Twelve letters: Hagler Hearns. Or six letters: The War. However you spell it out, the magnificent fight that took place 34 years ago today is in a category all by itself. Middleweight king Marvelous Marvin Hagler, in his prime and tired of telling anyone who would listen he was the greatest fighter in the world, against Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, the ruling super-welterweight king and laying claim himself to being the pound-for-pound best in 1985.
With an incredible combined record of 100-3-2, Hagler and Hearns were willing to lay it all on the line, yet no-one knew just how much sheer ferocity would be witnessed inside the squared circle at a sold-out Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. When the bell rang, these two warriors, who had seriously gotten on each other’s nerves in the long (too long for Hagler, who pretty much hated his media commitments) multi-city press tour to hype a fight that needed no hype, tore into one another in jaw-dropping fashion.
The usual feeling out process two top class fighters adopt in a bout was abandoned, Hagler and Hearns took it to the streets, but with skill. It was very much a hell for leather, ‘I hit you, you hit me’ slugfest, but the subtleties both special fighters were also displaying were, for those able to pay attention, hugely impressive (check out the quite brilliant “The War – The most explosive fight in boxing explained” on YouTube).
Hagler came out blazing and he was met by Hearns who was just as eager to trade and score the knockout. Hearns scored first blood, both in actuality and metaphorically. Hearns cracked Hagler with his right hand, stunning the champ and forcing him to hold on. Hearns also sliced open a nasty cut smack in the middle of Hagler’s forehead. The opening three minutes sent shivers down the spine of any fight fan then, and they do exactly the same thing to fans choosing to pump themselves up by watching the fight today. It was epic, never to be surpassed stuff.
Hagler, though, shrugged off Hearns’ right hand – which was crucially broken in the first round – and he fought through the blood. Stopping Hearns in the third-round, “the man showed his greatness tonight,” a gracious Hearns would later say in defeat, Hagler finally got the praise he knew he was worthy of. Hearns too was applauded and celebrated, for he had more than played his part in the most two-sided three-round fight in middleweight history; if not in all of boxing history.
There will today no doubt be plenty of fans recalling the greatness that was unleashed in Vegas on this day in 1985. No fight has topped this one yet. No way.