Boxing

Marvin Hagler vs Vito Antuofermo I (1979): A Retrospective Fight Report

Marvin Haglerby Pavel Yakovlev - On November 30, 1979, all-time great middleweight Marvin Hagler fought his first world title fight, a controversial draw with reigning champion Vito Antuofermo. After 15 grueling, action-packed rounds, Hagler seemed the winner by a close but clear margin. In a bout that took several dramatic turns, Hagler started strong, winning most of the first seven rounds. Antuofermo, however, fought his way back into the match between the eighth and 13th rounds, accumulating points on the scorecards. The fighters exchanged punches at a frenzied pace in the final two rounds, which Hagler appeared to win due to his piston-like combination punching.

But the judges’ did not favor the challenger. While Duane Ford had Hagler winning by 145-141, Dalby Shirley saw Antuofermo winning by 144-142. Hal Miller’s 143-143 scorecard sealed the draw. Antuofermo retained his WBA and WBC world title belts by the slimmest of margins..

Most ringside journalists disagreed with the decision. The special correspondent for The New York Times stated bluntly, “The New York Times had Hagler clearly ahead.” The same correspondent also wrote, “All ten Italian journalists here could not believe the decision of the three Nevada officials. They all thought Antuofermo had been clearly outpointed by the stylish, switch-hitting Hagler.”

On the other hand, some reporters favored Antuofermo. The Associated Press scored 143-142 for the champion. Prominent boxing reporter Mike Marley, covering the bout for the New York Post, saw it 144-142 for Antuofermo. The New York Daily News pegged Hagler a winner by one point, but did not argue with the draw. The Daily News’s correspondent, the late Dick Young, wrote, “I had it even after 14 and gave Hagler the 15th by one point; I do not score even rounds. If I had, it would have been a draw. When you score a fight one point either way, you cannot be dismayed over either decision.”

Nobody expected Antuofermo to fight so well. He entered the bout as a 4-1 underdog against the powerful, faster, and more skilled challenger. Hagler had already awed the sports world by brutally dispatching a succession of top rated opponents; it seemed inevitable that he would stop Antuofermo, either by clean kayo or TKO due to cuts. Prior to the bout, a joke circulated that Coca Cola wanted to rent the soles of Antuofermo’s boxing shoes. “Good Night” and “Drink Coke” were to be emblazoned on the bottom of the champ’s feet. Although the story is apocryphal, it aptly illustrates the public’s expectation of the fight’s outcome.

Even if Hagler had been given the decision, Antuofermo would have emerged as the star of the evening. Antuofermo won a moral victory simply by finishing on his feet. The champion’s grueling, relentless attack and preternatural capacity to absorb punishment made him competitive against Hagler, one of history’s greatest-ever middleweights. Marley described Antuofermo as a “human barricade” and wrote, “Antuofermo, the undisputed 160-pound champ, bleeds, but doesn’t quit. He bruises, but doesn’t bend. He scars, but survives. He is boxing’s last Neanderthal man and, last night at Caesars Palace, he was the wall that Hagler could not clear.”

Nonetheless, most observers regarded the decision as a injustice committed against Hagler. Eastsideboxing, after studying the fight film, favored Hagler by a margin of 9-5-1 in rounds, or 145-141 based on the “ten-point must” system. Hagler’s sharp right jabs, jolting left crosses, and varied repertoire of punches dominated the action when the fighters were at long-range. Even at close quarters, Hagler tended to get the better of the exchanges, beating the champion at his own game by putting punches together effectively and unleashing frequent, flashy uppercuts to the head.

The following is Eastsideboxing’s blow-by-blow description of the historic fight.

