Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns
billed as “The War” (originally billed as “The Fight”), was a world middleweight championship boxing match between Undisputed Champion Marvin Hagler and challenger Thomas Hearns, who was himself the world’s junior middleweight champion. The fight is considered by many to be among the finest boxing matches in history, due to its constant action, drama, and back-and-forth exchanges. The bout took place on April 15, 1985.
Background to the fight
“The War” was the nickname given to this bout by promoter Bob Arum.
By 1985, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler had been the undisputed champion of the middleweight division since September 27, 1980, after having been widely regarded as the No. 1 challenger for much of the late 1970s. His first two shots at the world middleweight title resulted in controversy: the first was an unpopular draw against then-champion Vito Antuofermo in 1979 (allowing Antuofermo to retain the title), and the second was a three-round technical knockout (TKO) ofAlan Minter, in London, which led to a riot by Minter’s fans. The hard road to the middleweight championship, however, may have helped motivate Hagler to remain dominant during his reign. Hagler was renowned for his conditioning and durability, suffering only one official knockdown in his career, against Juan Domingo Roldan, an incident Hagler always insisted should have been ruled a slip. By the time he fought Thomas Hearns, he had defended the title ten times, winning all but one by knockout; the sole Hagler defense that went the distance was a 15-round decision victory over Roberto Durán. Hagler was then approaching the middleweight record of 14 title defenses, held by Carlos Monzón.
When Hagler vs. Hearns took place, Hearns had recently moved up from the welterweight to the junior middleweight to the middleweight division. Hearns was regarded as one of the hardest punchers of all time, winning 30 of his first 32 bouts by knockout. In Hearns’s first title shot in 1980, he scored a spectacular second-round knockout over WBA champion Pipino Cuevas. Hearns defended that title three times before meeting Sugar Ray Leonard in a thrilling fight dubbed “The Showdown.” Hearns lost by technical knockout in the 14th round despite leading on all three scorecards. He then successfully campaigned at junior middleweight, winning the WBC title from Wilfred Benítez, and defeating Roberto Durán by a dramatic second-round knockout, the first knockout loss of Durán’s career. Hearns defeated several middleweights during this period, including Marcos Geraldo by first-round knockout. Geraldo had gone the distance against both Leonard and Hagler.
Given the way both men had won their respective fights coming into this bout, the fight garnered significant media attention and fan interest around the world. It was held at the Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 15, 1985. In the United States andPuerto Rico, it was broadcast by HBO with Al Michaels and Al Bernstein as commentators, while Curt Gowdy served as host. In the UK the fight was shown on ITV with Reg Gutteridge commentating.
Hearns received a massage before the fight, much to the chagrin of his trainer Emanuel Steward. In HBO’s Legendary Nights: The Tale of Hagler-Hearns, Steward stated that he felt the massage weakened Hearns’ legs during the fight and led him to adopt a more aggressive approach than he normally would have.