Over 30 years ago two of ‘the four kings’, of 1980’s boxing, met for a contest dubbed simply as “The Fight”. In boxing terms, this would seem a little understated, after the event the name was changed to “The War”.
In a little under eight minutes, these two titans flouted every rule of superfights and waged an unremitting war, of brutal intensity and produced what is thought of, by many experts, as the greatest round ever. Experts and fans alike would also argue that, due to the skill, drama and primal nature of the encounter, the fight itself was the best ever witnessed.
Thomas ” The Hitman ” Hearns was a supreme finisher with a sledgehammer right hand that had seen off 30 of his first 32 opponents with knock-outs. Hearns, however, was moving up in weight, after winning world titles at welterweight and light middleweight, and was, on this occasion, the challenger.
Marvellous Marvin Hagler was the reigning champion. This awesome example of boxing finest was defending his title for the 11th time. Never yet receiving the credit his skills and durability deserved Hagler was motivated in part by a need to be recognised, and paid, at the level he believed he had earned. Having defeated Roberto Duran the previous year taking on “The Hitman” would mean only Sugar Ray Leonard would be missing from a stellar CV.
With the pre-fight tour finished, and tickets and TV rights sold, Hagler and Hearns divided a huge 11 million dollar purse almost equally. But could the fight live up to the hype and expectations surrounding it? Boxing at the time was in something of a slump, post-Muhammed Ali, and with Leonard retiring, its appeal was slipping. Add in that the anti-boxing campaigns were gaining traction, and the future did not look too rosy for the noble art.
Such thoughts were banished within seconds of the first round bell. Throwing all the conventions out of the window both men stormed at each other, simply attempting to batter the opponent into submission. The skill levels were astounding. Hearns managing to slip numerous punches and get his sledgehammer right hand to work. Hagler decided to accept those blows, in order to get to Hearns and weaken his body.
Hagler boxed both conventionally and southpaw style in order to confuse his opponent and throw off his angles. Round one saw Hagler slightly stunned by a very early right hand, but he soon reasserted himself and had reversed the situation completely.
It was simply awesome, the crowd realised they witnessing a special sporting moment and responded accordingly. The huge amounts of energy and power used early had commentators questioning how long it could go on in the middle of round one. Hagler was cut early through an accidental head clash and some straight Hearns blows worsened the injury.
As the bell sounds for the round end, both men try the defiant look at the other as if to say “I have got loads more where that came from”. Hagler’s looks more convincing that Hearns’ to me, but perhaps I am biased.
Have a look for yourselves:
There you have it. 8 minutes of mayhem as “The Ring” magazine described the fight. Regarded by many fight fans as the pinnacle of Marvin Hagler’s superb career. It is difficult to imagine a greater testament to this awesome athletes skills, power, courage and determination. His reply to the ring doctor when asked if he could see Hearns, due to the blood near his eye’s, was simply “I ain’t missing him am I ?” His desperation not to be thwarted by another questionable decision was huge and resulted in his very best at the ultimate moment.
Hearns would come again and, in a career that had huge peaks and a few troughs, would win multiple world titles at numerous weights and produce a remarkable rematch draw against Sugar Ray Leonard.
Yet, for many watching, the images of The Fight are those that sum up the era. Two greats sorting out the pecking order in a blunt and brutal style.
Floyd Mayweather & Manny Pacquiao will have to produce a remarkable exhibition if they are to supplant the images of that Marvelous night 30 years ago.