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Hagler-Hearns and Passing Up the Greatest Fight of the Past 50 years

March 15th, 2021 · No Comments · Boxing, Newspapers, Sports Journalism

Marvelous Marvin Hagler died this week at the age of 66, and he got a lot of things done in his sport and in his life : one of boxing’s greatest punchers and owner of the sport’s hardest chin; multi-year middleweight champion in the 1980s; actor in Italy; a ringside commentator in the UK …

But I tend to believe that when anyone with a vague interest in boxing heard about Hagler’s demise, 90 percent of them probably blurted: “The Greatest Fight Ever!”

That would be Hagler’s action-packed ode to publicly sanctioned violence, when he knocked out Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns in a middleweight brawl to beat all brawls, in April of 1985.

Boxing fans can never get enough of that fight, 8 minutes and 1 second of mayhem that left reporters at ringside spattered with blood.

You know you want to see it again. You know you do. So, here is the first round of the fight.

And here is the whole of it.

I covered a lot of boxing, back when I lived and worked in Southern California, but for reasons I no longer recall, I was not actually at that fight.

I assume I was back in the office putting out the Sunday paper, rather than at Caesars Palace, hyperventilating right along with Al Michaels as the fight unfolded.

It was colleague Gregg Patton who covered the fight for us, and for all I know he still has a reporter’s notebook with Hagler’s blood on it.

I checked back with Gregg yesterday, to make sure it was he who saw that two-man riot.

Yep. It was, and he has not forgotten about Hagler’s Opus.

Gregg wrote: “I still have the plastic promotional army helmet that says ‘The War'” — which is what the fight eventually was dubbed.

He continued: “I’m sure that is the fight when print reporters still actually sat ringside and got blood spatter rained across my notebook. Non-stop fury.”

“Hagler was my favorite,” he said. “No-nonsense tough guy. I’m still mad he lost his title to Pretty Boy [Sugar Ray] Leonard a year or two later.

“Leonard ran like a little mouse and threw a series of butterfly wing slaps at Hagler, and was inexplicably awarded the decision. Fight-game fix. Hagler was too boring.”

Well, he wasn’t too boring that night.

Now that I think more about this, Gregg tended to cover fights for us, in the 1980s. I picked up the “sweet science” beat when Gregg left The Sun, and that led to me seeing some memorable fights into the 21st century, mostly involving heavyweights (Mike Tyson snacks on Evander Holyfield’s ear), with a lot of Oscar De La Hoya mixed in there, too.

But nothing beat Hagler and Hearns, not since Muhammad Ali was rope-a-doping George Foreman in 1974, almost a half-century ago

What Hagler and Hearns gave us was unadulterated bomb-throwing, ferocity and courage, and Hagler will be remembered a long time for being the guy standing when it was over.


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