ROUND ONE

Hagler misses with a series of right jabs as both boxers circle each other in the center ring. Antuofermo and Hagler each jab cautiously, feinting and exhibiting excellent head movement. Both fighters are fast on their feet. Hagler misses with a right uppercut. Antuofermo bulls Hagler into the ropes, and misses with a left hook and right hand to the head. Hagler dances away, and Antuofermo again bulls him into the ropes, where they clinch. The fighters continue to slip each other’s jabs from center ring. Hagler misses with a big right-left combination to the head. Hagler misses with a jab, and Antuofermo counters with a right uppercut as he moves inside. Hagler dances away and jabs at Antuofermo; at least one of the jabs connects. Antuofermo bulls Hagler into the ropes, Hagler lands a right uppercut, and they clinch. In center ring, Hagler scores with a left cross to the head as Antuofermo attempts to rush him. Hagler misses with a flurry of right jabs, but lands a left cross. Hagler lands a right jab, Antuofermo scores with his own jab.

HAGLER’S ROUND




ROUND TWO

Hagler and Antuofermo slip each other’s jabs as they box, feinting and moving in the open ring. Antuofermo scores with a left jab. Hagler connects with a sharp left cross as Antuofermo misses with a right. Both fighters miss with jabs and Hagler misses with a huge left cross. Hagler scores with a solid jab. Antuofermo bulls Hagler into the ropes and they clinch; both fighters engage in roughhousing before breaking. Hagler lands a sharp jab as they box from center ring. Antuofermo scores with a light left hook as he bulls Hagler into the ropes; Hagler connects with a light hook of his own before they clinch. The fighters return to the center ring, and Hagler scores with a solid left cross as Antuofermo attempts to move inside. Antuofermo scores with a jab and bulls Hagler into the ropes, where they clinch. In the center ring, both fighters resume the pattern of jabbing, feinting and moving laterally, and Antuofermo seems to be getting more aggressive. Antuofermo misses with a right to the head and Hagler snaps his head back with a sharp right hook.

HAGLER’S ROUND


ROUND THREE

Hagler boxes from center ring, jabbing and moving on his feet. Most of Hagler’s jabs miss, but some connect. Hagler connects with a solid left uppercut to Antuofermo’s chin. Antuofermo misses with a left-right combination. Antuofermo is moving forward like a bulldozer now, attempting to deprive Hagler of punching room. Hagler, meanwhile, is moving quickly on his feet and dodges Antuofermo’s rushes. Hagler scores with a solid left cross. Antuofermo is jabbing aggressively, but he is having trouble landing his punches. Antuofermo bulls his way inside and they clinch. Hagler connects with a long, hard right jab. Antuofermo continues to storm forward, and is attempting to cut off the ring. Hagler scores with a hard right jab and left cross to the head as Antuofermo tries to move inside. There is much mauling and clinching in this round. Hagler continues to outbox and outjab Antuofermo in the last minute of this round.

HAGLER’S ROUND


ROUND FOUR

Antuofermo continues with his pressuring tactics, and Hagler resumes his strategy of boxing from long range. Although Antuofermo is not connecting with many punches, he frequently succeeds in forcing his way inside of Hagler, which results in much close-quarters mauling and clinching. Hagler connects with a sharp right jab. Antuofermo forces his way inside and they clinch. Antuofermo connects with a left jab. Antuofermo misses with a left hook; the fighters clinch. Hagler is now having trouble keeping Antuofermo on the outside. Hagler scores with a light left hook. Hagler connects with a sharp right jab. Hagler connects with a left hook, but Antuofermo slips several follow-up punches. Hagler misses with a big left cross. Hagler connects with a right jab as Antuofermo misses with a left hook. Hagler is jabbing often from long range as Antuofermo relentless stalks him. Hagler connects with a left cross. Antuofermo connects with a left hook. Hagler connects with a right hook at the bell.

