It’s so much tougher to keep track of who the world champions are these days. With multiple belts, so many weight classes, interim champions, champions in recess, and with the majority of the sport’s big names fighting less and less frequently today, it’s a tough job for even the boxing junkies to readily and easily list the current champions at each weight; or to be able to state with conviction who the best is at each weight.
There was a time when it was a whole lot different. Not that long ago, even when there had not been just one world champion in each weight for some years, we fans could point out with ease the best of the best at each weight (but, oh, for the days of those eight traditional weight divisions!)
40 years ago, the historic middleweight division was in very safe hands; the 160-pound division was in great hands. Marvelous Marvin Hagler was the king, the shaven-headed southpaw having ripped the crown from Alan Minter in a bloody and nasty affair (nasty in the ring in London, more so after the drunken fans hurling bottles at the new champ, mistakenly thinking Hagler had butted Minter, thus causing the destruction of his face).
In zero mood to let go of the title after all the toil and sweat he had put out in finally winning it (this after Marvin had been “robbed” in his first shot at the title, in a fight with Vito Antuofermo, the 1979 bout scored a draw), Hagler worked like a demon in the gym, and he fought like one in the ring. On this day back in 1983, Hagler fought his first super-fight against fellow ‘Four King,’ former lightweight king Roberto Duran.
This fight, a technical affair that was mighty close until Hagler pulled it out in the final three rounds, getting the UD over 15, is recalled and celebrated in the latest issue of Ring Magazine. Hagler’s eighth title defense, the Duran battle, saw Hagler earn respect for having beaten a true legend. Retentions over Juan Roldan, Mustafa Hamsho (in a return fight), Thomas Hearns – this arguably the greatest action fight of the ‘Four Kings’ series – and John “The Beast” Mugabi followed. Before Hagler sensationally lost to perhaps the greatest of the ‘Four Kings,’ Sugar Ray Leonard. That 1987 decision still causes fierce debate today.
But from September of 1980 to March of 1986, Hagler was a seemingly unbeatable middleweight champion. Hagler was THE best fighter in the world. The very mention of Hagler’s name had fans feeling proud, proud of how their favorite sport had such a fine example of a champion holding the middleweight reigns.
Forty years ago, Hagler was the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world. Taking on all comers and sending each of them home with a loss attached to their record, Hagler had come up the hard way, and he fought hard each and every time he stepped into the ring. Blessed with perhaps the sturdiest chin in the division’s history, Hagler, a cunning switch-hitter who was the possessor of a fine boxing IQ, a fighter who also had untouchable physical conditioning, cracking power, and sheer dedication to his craft, was for many the perfect fighting machine.
Back during Marvelous Marvin’s reign, no fight fan had to think twice whenever anybody asked them who the world middleweight champion was.