterday. The result boosted Marvin's reputation as a destroyer and forced some to think of Hearns as not being durable, but neither is the least bit accurate. Don't forget, Hagler had to hit Hearns with his Sunday best punch over a hundred times before he broke him, and Hearns took over a hundred of Hagler's best punches–in three rounds!– before he went down just as many other greats would've. That's hardly a guy who is not durable.

After the fight, Jerry Izenberg of the Newark Star Ledger summed it up best, saying, “What Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns fashioned here will make it forever impossible for anyone who saw it to call one’s name without thinking of the other.” And oh how right he was, both Hagler and Hearns were elevated by their historic “WAR” 30 years ago this April 15th, 2015.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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COMMENTS

-Brad :

I'll forever remember this night. It was a Monday night. I was watching it in a movie theater just outside of Detroit with a half dozen buddies. The theater was sold out for weeks. Everyone was excited because we KNEW that something special was going to happen. It had to. Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated had a great write-up for SI afterward. He wrote of Hagler's strategy: "It was a simple strategy,one that could have been designed by Attila; keep the swords swinging until there are no more heads to roll, give no quarter, take no prisoners. There would be only one pace,all-out, only one direction, forward." George Kimball also pointed out one of the more shocking images from the night. After Hagler had KO'ed Tommy a Kronk associate dressed in a "white dinner jacket complete with a red boutonniere in his lapel lifted Tommy up in his arms like you would a baby and carried him off." A crazy, great sports night. one that only boxing could deliver. Only 8 minutes of actual boxing and no one felt even close to cheated. Even us in the Motor City.


-brownsugar :

I viewed Hearn's effort as fatalistic, suicidle and more Hari Kari (sic) than Kamikaze. He could have pulled back and boxed.... I think he could have picked Hagler to pieces but baser instincts prevailed.


-brownsugar :

I viewed Hearn's effort as fatalistic, suicidal and more Hari Kari (sic) than Kamikaze. He could have pulled back and boxed.... I think he could have picked Hagler to pieces but baser instincts prevailed.


-Froggy :

I was lucky enough to be there to see it with two of my brothers ! We were seated in the second last row but could see the fight very well, after about the first 10 seconds everybody there was on their feet and the first round was so good, as everyone knows, that no one sat down again until the end of the second round ! I have seen about a half dozen world title fights in person but Hagler-Hearns was the only big fight/event I ever went to, what luck to go to that one ! Betting on Hagler paid for my whole trip including fight tickets, they ranged from $200 cheap seats to $600 ringside, how times and prices have changed in 30 years !


-Brad :

I viewed Hearn's effort as fatalistic, suicidle and more Hari Kari (sic) than Kamikaze. He could have pulled back and boxed.... I think he could have picked Hagler to pieces but baser instincts prevailed.
KO'ing Duran after Hagler never really even hurt Duran may have given Tommy a mistaken idea on how to fight Hagler. Duran was a lightweight in reality. When Roberto faced Tommy he had fought professionally for 17 years!!! He was giving up 6" in height and 11" in reach to Hearns. Duran was as big as Pacquiao. Same height and reach. Tommy gave himself too much credit after that fight. He kept talking about how Hagler must be "shaking like a leaf" after watching it. I love Tommy but I don't think ever beats Hagler. Even if he pulled back and boxed. At some point, like in the Leonard fight, Hagler would catch him and expose Hearns true weakness; fighting when hurt. He was brave, but not smart when hurt.


-Froggy :

KO'ing Duran after Hagler never really even hurt Duran may have given Tommy a mistaken idea on how to fight Hagler. Duran was a lightweight in reality. When Roberto faced Tommy he had fought professionally for 17 years!!! He was giving up 6" in height and 11" in reach to Hearns. Duran was as big as Pacquiao. Same height and reach. Tommy gave himself too much credit after that fight. He kept talking about how Hagler must be "shaking like a leaf" after watching it. I love Tommy but I don't think ever beats Hagler. Even if he pulled back and boxed. At some point, like in the Leonard fight, Hagler would catch him and expose Hearns true weakness; fighting when hurt. He was brave, but not smart when hurt.
Agreed, I think Hearns with his physical advantages would beat Duran virtually everytime if they would have had a few fights, but that sure was not the same Duran that fought Leonard the first time . Then again Duran probably never fought better than he did that night in Montreal !


