Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns

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1985-04-15 : Marvin Hagler 159¼ lbs beat Thomas Hearns 159¾ lbs by TKO at 1:52 in round 3 of 12

"The War"

The War was the nickname given by promoter Bob Arum to the world middleweight championship superfight bout between Undisputed Champion Marvin Hagler and challenger Thomas Hearns, who was himself the world's junior middleweight champion.

Background to the fight

By 1985, "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler had been the undisputed champion of the middleweight division since September 27, 1980, after having been widely regarded as the No. 1 challenger for much of the late 1970s. His first two shots at the world middleweight title resulted in controversy: the first was an unpopular decision over Vito Antuofermo in 1979, and the second was a three-round technical knockout (TKO) of Alan Minter, in London, which led to a riot by Minter's fans. The hard road to the middleweight championship, however, may have helped motivate Hagler to remain dominant during his reign. By the time he fought Thomas Hearns, he had defended the title ten times, winning nine by knockout.

When the Hagler/Hearns took place, Hearns was making his debut as a middleweight after dominating the junior middleweight division and performing very well at welterweight. Hearns' first title shot was an unexpected second-round knockout against dominant WBA champion Pipino Cuevas. Hearns then defended the title three times before meeting Sugar Ray Leonard in a thrilling fight dubbed "The Showdown." Hearns lost by technical knockout in the 14th round despite leading on all three score cards. He then successfully campaigned at junior middleweight, winning the WBC title from Wilfred Benitez, and defeating Roberto Duran by a dramatic second-round knockout (Duran fell face first to the canvas).

Given the way both men had won their respective fights coming into this bout, it garnered significant media attention and interest by fans around the world. It was held at the Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 15, 1985. In the United States and Puerto Rico, it was broadcast by HBO and WAPA-TV.

The Fight

Round 1

Hagler, normally a slow starter, stormed Hearns from the opening bell, eventually pinning him to the ropes. Hearns threw his devastating right hand to Hagler's chin, stunning Hagler for a moment before Hagler was able to tie him up in a clinch (Hearns broke his hand delivering that punch). Seconds later, however, the two were trading power punches, with Hagler trying to get inside and to pin Hearns to the ropes again. In the process, he succeeded in stunning Hearns with a hard right hand. Hearns tied up Hagler again and tried to slow the pace by boxing rather than trading power punches with Hagler, who was still the aggressor. This lasted for only a moment, however, before the two once again started to trade power punches. Hagler developed a cut on his forehead, but didn't slow as he pinned Hearns to the ropes and meted out more punishment, eventually hurting Hearns at the end of the round. This opening round is considered by Ring Magazine as the greatest round in boxing history, and won round of the year honors for 1985.

Hagler cements his legacy

By the beginning of the second round, it looked as though Hearns had no legs under him as he slowed the pace by boxing Hagler. Hagler experimented by switching to orthodox style for a moment, but switched back to southpaw as he found more success in countering Hearns' jab. By the end of the round, Hagler again pinned Hearns to the ropes, successfully landing a volley of punches. In the next round, Hearns again tried to slow the pace and received indirect assistance from referee Richard Steele who halted the fight briefly to check the cut on Hagler's forehead, which was bleeding profusely. As the fight resumed, Hagler countered Hearns' jab with a hard right, taking advantage of Hearns' rubbery legs. Hearns was knocked down and counted out, giving Hagler his 11th successful defense of his middleweight title. It was widely regarded as Marvin Hagler's pinnacle achievement in his career, and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest middleweights of all time.

Ring magazine called the fight the most electrifying 8 minutes ever despite lasting only three rounds.


  • During the momentary stoppage during the third round, Richard Steele asked Hagler if he could see through the blood coming from his forehead. Hagler sarcastically replied, "Well, I ain't missing him, am I?"
  • Hearns received a massage before the fight much to the chagrin of his trainer Emanuel Steward. Steward felt the massage weakened Hearns' legs during the fight and led him to adopt a more aggressive approach than he normally would.
  • 1985 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year

Preceded by:
Hagler vs. Hamsho II
WBA Middleweight Title Fight
# 51
WBC Middleweight Title Fight
# 51
IBF Middleweight Title Fight
# 5
Succeeded by:
Hagler vs. Mugabi