Without a doubt, he was one of the greatest fighters of the 1980s and nearly 40 years ago, “Marvelous Marvin” Hagler was at his brawling best in a rematch title defense for the Undisputed Middleweight crown.
And in the end, Hagler’s rugged brawling style served him well, while his opponent Vito Antuofermo was reduced to a bloody, swollen mess inside of five rounds.
The old famous Boston Garden was the setting on June 13th, 1981, as Hagler defended his WBC/WBA Middleweight Championship for the second time against the Italian born New Yorker, Antuofermo.
It was a rematch from two years earlier where Antuofermo, as the champion had retained his title with a controversial draw in Las Vegas. Hagler appeared to have dominated most of the fight with Antuofermo relying on guts and rallying in the final two or three rounds of the 15 round bout.
However, when the decision was read, it was declared a three-way draw and so, Antuofermo kept a WBA and WBC belts. He subsequently lost them in his next fight to England’s Alan Minter.
Then, it was Hagler who destroyed Minter in London’s Wembley Arena in September of 1980, winning on an 3rd round TKO to capture the Undisputed Middleweight title.
That’s at the stage for the rematch with Antuofermo. A pro-Hagler crowd, as he resided from nearby Brockton, Massachusetts, was ready to roar for the champ from the opening bell.
And, right off the bat, there was more controversy.
This, as Antuofermo leaped in at Hagler, who had lowered his head to protect himself. And, the clash of heads caused a nasty gash on the scalp of Antuofermo above his left eye. And, Antuofermo bled profusely for the remaining two plus minutes of the opening round.
Then, there was even more controversy at the end of the opening round, as veteran trainer / cutman Freddie Brown tried to close the gash until the second round bell rang. That’s when Brown began arguing with veteran championship referee Davey Pearl about Hagler being disqualified.
And, another controversial/animated figure, Panama Lewis, came out of the corner and in to the ring, screaming at Pearl to disqualify Hagler as well.
The delay of over two minutes benefited Antuofermo trying to heal and stop the blood flow. Finally, promoter Bob Arum could be heard on the t.v. microphones screaming at Pearl to either clear the ring or disqualify Antuofermo for his corner refusing to let him fight.
So, the fight did resume and Hagler continued to effectively use his southpaw right jab and a left hook behind it. Hagler repeatedly got off first and the bleeding Antuofermo had little answer to be able to land punches on his own.
In the third round Hagler set Antuofermo up with a couple of solid jabs followed by a straight left to the chin that caught him coming in, again and dropped him for the first knockdown of the fight.
Hagler continued to score successfully on the challenger late in the third round along the ropes.
After three rounds Antuofermo was now cut again, under his swollen left eye and was showing puffiness over the right eye.
The controversy continued during the fourth round, as there was a clash of heads again initiated by Antuofermo lunging at Hagler, who was trying to duck. Another large cut opened over the challengers right eye and Hagler took advantage immediately by scoring several times, as the bleeding Antuofermo struggled to see.
The inevitable came at the end of the fourth round, when cornermen Brown and Lewis began to argue with Pearl again, that the fight should be stopped and Hagler should be disqualified for butting Antuofermo. However, the ref would have none of it this time and declared the fight over for Antuofermo refusing to continue with his face a bloody, swollen mess
Hagler was officially awarded a 5th round TKO.
Clearly from that replays, you could see that Antuofermo was the cause of the clashes of heads that caused his own damage.
Further, it was obvious that Hagler was the more skilled and effective fighter, and that Antuofermo had little- to- no chance to beat him that night anyway.
Hagler would go on to dominate the Middleweight division, including title 12 successful defense wins, two over Legends Roberto Duran and his epic third round knockout of Thomas “Hitman” Hearns. Hagler was named Ring Magazine’s famed “Fighter of the Year” for 1985 off that night.
However, Marvin met his match, when Sugar Ray Leonard moved up to Middleweight in April of 1987 and outboxed and outscored Hagler over the course of 12 controversial rounds for a dramatic split decision win, taking the Undisputed crown away,
It was the first time that Hagler had lost a fight in 11 years and amazingly, he not only didn’t get a rematch with Leonard, Hagler never fought again.
The Marvelous One finished his career with an 62-3-2 record and went into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993. He is regarded as one of the two or three greatest Middleweight fighters of all time.
And, on the anniversary of this battle with Vito Antuofermo, we were reminded that while Hagler’s fights weren’t always masterpieces, no one was ever going to outwork or outfight him toe to toe.