Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns

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The Fight.jpg

Marvelous Marvin Hagler 159 lbs beat Thomas Hearns 160 lbs by TKO at 1:52 in round 3 of 12

Background to the Fight


Marvin Hagler was widely regarded as the top challenger for the middleweight title for much of the late 1970s. He got his long-awaited title shot against Vito Antuofermo on November 30, 1979. After fifteen rounds, most thought Hagler had won the fight, but Antuofermo retained the title with a controversial draw.

Hagler's second title shot came on September 27, 1980 in London, England against Englishmen Alan Minter, who had dethroned Antuofermo. Hagler battered Minter, and the fight was stopped on cuts in the third round. Hagler was the new Undisputed World Middleweight Champion, but he didn't get to be announced as the new champion in the ring because the English fans started throwing bottles in outrage over the stoppage. Hagler and his handlers were hurriedly escorted from the ring by security.

Hearns' road to a title wasn't as rough. With a record of 28-0 with 26 knockouts, he won the WBA welterweight title with a second-round annihilation of Pipino Cuevas. He defended the title three times before being stopped in fourteen rounds by WBC champion Sugar Ray Leonard in a unification fight. After the lost to Leonard, Hearns moved up to middleweight and set his sights on Hagler.

Hagler and Hearns were originally scheduled to fight on May 24, 1982 at Windsor Arena in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, but the fight was postponed after Hearns injured his finger. The fight was rescheduled for July 15, but Hearns then wanted the fight moved to the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mighigan. Hagler said he would not fight Hearns in the Detroit area, and the fight was canceled. Hagler said, "Hearns is afraid to fight me. He always was, and he always will be."

Hearns defeated Wilfred Benitez to win the WBC super welterweight title on December 3, 1982. His most impressive title defense was on June 15, 1984, when he scored a devastating second-round knockout of Roberto Duran, who had gone fifteen rounds with Hagler the previous November. Duran was the only challenger to go the distance with the champion. After the victory, Hearns said, "Marvin Hagler must be shaking like a leaf on a tree."

With public interest at an all-time high, Hagler and Hearns once again signed to fight. Billed simply as "The Fight" by promoter Bob Arum, it was scheduled for Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 15, 1985. Hagler was guaranteed $5.6 million and Hearns was guaranteed $5.4 million. The fight was shown on closed circuit television in over 600 locations with more than three million seats in the United States and Canada.

The Fight


In the days leading up to the fight, Hagler wore a hat with the word "War" on the front. It proved to be quite prophetic. Hagler, normally a slow starter, attacked Hearns from the opening bell and pinned him to the ropes. Hearns fired back with a barrage of punches, opening a cut on Hagler's forehead and stunning the champion, who then tied up the challenger. After being separated from the clinch, the two went right back at each other, with each loading up on power punches. Hagler backed Hearns into the challenger's corner and Hearns clinched. Hearns then started moving around the ring. He caught Hagler numerous times at long range as the champion pursued. With a minute left in the round, Hagler once again backed Hearns into the challenger's corner, where they fought furiously. Hearns was able to get the fight back to ring center in the final seconds of the round and landed several hard shots. Hagler glared at Hearns as they walked to their corners after the bell ended the round. The crowd of 15,088 roared their approval. The Ring called round one "the greatest round in boxing history."

When Hearns got back to his corner, he told his trainer, Emanuel Steward, that he had broken his right hand. Steward said, "You've got to stick and move. Jab. Don't fight with him." Hearns followed his trainer's advice and came out boxing in the second round. Hearns was able to stay on the outside and circle the ring for most of the round. With about thirty seconds left, Hagler, who was switching back and forth from southpaw to orthodox, pinned Hearns to the ropes and kept him there until the bell.

Hearns' legs appeared unusually weak as he moved around. Steward blamed it on a massage. While the trainer was absent from the dressing room, a member of Hearns' entourage rubbed down the challenger's legs. "A massage leaves the body spent and Tommy’s legs began giving out on him even before we made the walk to the ring. I was nervous,” Steward said.

A minute into the third round, referee Richard Steele stopped the action so the ringside doctor could check Hagler's cut. The physician asked, "Can you see all right?" Hagler replied, "I ain't missing him, am I?" The doctor told Steele to let the fight continue. Soon after the fight resumed, Hagler caught Hearns with a right hook that sent the challenger reeling into the ropes. Hagler chased after him and nailed him with a right cross to the chin, sending Hearns to the canvas. Hearns struggled to beat the count. He got up but was in no condition to continue, and Steele stopped the fight.

Hagler's victory over Hearns was his tenth knockout in eleven successful title defenses and is widely regarded as the pinnacle achievement in his career. It cemented his legacy as one of the greatest middleweights of all-time.

The Ring named Hagler vs. Hearns the Fight of the Year for 1985, and round one was named Round 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