I was nearing my seventh birthday when this fight went down in April of 1987. While I didn't watch the fight live, or really know anything about boxing given my age (those checking my pick-em score may persuasively argue that I still don't), this fight does trigger a couple of interesting childhood memories which really put a timestamp on it.
First of all, I remember people, run-of-the-mill average people, like my school bus driver, my little league coach, and certainly my dad, TALKING about this fight before it happened. Sadly, I don't think many seven year olds in America today hear folks around them getting hyped up about a fight for boxing's middleweight championship of the world. The second thing I remember is reading the recap of the fight in Sports Illustrated, which I devoured religiously every time it showed up in our mailbox. While my dad wasn't a huge fight fan, I still remember being fascinated by the boxing coverage (for some reason, an article about Mike Tyson's fight with Bonecrusher Smith really sticks out in my mind; Tyson, to a suburban grade schooler, seemed more like a comic book villain than a real human being), and those early memories set the stage for me becoming a fan later in life when I starting having more regular access to HBO and Showtime.
Enough about me and my childhood nostalgia; let's get to one of the all-time great middleweight showdowns.
This fight is available on YouTube.
My goodness, Marvin Hagler was a frightening figure in the ring. Just an intimidating beast.
The bell sounds, and Leonard comes out on his toes, circling the ring. Hagler initially comes out in a conventional stance, now switches to southpaw. Leonard with a jab and a straight right that lands. Boy, SRL just moving, almost dancing around the ring, only to stop on a dime and pepper Hagler with some shots. Not landing a lot cleanly, but more active and the crowd likes it. Hagler with a little body work now . The round ends, and while there wasn't a ton of action, Leonard was busier and landed the better (and flashier) punches. He takes the round.
R1 10-9 Leonard.
SRL circling and now Hagler lands a nice lead left hook. Leonard stops his circling long enough to pop Hagler with a jab and a right hook to the body. Hagler starting to land a straight right hand now. Leonard sneaks one in of his own. These guys aren't hurting one another; they're just trying to get a read on the other man. There's been a good bit of holding in this fairly uneventful frame. However, late in the round, they're starting to fight; Hagler with a wild miss and Leonard counterpunches effectively. Leonard with some shots to the body late and he takes this one as well. Hagler really seems a little discombobulated by Leonard's slickness.
R2 10-9 Leonard, 20-18 same.
The round starts like the others, with Leonard circling to the right, then reversing direction to throw off Hagler's stalking. Leonard not really throwing much and Hagler lands a solid left hook. Now he grazes SRL with two more. He flicks the jab as well, and it lands. Funky overhand lead from Leonard connects. Leonard with a nice slapping right hook. SRL now starting to mug and showboat in between flurries of punches. Thought Hagler was winning the first half of the round, but SRL's speed and movement giving Hagler fits in the second half . Closer, but still SRL round. Hagler glares at Leonard on the way to the corner.
R3 10-9 Leonard, 30-27 same
Hagler immediately pops Ray with a straight left. His stalking becoming a bit more intense now, but he just can't find SRL in order to rough him up the way his corner has instructed him to. Hagler looks a little better as the round progresses...now SRL winds up and lands a bolo. That had to piss Marvin off. Leonard with a flashy combo of punches, Hagler just grins back. The round ends and I have to give this one to Leonard as well. Hagler's got some words for Ray after the bell rounds.
R4 10-9 Leonard, 40-36 same
Oh man, they are showing the replay of that bolo...and it was straight to the nuts. Ouch.
Hagler comes out determined in this round, and he lands the lead left hook. That's been his best punch of the fight and he should be using it more. Leonard with a straight right. Hagler literally chasing SRL around the ring, and for the first time, he's catching him some and landing. Leonard sticks the straight right again. Wild miss by Hagler causes him to spin around, and Leonard pounces, but without much effect. OH BIG LEFT HAND FROM HAGLER! Best punch of the fight and he lands another! Leonard finally tastes a bit of Hagler's power and he gets on the bike for a second. They exchange again and Hagler's getting the better of it. Leonard parks himself on the ropes and Marvin doing some nice body work! Hagler punctuates the round with a nice right hand, and he takes his first round.
R5 10-9 Hagler, 49-46 Leonard
Hagler really pressing the action now. Body punches and an uppercut from Hagler. SRL starting to look just a bit tired in there from all of his movement. STIFF straight right hand from Leonard lands flush. Both fighters are slowing now, and Hagler misses badly with a couple of hooks. Leonard leaning on the ropes, which doesn't strike me as a very good idea, but he gets the best of the exchange. Leonard winging hooks and landing. Kind of an ugly round, but Leonard doing the better work again.
