Even though it’s now 34 years old, the standard for “greatest action packed short fight” in championship boxing history remains Marvelous Marvin Hagler’s third round knockout of Thomas Hearns in Las Vegas.
April 15th, 1985, Hagler, then 30 years old, put his Undisputed Middleweight Championship up for the 10th time, against arguably the most devastating puncher in a lower weight class that boxing had seen in the previous 50 years.
Hearns, then 28 years old, came into the fight with 34 Knockouts in his 40 wins, and most of them coming in the first or the second round on his lethal right hand.
Meanwhile, Hagler had held the Middleweight Championship since 1980, and only one fighter, Roberto Duran, had lasted the distance in his previous nine title defenses.
That set the stage for the most remarkable opening round you could imagine, as Hagler came full bore at Hearns to begin the fight. And, Hearns responded throwing that most dangeous right hand that had dropped so many previous opponents.
Those at ringside, and those glued on closed circuit television around the world (pre PPV days) witnessed an epic 3-minute slugfest where numerous big punches were landed by both fighters. Yet, neither went down.
Hagler, known for being a relentless trainer and in phenomenal shape every time out, simply outworked, outlasted and overwhelmed Hearns over the course of the next two rounds. This was particularly by landing body shots and left hooks, as he set Hearns up for the eventual finish.
That came came just over two minutes into round three with Hagler bleeding badly from a cut on the bridge of his nose. Referee Richard Steele actually paused the fight to have the ringside doctor take a look at the cut. And then, when the action resumed, Hagler landed a succession of right hands including the last one leaping at the retreating Hearns. That punch nailed Hearns on the chin, his body went limp and he splatted to the canvas at Hagler’s feet.
Hearns barely beat the count at “9,” but Steele waved the fight off for a Hagler TKO.
The fight was later dubbed ‘The War” and played the next weekend by HBO with both fighters in the studio recounting that epic night in the Vegas desert.
Legendary Ring Magazine named it their “Fight of the Year” and most believed it “Fight of the Decade” for the 1980s. The Ring has repeatedly written and held that Hagler-Hearns first round is still the most action packed and exciting in modern boxing history.
Hagler went on to defend the title twice more before losing to Sugar Ray Leonard on a controversial 12 round decision 24 months after the hearnes victory in April 1987. Hagler retired after the Leonard loss at the age of 32. He went into the international Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993
Hearns remained active for another 21 years, fighting 25 more times all the way up until age 47 in 2006.
Hearns finished with six World Championships in five different weight classes and was also inducted into the international Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.