45 Years Ago: When Hagler Dropped A Decision To Watts…

45 Years Ago: When Marvelous Marvin Hagler Dropped A Decision To Bobby Watts And Realised He Could Never Trust The Judges

It’s one great, big understatement to say Marvin Hagler never trusted boxing judges, that he was never overly fond of them. In fact, to this day, Marvelous feels he never lost a single fight, that his three defeats and two draws were the results of bad decisions against him. Certainly, the southpaw warrior feels incredibly strongly that he was blatantly robbed in his first loss and in his final loss. Whether the judges were from Philadelphia or from Las Vegas, Hagler found out to his pain, they could not be relied upon to do the right thing.

It was 45 long years ago today when a 25-0-1 Hagler – the draw coming against Sugar Ray Seales in November of 1974, this in Hagler’s 18th pro fight; Hagler having decisioned Seales in a previous meeting – tasted defeat for the very first time. Making his debut at The Philadelphia Spectrum, a venue that would see Hagler engage in a number of memorable battles, the 21-year-old not yet Marvelous Marvin faced the tall and tricky Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts. Watts, a tough and clever Philly fighter, had more experience than Hagler and the 26-year-old had been stopped just twice. Watts, the cousin of slick Philly heavyweight Jimmy Young, was coming off big wins over fellow Philly warriors Cyclone Hart and Willie “The Worm” Monroe.

The two men went at it hard from the opening bell and Hagler and Watts pushed each other. Hagler appeared to almost everyone to have gotten the better of it, yet after ten punishing rounds – punishing for Watts mostly – two of the three Philly judges gave the fight to Watts: 48-44, 46-44 and even on the third card at 46-46 (this on the five point must system).

Hagler was furious.

“All he did was hold – like a girl,” the now 25-1-1 Hagler bellowed.

“It might not have been the worst decision of all time, but it was a pretty bad one,” said the fight’s promoter J. Russell Peltz.

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“Welcome to Philadelphia, Marvin Hagler!” the headline read in the following morning’s Philadelphia Enquirer.

Hagler had indeed been extended a cold welcome from “The City Of Brotherly Love.” That said, the fans crammed inside The Spectrum appreciated what they saw from the shaven-headed lefty; plenty of them cheering his efforts. But the damage had been done: Hagler would, for the remainder of his long career, be a man who was paranoid when it came to scoring officials. Of course, to a huge degree, this worked for Hagler; as he said himself, he brought his own judges – his fists and his steely determination seeing him go all out to get the KO win nobody could argue with, or take away from him.

Hagler continued fighting in Philly, eventually getting revenge over Watts, this by quick, second-round KO. But before then, Hagler lost another ten round decision to another Philly fighter when boxing at The Spectrum, this time “The Worm” getting the nod over Marvin. This decision, however, was no robbery. But Hagler was constantly improving as a fighter, and by 1980 he had avenged both losses, with Hagler also quickly and decisively beating Seales.

Still, yet more dodgy officiating had served to hinder Hagler.

In 1979, in his first shot at the world middleweight title, Hagler was denied by way of a draw with Vito Antuofermo. This loss, which came in Vegas two fights before his hugely satisfying KO win over Watts, perhaps hurt Hagler the most. Until his mega-fight with a certain Ray Leonard, that is.

It was that first loss, though, that forever changed Hagler.