1987-04-06 Sugar Ray Leonard w pts 12 Marvin Hagler, Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA - WBC/IBF

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1987-04-06 Sugar Ray Leonard w pts 12 Marvin Hagler, Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA - WBC/IBF. Referee: Richard Steele. Scorecards: 118-110, 115-113, 113-115. In what turned out to be the last fight in a great career for Hagler (160) he seemed to be unfortunate to lose his title to Leonard (160) after what had been a very close contest, regardless of what one of the judges thought. As expected, Leonard started fast to take the opening four rounds before Hagler, hurting his rival with big southpaw hooks in the fifth, began to get more and more into the fight from there onwards. In the seventh, following a good sixth, Leonard appeared to be weakening, and in the eighth although his left eye was beginning to swell he continued to rally before meeting Hagler punch for punch in the ninth and being hurt by left hooks. However, from thereon Leonard began to fade, fighting in bursts and dancing away out of trouble. Feeling that Hagler was hard done by, Boxing News, Britain’s trade paper, gave him seven rounds to Leonard’s four.

Not letting the dust settle, the IBF stated that they were vacating the title because they could not lend their support to Leonard, while on 26 May Herol Graham forfeited his chance of a crack at the WBA title when losing his European crown to Sumbu Kalambay on points over 12 rounds at The Arena, Wembley, London, England.

A short while later, in June, all versions of the title were left vacant when Leonard announced that he was giving up the WBC belt in order to take a long break from boxing.

With the division in turmoil, Iran Barkley, who had earlier been matched against Michael Olajide for the IBF title, was finally booked to meet Kalambay for the WBA crown on the proviso that the winner gave Mike McCallum first crack. Following matches made between Thomas Hearns v Juan Domingo Roldan (WBC) and Olajide v Frank Tate (IBF), the championship would be split three ways. While Hearns and Roldan had been involved in world title bouts previously, it was a new experience for the others.

An aggressive all-action fighter, Barkley had won 22 of 25 contests, beating Wilford Scypion and James Kinchen, whereas Kalambay was a crafty, clever boxer who had won 42 of 46, beating Buster Drayton and Graham.

Of the Tate versus Olajide pairing, the latter appeared to be the harder puncher with 16 inside-the-distance wins from 23 fights. Known as ‘The Silk’, Olajide had beaten Elio Diaz, Curtis Parker, James Green and Don Lee, and had a good left jab which was used to unleash solid hooks to head and body. Tate, with 12 quick wins from 20 contests, who had an excellent left jab and follow-up punches, had also defeated Parker, along with Marvin Mack and Troy Darrell.