12 words: Hagler V Hearns. Instantly recognised and acknowledged by all fight fans, be they young, middle-aged or old. They KNOW. They remember. It was a short fight yet fans’ memories will see to it that this fight – “this particular fight,” as Marvin would often say – will be long remembered.
It’s already been 37 years since all hell broke lose at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, as middleweight king Hagler defended way more than his belt against ruling 154 pound boss Hearns. Sheer fighting pride was on the line, was at risk – the mythical pound-for-pound title that is so fascinating to modern day fans was also at stake, there for the taking.
Hagler-Hearns was THE biggest fight of 1985. The heavyweight division, usually the premiere weight division of the sport, was getting kind of dull, as an ageing Larry Holmes was struggling to keep his belt in a fight with Carl Williams and was then losing it to a light-heavyweight in Michael Spinks (this fight more controversial than thrilling). At welterweight, Don Curry was a Cobra and a king, yet the superstar of the division, Ray Leonard, had lost his sugar and he was in (short) retirement.
Hagler and Hearns took centre stage.
The fans paid for, fully expected, and got a fight that you could argue highlighted a decade that gave boxing so much. Never before, or since, have two primed, peaking, world class fighters with so much to lose by gambling gone right at one another at the sound of the opening bell. A feeling out process? Forget it. Paying each other ’nuff respect? The hell with it. Tearing at one another in an all too real and genuine effort at tearing the other guy’s head clean off his shoulders? Now yer talking.
There were some tactics at play, sure, but what made/makes Hagler-Hearns so utterly damn super-special was/is the fact that these two greats were more than willing to put it all out in a flash. With the echo of the bell still audible, Hagler raged at Hearns and unleashed hell disguised inside two gloved fists, while Hearns was just as willing to unleash leather-encased fury. With less than a minute gone, this fight was destined to go into a history book all of its own.
Whether you watch the fight with the superb Al Bernstein doing commentating duties, or if you prefer the British, Reg Gutteridge job, the sheer mayhem, the absolute passion, the extreme violence, is brilliantly captured in words. Neither experienced fight-caller could believe what they were having the privilege of being paid to watch!
And we fans could not believe the value for money we were getting. Hagler-Hearns was over in eight minutes or so, but both men showed their greatness and Hagler and Hearns will be forever linked as a result of their stupendous war. It was perhaps said best when one writer stated, correctly, how the eight-minute fight had crammed, packed, smashed into it, ‘more action than many 15 round fights have.’
That sums it up. The way Hagler and Hearns came out and threw caution to the winds, how they tore at each other and, for a while, soaked up one another’s bad intentions bombs, made/makes this fight truly one of a kind. Added to this drama was the nasty cut Hagler suffered, smack, bang in the middle of his forehead, the fight looking like it might be stopped. And then Hagler, showing his best stuff, roared at Hearns anew, fearing they would stop the barbarity in his rival’s favour. Hagler’s downing of Hearns was shocking to see, while Tommy’s sheer, unfathomably big heart in being able to climb back up (before being wisely saved by ref Richard Steele) was equally awe-inspiring.
12 words, and YOU, fight fan, you know. You just know.