by Kid Hersh
On Sept. 27, 1980, Alan Minter defended his title against Marvin Hagler at Wembley Arena in London. It was Minter’s second defense of the title that he won from Vito Antuofermo and his reign would be brief. Hagler cut him to pieces. Minter’s face was a mask of blood when the referee stopped the contest in the third round.
The pandemonium that ensued would prove to be a low point in boxing as bottles, cans and anything that could grow wings was hurled toward the ring while Hagler was on his knees with tears in his eyes from achieving the dream that he had set out for so long ago. There was no post-fight ceremony inside the ring as everyone fled to avoid being hit with one of the projectiles. “That was the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Hagler’s trainer and co-manager Pat Petronelli.
Let’s take a look at what could have caused such a reaction.
This ending was set in motion well prior to the fight. Hagler stirred up racial animosity by reportedly saying “I don’t touch white flesh” while refusing to shake Minter’s hand prior to his match against Vito Antuofermo for the title the previous year. Hagler denied making this statement, claiming that he simply wouldn’t shake hands with any opponent – including future opponents such as Minter – but the seeds of discord were sown.
Minter did not help the matter when in the build-up to the Hagler defense he reportedly said he “did not intend to lose his title to a black man.” Minter would say that he was quoted out of context and that by “black man” he was showing animosity toward Hagler instead of blacks in general. More animosity ensued when Minter’s camp forced Hagler to shave his beard and Hagler’s team raised the specter of Minter’s corner using illegal substances between rounds. Tensions were building.
Many in attendance at Wembley said that there was atmosphere of a war. Not a fight, not a boxing match, but a war about to happen as the energy was extremely keyed up. Some of the fans had had a bit too much to drink. Combine that with the super nationalistic hype that was amped up by the playing of “God Save The Queen” and the mood was ripe for a disturbance. Even Bob Arum would say after the fight that he thought that the playing of National Anthems before fights should be discontinued.
Hagler was ushered from the ring by a squad of policemen, with one fan being arrested for attacking the new champion. In the aftermath Minter would admit that he was beat by the superior man, saying that he would fight far more intelligently in the rematch that was certain to happen because it was in the contract. Hagler’s team simply said that Minter went out like a true champion and that if there was to be a rematch – it surely was not going to happen in London.
There was never a second fight.