Three-and-a-half decades ago today – April 15, 1985 – an epic fight, a slugfest, a war, took place. The date of April 15, 1985 is a most familiar one with fight fans of a certain age; all those who are old enough to have been able to tune in and watch the brutal eight-minute battle take place and fully comprehend how special, how very special the action was.
To this day, many hardended historians and experts say there has never been as ferocious an opening round as the one middleweights Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns gave their sport. It was simply astonishing, the manner in which southpaw hard man Hagler and orthodox gunslinger Hearns tore right at one another at the sound of the opening bell. Three of the most jaw-dropping, agonizing minutes of ring warfare ever captured on film, the Hagler-Hearns fight was destined for a unique place in boxing history due to those opening 180 seconds alone.
The drama continued, with Hagler, who had taken Tommy’s sizzling right hand to the head and had not fallen, coming on strong in round two. Hearns, his chief weapon busted, tried his absolute best to fight back. Hagler was soon pouring with blood and a time-out was called in the third. Would the fight be stopped? Would Hagler be “robbed” once again, injustice having plagued him throughout his career, at least in his opinion? Would the fight have been stopped had it been taking place today?
Instead, allowed to fight on, a desperate Hagler really poured it on, catching Hearns with a lunging shot to the head that splintered the challenger’s senses. It was over: 7 minutes and 52 seconds of the most intense ring combat ever seen. Hagler had proven his greatness, so too had Hearns. There would not be a rematch.
Today, fight fans continue to marvel over the fight. Round one is without doubt the greatest single round in middleweight history, if not in any weight class. It was also a split round on the official score-cards, with Herb Santos scoring it 10-9 for Hagler, Harry Gibbs having it the same way, and Dick Young having it 10-9 for Hearns.
Hagler won the second on two cards, as well – with Young going with Hearns here once again (quite surprisingly; Hagler clearly getting the better of things). Then came the emphatic finish and Hagler was the pound-for-pound king.
Again, the greatest fight of the decade – some say of all-time – never had a part-two. But Hearns wanted another go at Hagler, even as recently as 2015. Hearns graciously gave this writer some of his time when recalling the epic fight on its 30th anniversary, and incredibly the then 57 year old “Hitman” was still hoping for a rematch with Hagler, then aged 61.
“I knew I needed to do it (get the KO) quick,” Hearns said of the Hagler fight, referring to the weakened condition his legs had been left in due to the dressing room massage he had received; this without Emanuel Steward’s knowledge – the story not surfacing until years after the fight, Hearns not looking to make any excuses. “I knew I couldn’t go the distance. I was tired. I went for the knockout. It was a fight to see who the better man was. It was real simple: someone had to lose. I always wanted a rematch and even now I tell Marvin, ‘Let’s do it one more time.’ I’d want it to be over just five rounds, though – neither of us could go 12 now (laughs). It would get the whole world crazy and it would be massive.”
I thought then, and I still think now, that Hearns was deadly serious. A born fighter through and through, Hearns found it harder than most when it came time to hang ’em up and realize he had nothing left to prove. Hagler knew better, quicker.
Both greats gave it their all 35 years ago today.