Three and a half Decades have passed since two of the Great fighters of the 1980s clashed in what is largely regarded, as the greatest short fight ever. And one of the most compelling things about Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns and their epic 3 round fight is that it still stands the test of time for outright excitement.
It’s hard to believe, but the fight took place April 15th, 1985, at the Caesars Palace outdoor arena in Las Vegas. And, while many expected with the champion Hagler’s relentless, brawling style and Hearns’ booming power with his right hand, that there would be fireworks, no one anticipated the EPIC first round of the fight when both fighters seemingly threw everything at each other for 180 seconds.
We talked extensively on this week’s Big Fight Weekend podcast with Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza and BigFightWeekend.com senior writer, Marquis Johns, about the lasting impact of Hagler – Hearns:
The Fight of the Decade
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.
The Remarkable Opening Round
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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 dangerous right hand that had dropped so many previous opponents.
Early Rounds and Finish
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.
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The Legacy of the “Fight of the Year”
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 Hearns 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.
Too many times in sports we overuse descriptions like: unreal, unbelievable and phenomenal.
But, all of those adjectives can apply to that first round with these two future Boxing Hall of Fame greats just teeing off on each other.
A first round and fight that we’re still talking about in 2020.