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Looking Back – Marvin Hagler Vs Thomas Hearns

Hagler vs Hearns

This is supplemental material to our podcast series The Fabulous Four. Our sixth episode, up tomorrow, discusses this fight in heavy detail.

The Stage

April 15, 1985

Marvin Hagler: 60-2-2 with 47 KOs, undisputed Middleweight champion
Thomas Hearns: 40-1 with 32 KOs, WBC Light Middleweight champion

Duan: Tommy enters first. A much more serious look to him than throughout the build up. A little tense, not nervous necessarily, but certainly business like. You get the sense he’s feeling the occasion. The crowd is respectful of him but a little muted. The response to Hagler is much stronger but also more mixed. Marvin is majorly hyped coming out of the dressing room. You cant even see his face with the hood down over his eyes but you can read from his motion alone that he’s ready to explode. Tommy was the guy talking up an early finish, but when you compare both men in the prefight, Marvin is the one who seems to have gameplanned for it. He’s totally warmed up and ready for a fast start.

The Fight

Round One

Duan: Hagler bursts from his corner and shoots for a big looping right which misses by miles, but it set the tone for the type of fight we’re about to see. He then goes right after the body and in doing so leaves himself exposed to headshots and gets staggered by a big right from Hearns. He shows unbelievable recuperative powers to come through it and is right back in there fighting within a matter of seconds. Now we have a throw down with both guys in punching range and unloading with their best shots. Hearns tries to pop and move but Hagler is always on him smothering him, not giving him room to breath. And while Tommy is still landing with some huge, huge shots, Hagler is now able to come through them. One more big right from Hearns opens up an awful cut on Marvin. He’s pouring already. We’re two minutes in and Marvin looks like he’s been in the war of all wars but it’s starting to become one he’s winning. He bullies Tommy to the ropes in the final minute and starts working him over. He rocks him once, sending him stumbling back into center ring.

GG: You see the difference in strategy right out of the gate. Tommy saunters, trying to angle in, and Hagler immediately throws a looping hook that doesn’t connect, but makes Tommy get upright quickly. Hearns is using his long reach and jab to set the tone, but Hagler isn’t having it and immediately throws big shots to the body. All of sudden, Hearns throws the gameplan out of the window and sits back on the ropes and fires huge right hands. Hearns lands with a ridiculous uppercut which stops Marvin in his tracks. Near the middle of the round, Hearns figures it out. He’s figured out the distance and is on his toes, moving to his right and still blasting right hands. Hagler actually looks a bit slow in comparison. When the referee has to break them, Hagler makes it a point to dive inside. It’s an opportunity for him to break Tommy’s rhythm.

The last minute of the round is both guys just slugging the hell out of each other. Tommy blinks first and stumbles back slightly, but still ends the round throwing 90 MPH fastballs. Hagler looks like Dusty Rhodes used a blade on him.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Hearns
GG’s score: 10-9 Hagler

Round Two

Duan: All the attention between rounds is on Marvin’s cut and it’s a bad one for sure. A little further left or right of the mark and it might have been enough to stop the fight right there and then. Fortunately for the marvelous one, it was right in the middle of his head and away from either eye. What’s lost in the panic is that in the other corner, Tommy has just told Emanuel Steward of his broken hand. Maybe an injury that had a greater impact on his the remainder of the fight was fought.

The Hitman is trying his best to not get sucked in. He’s pawing with the jab on the backfoot as we start the second. There’s not the power to keep Hagler off though. Marvin switches righthanded and starts hunting him down. He does a tremendous job of cutting off the ring. You can see the space between them dissipate. It’s when Hagler switches back southpaw though that he really starts to find his target. Brutal punishment again being doled out against the ropes in the final minute. Tommy has no choice but to try fight fire with fire, but he’s being taken apart on the inside.

GG: Hearns’ strategy seems to be working well again. He’s moving, but Marvin is chasing him. Tommy’s landing straight rights, but some of them don’t seem to have the pepper because he’s moving backward so much. It’s when he misses wildly that gives Marvin the opportunity to close the distance. Hagler closes the round like a beast. Hearns is tired and content to sit with his back on the ropes making him buzzard meat for Hagler who is doing his best work to the body. Tommy looks exhausted and it’s only the end of the second.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Hagler
GG’s score: 10-9 Hagler

Round Three

Duan: Marvin has another cut now. It’s no secret at this point that he’s fighting on borrowed time. Early in the session, Richard Steele halts the action to have the damage inspected by the ringside physician. Hagler’s got maybe a round, perhaps two max, left in him before somebody calls this. Feeling the fight slipping from his grip, he bull rushes his opponent as soon as the ref restarts it. Then in one of the most violent flurries ever seen in a boxing ring, Hagler catches Tommy high with a righthand. Hearns’ legs turn to rubber beneath him and as he tries to recover his balance and backpedal out of danger, Marvin follows behind him and clocks him with two devastating rights which put him down and out. Somehow Tommy barely beats the count, but looking at him woozy on his feet, I have no doubt the ref made the right call by not letting it go any further. He collapses against the official and has to be eased back to his corner. It’s several minutes before he’s back up and walking.

GG: Hearns is back to sticking and moving. He finally ties up Hagler when he gets close. Referee Richard Steele asks a doctor to look at Marvin’s cut and it’s almost as if it was a jolt of energy for Marvin who knows that his cut is going to keep opening up and that it could be stopped. He lands a walloping overhand right that sends Tommy dancing backward. Marvin smells blood and throws a right-hand cross that he throws his entire body through and it paralyzes Hearns for a second and it’s game over.


Duan: This is the bout Hagler will be most remembered for and probably Tommy too. There’s a reason it’s stood the test of time. It’s special. There have been more that a few super-fights which haven’t lived up to the hype, and even when they do, it’s never like this. These two put a career’s worth of highlights into 8 minutes. It will forever be the reference point for the great short fight and maybe the defining moment of the fabulous four era.

GG: What an amazing war this was.

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