HAGLER’S ROUND




ROUND FIVE

Antuofermo bulls Hagler into a corner where they clinch before Hagler dances away. Antuofermo partially scores with a wide, sweeping overhand right to the head as he rushes Hagler. They clinch, and Hagler resumes his jabbing from long range. Antuofermo continues to relentlessly press forward, attempting to land his left hook over Hagler’s right jab. Antuofermo connects with a strong left jab, then bulls his way inside; there is a lot of mauling and the fighters clinch. Antuofermo connects with a light left hook and Hagler misses with a huge left cross of his own. Antuofermo storms forward and connects with two left jabs and a right cross to the head. Hagler seems to be having trouble keeping Antuofermo on the outside, and is constantly deprived of punching room by his opponent’s crowding tactics. Antuofermo connects with a clubbing right to the head, his best punch of the fight. Hagler continues to dance away from Antuofermo and he scores with some jabs. Antuofermo again bulls his way inside and they clinch after roughhousing. Antuofermo scores with a light right lead and a left hook to the head, then bulls Hagler around at close quarters. Hagler scores with a jab and misses with a big, sweeping left cross. There is more mauling at close quarters as Antuofermo forces his way inside. Hagler dances backwards and scores with a light right jab-left cross combination.

ANTUOFERMO’S ROUND


ROUND SIX

Antuofermo bulls his way inside as he misses with a left hook; Hagler dances away. Hagler misses with several uppercuts as he dodges Antuofermo’s attacks. Antuofermo gets inside and connects with a short left hook to the head. The fighters trade short hooks inside and then clinch. At long range, Hagler misses with a left cross as Antuofermo continues to bull his way forward. Again Antuofermo forces his way inside; the fighters maul each other before clinching. On the outside, Hagler misses with a powerful, wide right hook. The fighters wrestle at close quarters and Hagler scores with two left hooks; Antuofermo looks stunned and he pulls away. Hagler pursues Antuofermo and connects with several short right hooks and left uppercuts to the head. Antuofermo connects with a left jab. Both fighters score with jabs from long range. Hagler connects with more short, sharp right hooks and left uppercuts as Antuofermo attempts to force his way inside. Hagler now seems to have figured out how to keep Antuofermo at long range. Hagler dances circles around Antuofermo, controlling the action with his fast, stiff right jab. Antuofermo rushes Hagler and misses with a left jab and right cross, but he connects with a solid left hook to the head. For the remaining 45 seconds of the round, Hagler dominates the action with his long range boxing and right jabs.

HAGLER’S ROUND




ROUND SEVEN

Both fighters jab from long range in the center ring. Hagler misses several powerful left crosses; Antuofermo’s defensive maneuvers are very effective. Antuofermo connects with a strong left jab and right cross combo that drives Hagler backwards. Antuofermo forces his way inside, but Hagler fights him off with a flurry of punches inside. Hagler scores with a hard right jab from long range. Hagler misses with a right-left combo to the head, and Antuofermo connects with a sharp left jab. Hagler dances around Antuofermo and connects with several long right jabs to the head; Antuofermo attempts jabs of his own, all of which miss. Both fighters miss with a jab, and Antuofermo connects with a light left hook to the head. Antuofermo is still moving forward relentlessly, but his punch output seems to have slowed down in this round. In the final minute, Hagler controls the action from long range with his fast footwork and stiff right jab.

HAGLER’S ROUND


ROUND EIGHT

Antuofermo rushes Hagler and attempts two strong left hooks, both of which are picked off by Hagler. Hagler misses with a fast right-left combination as he boxes from long range. Hagler is jabbing from center ring, and he continues to dance away as Antuofermo tries to force his way inside. Antuofermo misses with most of his jabs and rights from long range. Hagler connects with a strong right jab. Antuofermo steps inside and connects with a solid left-right combination; the fighters maul each other at close quarters and Hagler dances away. Antuofermo misses with a huge overhand right and Hagler counters with a short left cross to the head. Antuofermo rushes Hagler and connects with a long left hook to the head. Antuofermo’s punch output is now increasing and he has Hagler retreating. Hagler connects with two hard right jabs from long range. Hagler connects with a left cross to the head. Hagler connects with a right jab. Antuofermo bulls his way inside and scores with a right to the head; Hagler then dances away. Antuofermo closes the round by aggressively pressing the action and he scores with a left hook shortly before the bell.

