36 years after Leonard-Hagler 

by
36 years after Leonard-Hagler 

36 years after Leonard-Hagler 

by
36 years after Leonard-Hagler 

“If you open my bald head, you will find a big golden glove of boxing. That’s all I am.  I live it.” (Marvin Hagler). 

“You have to know you can win. You must believe you can win. You have to feel you can win.” (Ray Charles “Sugar” Leonard). 

36 years ago, that of April 6, 1987, at the famous “Caesars Palace” hotel in Las Vegas, took place a fight is and will always be remembered as one of the most controversial decisions in the history of boxing. After such a long time, in the cordial and not so cordial discussions among friends, there are still points of disagreement. For some, Ray Sugar undoubtedly won because he put cunning, speed, skill, intelligence, in short, over brute force, over muscle. 

However, it is usually remembered that three voices, loud and recognized, such as those of the legendary former world champion of the middleweight, the Argentine Carlos Monzon (RIP) and the famous promoters Don King and Juan Carlos “Tito” Lectoure (RIP), all agreed in describing Sugar’s victory as the best “Robbery of the Century” the split decision that allowed Leonard to win the WBA, WBC middleweight title, his third title after having reigned as welterweight and junior middleweight or super welterweight (he was the first to win 5 titles, the others in super middleweight and light heavyweight), besides having been Olympic champion in Montreal in 1976 in the super lightweight or junior welterweight. 

AN EPIC FIGHT 

Leonard was returning to action after three years of retirement due to a retinal injury in his left eye and having fought only once before in the last five years. At the age of 30, he had an almost impeccable record, stained only by a setback against the legendary Panamanian Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, from whom he took revenge in the rematch. 

To fight Hagler, he had to gain almost 10 kilos and for that reason people thought he would be far from being the fighter of singular speed that he was known for. He had knocked out 24 of 35 opponents, with the setback against Durán. In the opposite corner, the granitic Marvin “Marvelous” Hagler, who had well earned the nickname of Marvelous, 32 years old, had an impressive record of 66 fights with 62 wins, 52 before the final bell, 2 draws and only two defeats on points, knocked down by 8 seconds only once (against Argentine Juan Carlos “Hammer” Roldan, whom he knocked out after getting up) and defending for the 13th time the WBA, WBC and The Ring belt won against Englishman Alan Minter on September 27, 1980, in London. In his 12 previous defenses he had knocked out all his challengers, except Duran, who was defeated, but on his feet. 

He was a southpaw with a killer instinct in the ring, tearing his enemies to shreds without mercy, with an aggressive style close to savagery. For that reason, the bulk of the more than 13,000 souls in the Caesars Palace Hall gave little for Leonard’s fate, with the bets widely in favor of the champion. The champion had a guaranteed purse of $13 million, plus a pay-per-view percentage, while the challenger would receive $11 million and the usual PPV percentage. 

Leonard demanded, and his request was granted, that the ring be larger than usual to take advantage of his way of moving in the ring, constantly dancing, hitting, and moving away. That’s what he did in the first five rounds and achieved a slight advantage on the scorecards against the champion, who could not find any slits to place his lethal left or his right blows. In the sixth, Hagler came with an upper that shook Sugar Ray, but the latter managed to run away without looking flustered. Thus, with alternatives, without a clear dominance by either side, with Hagler in vain offensive, without ceasing to throw punches while Leonard escaped, in and out in bursts, for many with a slight better advantage for the ” Marvelous “, came to the end of the contest to 12 sections. Before the expectation and suspense of the spectators at the CP and the millions in front of the television, the verdict was read: the Mexican Jose Juan Guerra and the American judge Dave Moretti voted 115-113 for “Sugar” Ray, while Lou Filippo, from the USA delivered his card 115-113 for the dethroned champion. 

The score of the two judges who saw “Sugar” win indicates that for them he won 7 rounds (70 points) and lost 5 (45 pts.), for the 115-113. In world championship fights only exceptionally are rounds tied (10-10). The third judge gave 7 rounds to Hagler and 5 to Leonard. 

Completely disenchanted and furious, Marvin went to the dressing room, between curses, and feeling mocked and cheated. A few days later he went to Italy with his Italian wife to take a walk and to ruminate on his disappointment. That legendary monster of the ring, for many the greatest middleweight world champion of all time, a prominent member of the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, never wore a truss or gloves again. He was then just 32 years old, one more than “Sugar” Ray. 

Thirty-four years later, on May 13, 2021, he died at his home in Bartlett, New Hampshire, of causes that remain a mystery even though it was rumored that the death had occurred from a Covid shot. 

Ray “Sugar” Leonard, also an immortal since 1996 and one of the best fighters in history–like his rival of 36 years ago–later made only 5 more fights. He TKO 9 in November 1988 to Donny Lalonde for the WBC super-middleweight belt; defeated Thomas Hearns in 12 rounds for the WBC crown on 12-6-89 and Duran on 7-12-89 for DU; He lost on points the light middleweight belt to the young Terry Norris, 23 years old, 12 years younger than him and abandoned the ropes definitively when he suffered the first KO of his brilliant career, against the Puerto Rican Hector “Macho” Camacho, in 5 rounds on 1-3-97, already 41 years old, slow in movements and reflexes, a dull and faded shadow of the cyclone he was in the ring. 

Leonard was the first boxer to earn more than $100 million. After having been cash-strapped, today he enjoys a fortune of some $120 million. The 66-year-old native of Wilmington, North Carolina (he will be 67 in May) is still linked to boxing as an analyst and commentator and gives talks to help the new generations in high schools and universities.


Takuma Inoue is the new WBA Bantamweight Champion



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