Vito Antuofermo vs. Marvin Hagler (1st meeting)

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1979-11-30 : Marvin Hagler 158½ lbs drew with Vito Antuofermo 158½ lbs by PTS in round 15 of 15

  • Unofficial AP scorecard: 143-142 Antuofermo
  • WBA Middleweight Title (first defense by Antuofermo)
  • WBC Middleweight Title (first defense by Antuofermo)

Bout Summary

For Mills Lane, who refereed the brawling, bloody middleweight title fight which preceded the Leonard-Benitez bout at Caesars Palace, the outcome was as apparent as the many cuts on Vito Antuofermo's craggy face. Moving quickly to the corner of Marvin Hagler, Mills directed the challenger to turn and face the ABC-TV cameras. "Congratulations," Mills murmured. "Now stay facing this way until they announce the decision and I raise your arm."

Across the way, little Freddie Brown, the ancient cutman, was busily anointing Antuofermo's torn features with his magic wound solution. There were six cuts: 25 stitches would be required to close four of them.

"You win it in the last round," Brown rasped, working swiftly. He didn't want Vito—a 4-1 underdog in his first title defense—to be bleeding when they told him he was still champion.

But surely the referee and the bettors were right and Brown was not.

And then they read the astonishing decision:

Judge Dalby Shirley: 144-142 for Antuofermo.

Judge Duane Ford: 145-141 for Hagler.

And Judge Hal Miller: 143-143.

A draw. And draws go to the champion.

The champion's style is neo-caveman. Pressure is his game. He simply lowers his head and charges, and once inside he rains blows with unrelenting fury. It is a style that had won the 26-year-old ex-sausage grinder 45 of 49 fights (with one draw) and the WBC-WBA title (from Hugo Corro) last June. The Hagler bout brought him $190,000. His opponent was paid $40,000.

While basically a lefthander, Hagler is a switcher who prefers to fight from a distance, sharp and clean. He wears people down, taking them out with clusters of crushing, crisp combinations. While winning 46 of 49 bouts (one draw) he had knocked out 38 opponents.

Against Antuofermo, an Italian-born resident of Brooklyn who usually begins to bleed halfway through the national anthem, Hagler's slashing style promised to remind people of the Little Bighorn. But only "if we can keep Vito off us," said Pat Petronelli, who with his brother Goody manages and trains Hagler. "Vito is rough and tough, a street brawler with a lot of heart whose best punch is his head. We can't go inside with him. That would be crazy."

Hagler's strategy was to circle the wagons, to stay out of the corners and off the ropes and, whenever Antuofermo got inside, to tie him up until the referee gave him a pass out of the danger zone.

In the early going, it was all Hagler. The 27-year-old challenger piled up points with a stinging clothesline jab and hooks from both sides. A jab opened a small cut in the outside corner of Antuofermo's left eye in the third: a left uppercut opened the other corner of the same eye in the fourth.

In the fifth, the champion began to apply more pressure, but he took still more punishment getting inside. He came out of that round bleeding from a small cut near the corner of the right eye. He was cut twice more in the sixth: over the right eye and on the right cheek, the latter a two-inch opening. In the ninth, Hagler ripped him under the left eye.

"Help," said cutman Brown. In stepped Tony Carione, Antuofermo's manager, who worked on two of the cuts while Brown closed the other four.

"I'm getting old," sighed Brown, who is 72. "Once I could close six cuts in a minute and not even feel hurried."

If the cuts were troubling Brown, they seemed to have little, if any, effect on Antuofermo. Still playing the bull to Hagler's matador, he stepped up his attack, pouring in, punching without pause.

By the 14th round, Antuofermo had what he wanted: a gang rumble in a Brooklyn back alley. Abandoning artistry, Hagler met him head to head.

The challenger was cut in the outer corner of his right eye and blood streamed down his cheek. Antuofermo was having trouble breathing because of a lingering cold: his body was splattered with blood.

As the last round began, both men rushed across the ring, meeting halfway, and began swinging. Three minutes later, they were still swinging. It was a cruel, bloody combat, and it was awesome.


Sports Illustrated - December 10, 1979

Preceded by:
Corro vs. Antuofermo
WBA Middleweight Title Fight
WBC Middleweight Title Fight
Succeeded by:
Antuofermo vs. Minter I