Hagler V Mugabi - Marvellous Marvin Defeats “The Beast” In His Final Victory

19.07.06 - By James Slater: Marvellous Marvin Hagler was making the twelfth defence of his middleweight championship of the world. With eleven successful Defences under his belt he was chasing Carlos Monzon’s world record. Monzon had notched up Fourteen defences and Hagler wanted to make history by going one better than the Argentinean legend. Going into his fight with the undefeated puncher John Mugabi - “The Beast” as he was known among the boxing crowd - Hagler was four title fight wins away from his goal. He would have his hands full with the murderous punching Mugabi though.

However, in the champion’s favour was the fact that Mugabi had won all twenty six of his fights as a light middleweight. It was not known how he would fare going up six pounds in weight. All his wins at 154 pounds had come by KO, so it was clear he had genuine punching power. The question was, would it travel up with him to the new division?

On March the Tenth, 1986, a huge crowd at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas paid a lot of money to find out. What followed turned out to be the final ring triumph for Marvellous Marvin.

Chuck Hull was once again the M.C and after his introductions battle commenced. The first surprise was the stance Hagler chose to start fighting in. He favoured the orthodox position instead of his more familiar southpaw style. Mugabi, for his part, came out aggressively. Marvin took his time and had a good look at him. John’s left hand appeared very dangerous, and his forward aggression was successful on occasion - successful enough to win him the round. At the bell there was a mean spirited stare down - Mugabi seemed fearless!

In round two Marvin boxed southpaw continually (he had switched in the last remaining seconds of the opening round) and got his jab working well. The two men began trading in the session though, as a fierce pace was set in motion. Mugabi was loading up with his shots a little too wide and Marvin countered him to good effect. However, “The Beast” hit home with more than his share of hurt too, including a hard body shot, in a great round of action. The challenger had won his second three minutes.

By the fourth, it was definitely Mugabi who was winning the fight. He landed a good right to the head in this round, a round in which Hagler was issued a warning from referee Mills Lane for a low blow. John, unwilling to make a meal out of the infringement, kept marching forward. It was obvious what he had on his mind - a KO! Marvin landed more hard jabs, but the hand speed of Mugabi was quite surprising - he was one formidable challenger. He landed a flush right uppercut too, possibly his best punch of the fight. But the rock chin of the champion served him well, as it always did. The fight had proved memorable already - if for nothing more than the fact that John Mugabi was winning it! His power had seemed to come up with him to the new weight class.

The sixth round was unquestionably the round of the fight. It was also a very good round for Marvin. With both men in absolutely top shape, a brutal exchange took place - one that lasted for some time. The inside trading was awesome. More body work landed for the challenger, as did another blow by Hagler that was deemed low by Lane. The crowd began to boo as he broke the action to give Marvellous another warning - they did not want the savage warfare to be spoilt in any way. What was also apparent was the fact that the fight had been pretty much fought while clinch-free, especially in this round. Round six of Hagler v Mugabi was almost as breathtaking as round one of Hagler v Hearns! Marvin had his first real breakthrough now though. He rocked Mugabi back on his heels with his own right uppercut and the undefeated puncher was hurt. Hagler went for the finish, pounding his man, but Mugabi came fighting back bravely. He had some heart. The round ended, Marvin’s best yet.

In the seventh, Mugabi was still very much in there fighting. He was standing right in front of Hagler yet again and both guys looked tired - after the previous round they had a right to be. There was one more warning to Hagler for low blows, this one resulting in a point being deducted. Hagler nodded at Lane but inside he must have been furious. He did a fair amount of switch hitting here, trying to confuse Mugabi. There was no doubt though, he was doing his best work when fighting southpaw. At one point he landed three hard and consecutive jabs on John. A slower round it had been.

Prior to the start of round nine, Mugabi’s corner-man - England’s Mickey Duff - implored his man not to give up. With the words “You’ve got the fight won!” ringing in his ears and his left eye swelling, Mugabi went out for the last third of the fight. More jabs landed for the champion, as the still advancing challenger was no way near as effective as he had been. This round was also a slower one, with both boxers feeling the pace. But there was a good burst of punches from John with forty five seconds left in the round, and now Hagler’s right eye showed some damage in the form of swollen tissue. It had been a punishing defence for him, with Mugabi testing him all the way.

In the tenth, the tempo speeded up again. There was more vicious punching from the pair of them now, and the momentum swung back and forth. Hagler fought well on the inside, while “The Beast” had yet more success with his body punching. The fight was a sheer war and its winner would be the man who wanted it more. At the bell, Marvellous looked the fresher of the two.

Round eleven, and Marvin closed the show in a manner befitting his legally given name of Marvellous. He came out on the front foot and backed Mugabi up mercilessly. Going for the finish that would see him keep his treasured title, Hagler chopped away at the tired but still game Mugabi. Then came the ending. A big right to the head, followed by a left, then another right, put the challenger down. For the first time in his life, John Mugabi was on the floor. He had simply had the fight knocked out of him by Hagler. Badly hurt, and with his tank completely empty, he remained in a sitting position as the count was administered over him. He didn’t quit, he just had nothing left to give. A definitive finish to a great fight had been witnessed. Marvin was still the champ!

Afterwards, a marked up Hagler hinted that his final fight may have been fought. It had been very hard work indeed. But Marvellous didn’t walk away just yet. A super fight with a certain Mr Leonard awaited him! An encounter that, unfortunately, put paid to his goal of beating Monzon’s record.

Mugabi, who had acquitted himself very well against Hagler, moved back down to light middleweight - eventually winning a world title there. But, to many minds he was never the same again after the brutal fight with Marvin.

A fight that was unforgettable for many reasons. One of them being it was the great Hagler’s final victory.

Article posted on 20.07.2006

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