EVEN ROUND




ROUND NINE

Antuofermo forces his way inside and the fighters trade punches as Hagler tries to pull away; all of the punches are picked off. They clinch, then Hagler dances away. Antuofermo chases Hagler and forces his way inside, leading to more mauling before they clinch again. Antuofermo misses with a left jab and right cross as Hagler dances away. At long range, Hagler misses with several right jabs while Antuofermo chases him. Antuofermo scores with a short left hook to the head and he forces his way inside again. The fighters maul each other and clinch. Hagler misses with a powerful, sweeping right hook. Antuofermo scores with a left hook to the head. Hagler misses with punches and Antuofermo connects with a right to the head. Antuofermo scores with a left hook and bulls his way inside. Hagler dances away; both fighters miss with many punches from long range. Hagler seems to be slowing down now; he is not punching as energetically as in the earlier rounds, and he is having trouble keeping Antuofermo at bay. Antuofermo misses with a left jab. Hagler snaps Antuofermo’s head back at close range with a right uppercut, and they maul each other on the inside. Antuofermo pushes Hagler halfway across the ring and into the ropes. Hagler spins Antuofermo around and pushes him into the ropes, but misses with a right-left combination. Both fighters resume fighting in the center ring, and Hagler misses with most of his jabs and uppercuts as he retreats. Antuofermo continues to force his way inside Hagler. Hagler is now having trouble scoring with punches from long range, as Antuofermo moves his head very effectively to slip punches while charging forward.

ANTUOFERMO’S ROUND


ROUND TEN

Hagler unleashes a series of right jabs, some of which connect. Antuofermo moves inside and the fighters clinch. Hagler boxes from long range, and he is now switching back and forth between the southpaw and the orthodox posture. Hagler misses with several left jabs. Hagler throws a powerful left hook that Antuofermo ducks. Antuofermo attempts a left jab and right cross which Hagler slips. Hagler misses with a left jab followed by a left hook, but he connects with a right cross to Antuofermo’s head. Hagler is now dancing circles around Antuofermo, throwing left jabs and right jabs, most of which miss. Hagler lands a sharp right jab. Antuofermo connects with a stiff left jab. Antuofermo misses with a series of left hooks as Hagler dances away. Hagler scores with a sharp right jab. Antuofermo forces his way inside and the fighters clinch. Fighting from the outside, Hagler snaps Antuofermo’s head back with a sharp right hand. Hagler misses with a left jab, right cross and left hook combination. Antuofermo bulls his way inside and they clinch. The fighters resume boxing from long range; again Antuofermo forces his way inside and they clinch. Both fighters miss with most of their blows as the action unfolds from center ring. Antuofermo bulls Hagler into the ropes and lands a short left hook to the head. Hagler misses with a powerful right uppercut. Both fighters swing at each other without scoring any punches during the final 30 seconds of the round.

HAGLER’S ROUND




ROUND ELEVEN

Antuofermo immediately attacks Hagler and they trade punches, most of which are slipped or blocked. Hagler lands a good left hook to the body. Antuofermo bulls Hagler into the ropes and scores with several body shots. Hagler misses with a wide right uppercut and Antuofermo connects with a left jab. Hagler boxes from long range, falling short with a series of left and right jabs. Antuofermo forces his way inside and connects with a left hook to the body; the fighters clinch. Antuofermo slips several jabs and bulls his way inside; they clinch again. Both fighters trade blows from long range and Hagler lands two left hooks to the head. Antuofermo scores with a solid left hook to the head. Hagler flurries with punches from both hands, but Antuofermo ducks all of the punches. Antuofermo pushes forward and connects with a left to the head. Hagler seems to be tiring now; he is not moving on his feet anymore and he is having trouble keeping Antuofermo away. Antuofermo continuous to bull Hagler around, and increasingly he is connecting with short hooks at close quarters as the boxers maul each other. Antuofermo scores with a right and a left to the head. The fight has turned into a brawl, and Antuofermo seems to be getting the better of the action. Hagler is missing with almost all of his punches. Suddenly, Hagler stuns Antuofermo with a strong right and left to the head. Antuofermo backs into the ropes, then grapples with Hagler in an attempt to clinch. For the final 20 seconds of the round they trade punches and Hagler connects with the cleaner, stronger shots.