-Brad :

Agreed, I think Hearns with his physical advantages would beat Duran virtually everytime if they would have had a few fights, but that sure was not the same Duran that fought Leonard the first time . Then again Duran probably never fought better than he did that night in Montreal !
The fact that Duran fought Hearns (or Hagler) at all is way he's a damn legend. That spirit. After he finally gets his career back on track after beating Davey Moore to win the junior middleweight title, he doesn't take a couple easy fights and some quick money, he goes after Hagler!!! When Hagler is in his absolute prime. Duran had barely even fought at junior middleweight and now months after Moore he's going to middleweight!!! To fight one of the greatest middles ever. Then after losing to Hagler he doesn't go back down and take a couple easy fights, he goes after Hearns!!!! That is what Floyd doesn't get. The "L" doesn't mean everything. Duran lost both of those fights but his legacy is greater because he TOOK those fights. That why Duran is a freaking god to so many.


-Froggy :

The fact that Duran fought Hearns (or Hagler) at all is way he's a damn legend. That spirit. After he finally gets his career back on track after beating Davey Moore to win the junior middleweight title, he doesn't take a couple easy fights and some quick money, he goes after Hagler!!! When Hagler is in his absolute prime. Duran had barely even fought at junior middleweight and now months after Moore he's going to middleweight!!! To fight one of the greatest middles ever. Then after losing to Hagler he doesn't go back down and take a couple easy fights, he goes after Hearns!!!! That is what Floyd doesn't get. The "L" doesn't mean everything. Duran lost both of those fights but his legacy is greater because he TOOK those fights. That why Duran is a freaking god to so many.
No argument from my on that my friend, I have always felt Duran is the best fighter in my lifetime not the best boxer although he was a great boxer also !


-Radam G :

I viewed Hearn's effort as fatalistic, suicidle and more Hari Kari (sic) than Kamikaze. He could have pulled back and boxed.... I think he could have picked Hagler to pieces but baser instincts prevailed.
Give me some of what you are drinking. The only thing that the Hitman could have picked to pieces, apart or off is lent and cotton off the Marvelous One's trunks and cranium. Hehehe! Holla


-brownsugar :

Give me some of what you are drinking. The only thing that the Hitman could have picked to pieces, apart or off is lent and cotton off the Marvelous One's trunks and cranium. Hehehe! Holla
Why do i have to be drinking something because we have different ideas???.... We're just talking about the fights. You dont have to agree. I think Brad and Froggy stated some very insightful points.... By essensially saying that... Hagler could not escape the rapier jab and spearlike righthand of Hearns so he bet that his face and chin would be able to withstand the withering assaut just long enough to walk straight through Hearns's artillery while he deployed his own potent payload. Hearns took Hagler up on that bet by dumping his entire inventory of Sunday punches against Haglers gleaming dome....opening huge gashes, rivers of blood and buckling Haglers knees in the process but not before the Marvelous One could torpedo The Hitmans' rail thin bulkheads below the waterline. It was indeed war. ....WW3 by boxing standards I remember how toxic, caustic and vociferous the prefight communications were before the fight. Hagler was not the kind of boxer to **** off. (remember Caveman Lee???) Now another Kronk Fighter was hurling disrespectful comments Haglers way. But I think Hearns could have averted disaster by making the fight more tactical ...he could have moved more and used his superior boxing skills to at least get into the mid rounds... Before his gas tank hit E. By then Hagler could have potentially been stopped on cuts. He was already busted up. I just think that giving into the heat of battle is easier than thinking your way through and around an extremely hostile situation and selecting better options... Hearns gave into the bloodlust and participated in a slugfest he had no chance of winning.... That was a fatalistic decision and it sealed his doom. My grandfather and I went to the closed circut theatre... I think I was home on leave from the Armed Forces at the time or either freshly dischared. They use words like Brave and Transcendant to describe Hearns... But nobody ever called him smart.


-brownsugar :

Most of the best fights are a wager between one fighters ability to withstand punishment and the other fighters ability to avoid it.


-Radam G :

Grade-skool Radam didn't give Hitman Hearn a chance in hell. Dude was too tall and skinny for his own good. And he was ?o?k? and disrespectful. The Marvelous One goes back to my first memories in da game. He ate long-tall pugs alive. In my opinion, Tommy H was just another Bugaloo Watts-like lunch for MMH. Holla!


-Matthew :

A couple things... First, Hagler's record going into the Hearns fight was 60-2-2, not 62-2-2 as was stated. I like my minutiae to be accurate. Second, it was not only due to Hearns' ego and warrior spirit that he went for broke early, but also because his legs were weak. Manny Steward said that Hearns had gotten his legs massaged in the dressing room before the fight, and that they felt incredibly weak afterward. Hearns knew that he couldn't move and box for twelve rounds, so he had to take his chances and try to knock Hagler out. Good points about Hearns not knowing what to do when hurt. It took him a long time for him to learn how to clinch, as was finally displayed in fights against Roldan, Kinchen, and the Leonard rematch. I put some of the blame for that on Steward. As great a trainer and teacher as he was, he used to actually take pride in saying that Kronk fighters didn't clinch during sparring sessions. It's hard to believe that 30 years have gone by. I remember watching the ABC replay of this fight when I was a kid. Al Michaels and Al Bernstein on the call. The best first round of a big fight that I have ever seen.


