A Quarter Of A Century Ago Today: Sugar Ray Shocks Marvellous Marvin In The Fight Of The Decade!

boxingBy James Slater - Who remembers where they were and what they were doing at approx 8 P.M today U.S east coast time? Chances are high that, if you are a fight fan and you were over the age of, say, eight or nine back on this day of April 6th in 1987, you were watching the superb boxing exhibition the great Sugar Ray Leonard was putting on in his fight with the equally great Marvellous Marvin Hagler.

A quarter of a century ago today it happened: 30-year-old Sugar Ray pulled off one of the finest, most talked about, most controversial, most thrilling comebacks in the history of boxing. Dazzling Hagler (and two of the three judges; one more so than the other official - remember that crazy ten rounds to 2 tally Mr. Guerra turned in for Leonard!), the supposed ring-rusty, detached retina-suffering former welterweight king won the fight and the middleweight title, but the fierce debating began as soon as the scorecards were read out by the late, great Chuck Hull (for my money THE best ring announcer ever)..

To this day, fans are split right down the middle over the April 6th result. If you were/are a blue collar type guy you feel Hagler won, if you are more of a flashy type of person, one who admires the classier things in life, you think Sugar Ray’s victory was deserved. This fight, and who you think won it, really does say more about your personality than you may care to admit. Either way, the fight was mega-close (for what it’s worth, I had Leonard winning by a single point) - but, as has been said by many a good writer: whether you think Leonard won or lost, you have to agree that the comeback of Sugar Ray was one of the finest in boxing history.

And how Leonard’s shock win changed the sport. No longer would fans and experts say out loud “they never come back!” Sugar Ray had come back, and what’s more he’d capped his superb career with arguably his best-ever victory.

Let’s take a look back and see what else was happening in the boxing world that April in ’87.

At heavyweight, Mike Tyson was two wins away from unifying the WBC/WBA and IBF titles. Former champ George Foreman was one fight into his unlikely comeback (even more farfetched than Sugar Ray’s!) And future heavyweight king Evander Holyfield had just made the first defence of his WBA cruiserweight belt.

At light-heavyweight, legend Thomas Hearns had just won the WBC version of the crown, his dream of becoming the first-ever world champ at four different weights still well and truly on course.

Down at super-featherweight, future legend and Pound-for-Pound king Julio Cesar Chavez was busy defending his WBC title, while at 126-pounds, Azumah Nelson was the top dog, retaining his own WBC crown. Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, on the other hand (a future conqueror of Chavez (despite the awful cards!) and Nelson), was an up-and-coming unbeaten NABF lightweight champ.

Interestingly, Ring Magazine had not yet began to compile a top-10 Pound-for-Pound list in 1987 (starting to do so in ’89). Surely, though, there could have been one man and one man only atop such a set of ratings had they existed: Mr. Ray Charles Leonard!

The fighter who forever changed the public perception as far as boxing comebacks are concerned.

Article posted on 07.04.2012

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