ANTUOFERMO’S ROUND


ROUND TWELVE

The fighters brawl in center ring and Hagler lands a sharp left jab following by a strong left hook to the head. Hagler is firing many punches from long range, but Antuofermo ducks all of the blows. Antuofermo forces his way inside and both fighters trade short hooks; most of the blows are slipped or blocked. Antuofermo lands a right cross to the head. Hagler misses with several short rights and lefts and Antuofermo scores with a left hook to the body and a left hook to the head. Antuofermo is now bulling Hagler around the ring. Both fighters seem fatigued, but Antuofermo seems stronger physically. Hagler connects with a left hook to the head, and Antuofermo bulls him into the ropes. Antuofermo lands a left hook to the head. Antuofermo rocks Hagler with a left, right and left combination to the head, possibly his best combination in the fight. Antuofermo is now relentlessly bulling Hagler around the ring, and there is a great deal of mauling at close quarters. Antuofermo connects with a right cross and Hagler dances away.

ANTUOFERMO’S ROUND




ROUND THIRTEEN

Antuofermo continues his aggressive attacks; he bulls Hagler into the ropes and they clinch. The fighters maul each other on the inside as Antuofermo constantly pushes Hagler around. Both boxers are noticeably fatigued; there is much close quarters mauling and neither is throwing many punches. Hagler grazes the top of Antuofermo’s head with a left hook, and Antuofermo connects with a left hook. Hagler misses with a strong right cross and they clinch. Antuofermo lands a light right uppercut on the inside. Hagler connects with a light left hook; Antuofermo scores with a slapping left-right combination. Antuofermo pushes Hagler into the ropes and connects with two solid right hands to the head that seem to stun Hagler slightly. Hagler lands a light left hook and dances away from the ropes; he continues to retreat as Antuofermo pursues him.. Antuofermo drops his hands and taunts Hagler, beckoning him to trade punches. Antuofermo scores with a light left hook as Hagler continues to run. In the final minute of the round, both fighters maul each other on the inside without either landing any meaningful punches. Hagler connects with a solid left seconds before the bell.

ANTUOFERMO’S ROUND


ROUND FOURTEEN

Antuofermo forces his way inside and the fighters maul each other at close quarters. Both boxers are missing with most of their punches, although Hagler lands two slapping right hooks to the head. Antuofermo scores with a light right hook. They trade punches on the inside and Hagler connects with a sharp left hook; Antuofermo responds with a left hook of his own. Hagler rocks Antuofermo with a strong right-left combination to the head. Antuofermo pushes Hagler to the ropes and scores with several slapping punches on the inside. Hagler connects with a solid left hook to the head that seems to stun Antuofermo. Hagler connects with two sharp right jabs. Antuofermo connects with a light left-right combination to the head. The fighters continue maul each other on the inside for the remaining 45 seconds of the round with neither boxer connecting with any solid punches.

HAGLER’S ROUND




ROUND FIFTEEN

Both fighters meet in the center ring and trade hooks at close quarters; they are punching energetically now, with a sense of urgency. Hagler lands a jolting right uppercut and a left hook to the head. Antuofermo scores with a left hook. Both boxers are mauling each other on the inside; there is a great deal of pushing and grappling. Antuofermo scores with a light left-right combination to the head. Hagler misses with a sweeping, powerful right uppercut. Both fighters are swinging wide, quick hooks from both hands, all of which miss. Antuofermo connects with a light right cross to the head; Hagler connects with a light left hook of his own. Antuofermo connects with a slapping left hook and they continue to maul each other on the inside. Hagler snaps back Antuofermo’s head with a powerful right uppercut. Hagler misses several sweeping, powerful hooks, but he lands a jolting right jab. Antuofermo is fighting back tenaciously, but has trouble connecting with punches. Both fighters continue to push and maul each other on the inside, missing with most of their punches but sometimes connecting with slapping hooks. Hagler and Antuofermo both look heavily fatigued. Antuofermo connects with several slapping lefts and rights to the head. Hagler scores with two right hooks moments before the final bell.

HAGLER’S ROUND

Article posted on 01.06.2010



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