-Radam G :

BTW! The mainland USA boksing world has become stressed and violent with a day and two weeks to go before Da Manny kicks Money May's arse. I was just at the gas station to gas up to holla at San Diego. And the old dude who hangs around every gym in SoCal came up to me talking mucho syet how "Mayweather is going to kill dat d@mn Filipino." "Whatever," I told the almost 70-year-old dude. He then grabbed my iPad mini and saw that I was on this Thread. I took the pad back, told him to chillax and got into my car. He then asked me for a ride to the Wildcard Gym. In the meantime, he was telling me how he grew up with Marvelous MH and use to "whip his @$$." "So you are from Neward, New Jersey," I asked. "Hell naw," he said. "I'm from Boston, MASS! Born and bred. Just like Hagler. I'd kicked his @$$ many times. And I got him into boxing." "C'mon, man!" I said. The Marvelous one is originally from Newark, N-J. "He did not move to Da Mass until he was around 15 or 16 years old. And he started boxing around that age. He did not have a long amateur career." "D@mn Filipino, can you prove that?" "Easy breezy!" And I then went to this video:
->https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Eh7Dj_pZaM. Dude, then told me: "D@mn! I bet that you are that cat named Radam." "Hehehe. I could be," I told him. Now off to Diego! Holla!


-Radam G :

A couple things... First, Hagler's record going into the Hearns fight was 60-2-2, not 62-2-2 as was stated. I like my minutiae to be accurate. Second, it was not only due to Hearns' ego and warrior spirit that he went for broke early, but also because his legs were weak. Manny Steward said that Hearns had gotten his legs massaged in the dressing room before the fight, and that they felt incredibly weak afterward. Hearns knew that he couldn't move and box for twelve rounds, so he had to take his chances and try to knock Hagler out. Good points about Hearns not knowing what to do when hurt. It took him a long time for him to learn how to clinch, as was finally displayed in fights against Roldan, Kinchen, and the Leonard rematch. I put some of the blame for that on Steward. As great a trainer and teacher as he was, he used to actually take pride in saying that Kronk fighters didn't clinch during sparring sessions. It's hard to believe that 30 years have gone by. I remember watching the ABC replay of this fight when I was a kid. Al Michaels and Al Bernstein on the call. The best first round of a big fight that I have ever seen.
Welcome back, Matt! You have been absent for a spell and a minute. But like always, you ride back in Dodge clearing up error in facts. Straight up blasting with the actuality of the reality. We appreciate cha! Because you are always real with it. There is no bullsyet and grandstanding in your game. Holla!


-Matthew :

Thanks Radam. It's good to be back.


-Radam G :

A couple things... First, Hagler's record going into the Hearns fight was 60-2-2, not 62-2-2 as was stated. I like my minutiae to be accurate. Second, it was not only due to Hearns' ego and warrior spirit that he went for broke early, but also because his legs were weak. Manny Steward said that Hearns had gotten his legs massaged in the dressing room before the fight, and that they felt incredibly weak afterward. Hearns knew that he couldn't move and box for twelve rounds, so he had to take his chances and try to knock Hagler out.
The skinny on that massage syet is toward the end of this before the start of the fight.
->https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=396c6NrTjLQ Matt, man, since you have not been here, and in just the last month, this Universe kind of went back to those old days of Wild, Wild West condescending and posing with bullsyet make believe and being selected with what video is real and what is phony. God Only Knows how some readers can be so vulnerable to mob mentality and fiction. Holla!


-Radam G :

The skinny on that massage syet is toward the end of this before the start of the fight.
->https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=396c6NrTjLQ Matt, man, since you have not been here, and in just the last month, this Universe kind of went back to those old days of Wild, Wild West condescending and posing with bullsyet make believe and being selected with what video is real and what is phony. God Only Knows how some readers can be so vulnerable to mob mentality and fiction. Holla!
Now that I have reviewed that video, I see that unknown to the Marvelous One, he is foretelling the coming of Da Manny. He said that he "ate up" the Hitman like "the PacMan." Before the haters and posers lose their panties up in this Universe, I'm being facetious. Holla!


-HeNeverSawTheHookComing! :

I will never forget this fight! We watched it at the Civic Center in Oakland, Ca. My uncle and cousins were for Hearns and me & brother was for Hagler. I thought a very explosive fight, but not right when the 1st round begun! TH is not a passive boxer/puncher so when MH tried to come out and punk Tommy he immediately stood his ground to make Marvin respect him! Which is why we had that great 1st round. Even though I was for Hagler, Tommy shook him with an uppercut and I still wonder what would have happened if TH hadn't broke his hand? Great fight even 30 years later it still gets the blood pumping.