On This Day 40 Years Ago: The Great Marvin Hagler Was Floored For The Only Time In His Career

By James Slater - 03/30/2024 - Comments

Legendary middleweight king Marvelous Marvin Hagler was pretty much at his peak 40 years ago. The shaven-headed southpaw had ruled the middleweight roost since September of 1980, his coronation having been a bloody one, with the brave but totally outgunned, he had no real idea who or what he was facing, Alan Minter being carved up and stopped inside three brutal rounds.

Hagler had worked so hard to get his powerful hands on the world title, he was in zero mood to ever, ever let it go. Hagler – who had suffered the ignominy of having beer bottles hurled at him in London after he had got through with Minter (who, badly advised, had stated before the fight that “no black man will ever take my title”) – lived and breathed as a champion.

40 years ago today, Hagler, who was making his eighth title defence and was an impressive and hard-earned 52-2-2, met WBA #1 contender Juan Domingo Roldan. The rough, tough and ungainly Argentine bull was 17-3-1, and he had been stopped just once, this when he retired in his corner in a fight with Juan Carlos Bogado back in 1979. Roldan would surrender against Hagler, too. But not before he caused a real sensation and a controversy that served to bother Hagler until the Marvelous one sadly passed away in March of 2021, this just four months after Roldan passed.

In the opening round, Hagler, often a slow starter, suffered the only official knockdown of his career. But was it a slip, or a push? It for sure wasn’t a punch, as replays clearly showed. And Hagler was justifiably furious at referee Tony Perez. “It was a damn slip,” Hagler insisted later. “You can call it whatever you want,” Perez countered. “I called it a knockdown.”

And the stain followed Hagler into the official record books; with Hagler unable to say he never once tasted the canvas during his glorious career. Hagler “recovered” from the first round episode, the champ figuring out Roldan’s awkward style and banging him up. In the third, a big Hagler right smacked into Roldan’s right eye. “God, the pain was terrible,” Roldan would gasp later. “It spread all the way across to my ear. I couldn’t see anything.”

Roldan showed heart by hanging in there, and he did get through with the odd shot as the fight continued. But it was really as good as over. Hagler, the quintessential pro, dished out a systematic beating, perhaps still angry over the “knockdown.” Roldan wanted to quit, but his corner, led by Tito Lectore, would not let him. In round six, Roldan’s damaged eye was made even worse, this as Hagler inflicted a cut above his challenger’s right eye.

By the ninth, Roldan really had had enough, but Lectore would not allow his beaten fighter to escape his nightmare and fight another day. Lectore actually began shaking Roldan as he sat in agony on the stool. “You can’t quit,” Roldan’s manager demanded. “You must have courage. Be brave.”

Roldan had been brave, but his was basically a suicide mission now. There was no way Roldan could win, and Lectore surely knew it. In the tenth, Hagler closed the show, this with a cruel right cross that landed bang on Roldan’s gruesomely battered eye. Roldan fell to the canvas, where he sat for a while, his face revealing his inner pain, fear and despair. Roldan got up, and he turned to his corner, the fight over, Perez finishing his count. Roldan had absolutely nothing left. Lectore was fuming, reportedly to the extent that he soon tried to knock a dressing room door off its hinges with a punch.

Hagler was still king, he had delivered the KO he had said he would deliver, and Marvelous would soon give the world the fight he is perhaps most celebrated and admired for, this his war with Thomas Hearns (who would fight Roldan for a slice of the vacant middleweight title, in October of 1987).

Roldan had taken quite a beating from Hagler, but in so doing he had made a little bit of history by becoming the first, and as it turned out, only man to ever score a knockdown over Hagler. But in truth, Hagler was never once knocked off his two feet in any fight. Only the late Tony Perez was able to disagree.