R6 10-9 Leonard, 59-55 Leonard
Not much action early. Leonard with a hook, and Hagler gives one back. Hagler leaping at Ray with a half-jab, half hook, just trying to put his hands on him. Marvin landing some thudding hooks, but he can't find that big shot he needs. Hagler flings Leonard to the ropes with a forearm, but can't capitalize. Ray is looking more and more tired, and he isn't doing much offensively. He may be taking this round off since he's up on the cards. Hagler landing the jab a bit and a solid uppercut there as well. Leonard lands a couple of slapping hooks and Hagler laughs at him. Now Leonard showboating again with the Ali shuffle. Leonard on the ropes and Hagler REALLY digging in for the last ten seconds with body work and uppercuts. Leonard did a great job of making the round seem close with his showboating that got the crowd excited, but Hagler was the more effective fighter. He takes the round.
R7 10-9 Hagler, 68-65 Leonard
Hagler comes out working the jab effectively, and the ref stops the right for some loose tape on Leonard's glove. The action resumes, and Leonard is circling the ring again; he lands some more slapping hooks. Hagler catches him with a good body shot and hook. The jab is really starting to land for Hagler, and he knows it. Leonard bouncing around the ring nicely, lending some support to my theory that he took round 7 off. The only problem with how he's fighting right now is that he's landing, but the shots just have zilch on them -- hard to really call them effective at all. Hagler bulling his way in, head down, and landing some body punches. Now Hagler working almost exclusively to the body. Tough round to score, but Hagler landed the better punches.
R8 10-9 Hagler, 77-75 Leonard
Leonard comes out sharp with a couple of fast-paced hooks. SRL with a nice 1-2, but again, no pop on those shots. Hagler lands a body punch or two with Leonard on the ropes, but Leonard escapes. THUMPING one-two combination from Hagler gets Leonard's attention. Hagler BANGING away with SRL on the ropes and Leonard might be a bit hurt. Hagler winging BOMBS now and landing! Three consecutive jabs from Hagler and a BIG left hand! Leonard finally responds with a flurry of fast punches - not hard punches but they temporarily get Hagler off of him! Leonard with two more sets of lightning fast shots! But Hagler back with a left hook and Leonard moving straight backwards! Leonard in the corner and they are trading hooks! Leonard looking VERY tired in the middle of the ring and he gets popped by a stiff punch from Hagler! Holy crap, what a tough round to score! Leonard with more punches which were a lot flashier, but Hagler with the stronger punches. I'm going Hagler by a nose, but I wouldn't argue if you went Leonard or even 10-10. Great round.
R9 10-9 Hagler, 86-85 Leonard
Hagler tries to decapitate SRL with a hook at the start of the round to no avail. Hagler with a right hand to Ray's chest as SRL begins again with beautiful lateral movement. Marvin with a punishing left hook the body. Uppercuts now from Hagler and SRL not responding much. At this point, Ray's strategy is to move around, avoid Hagler, and mix in a quick flurry of punches that probably look good, but don't have an effect on Hagler. Leonard now comes forward a bit and lands. Leonard sort of fakes the bolo and misses AND GETS POPPED BY A BIG RIGHT HAND! Another tough round to score...VERY slight lean to Hagler but another one that could go either way.
R10 Hagler, 95-95 even
Leonard with a nice combination early. Now Leonard with the left hook. Hagler to the body, but Leonard now landing his hardest punches in quite in a while! Leonard on the ropes and they trade, but neither man throwing with much determination in that exchange. Leonard scoots off of the ropes again, and tries a bolo with no success. Leonard with his hands down, mugging while Hagler misses. Beautiful display of footwork in this round. Hagler finally lands a left hook, but this is a clear SRL round.
R11 Leonard, 105-104 Leonard
Both corners are awesome between rounds, with Leonard's screaming "THREE MINUTES UNTIL YOU'RE THE CHAMP," while Hagler's implies that he needs a knockout: "Don't stop until he's down." Leonard stands up before the bell and raises his hands, and he's doing a great job of working the crowd and perhaps the judges.
Hagler lands a hook to start the round. Both men fighting furiously! Hagler lands another left but Leonard counters effectively! Leonard with another fast flurry of punches, and then escapes the corner! Crowd on its feet as Ray circles the ring, the adrenaline kicking in for him big time. The fight ending as it began, with Ray circling, and Hagler stalking. Leonard mugging BIG TIME for the crowd and they love it! Leonard on the ropes at the close and they trade shots, and the bell sounds! Leonard round, and fight.
R12 Leonard, 115-113 same
118-110 LEONARD (WTF)
SUGAR RAY LEONARD BY SPLIT DECISION
That 118-110 scorecard stinks, but 115-113 either way is completely reasonable. In my book, Sugar Ray's slick boxing frustrated Hagler and enabled him to pile up the early rounds, which were ultimately the difference in the fight. This wasn't a GREAT fight (though the 9th was a beauty), but it was a good fight between two great fighters. At the end of the day, however, this was NOT a dodgy decision.