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Looking Back – Marvin Hagler Vs Sugar Ray Leonard Scorecard

Marvin Hagler Vs Sugar Ray Leonard
Duan and GG are back tomorrow with a new Fabulous Four podcast on Marvin Hagler vs Sugar Ray Leonard. Here, they score the fight before the podcast.

This is supplemental material to our podcast series The Fabulous Four. Our seventh episode (and first of season two), up tomorrow, discusses this fight in heavy detail.

The Stage

April 6, 1987

Marvin Hagler: 62-2-2 with 49 KOs, undisputed Middleweight champion
Sugar Ray Leonard: 33-1 with 23 KOs

Duan: Ray looks noticeably older compared to the last time we saw him in the ring. He doesn’t have the chiseled look he had at welterweight but you can see that he’s got himself back into magnificent shape after the layoff. I wouldn’t say he necessarily appears confident in the pre-fight, but he’s calm and focused. It’s like he’s there for the same reason as everyone else – to see whether he’s still got it. Marvin, the consummate professional that he is, always looks the same on fight night. You can tell he’s ready to get on with this as he impatiently waits out the introductions.

GG: The fight has a “big fight” feel to it. The crowd, announcers, and fighters themselves seem to be anticipating something big.

The Fight

Round One

Duan: Marvin has started boxing orthodox immediately without even testing the water from his preferred stance. Ray circles one way then the other looking for any little opening to get off a few shots before Hagler can set himself. After a tepid start, the first real exchange sees Marvin miss clean and Leonard comes back with a quick-fire combo. While he doesn’t find clean connections, you can still see the hand speed is there. We have a game of cat and mouse with Hagler doing the stalking and Leonard looking to flurry while on the move. Ray is not getting through with much substantial but he’s the one doing the work. He landed a good right hand and then for some reason switched to southpaw which prompted Hagler to mimic him momentarily to finish out the round on his better side.

GG: You can see Leonard chomping at the bit to get to the center of the ring before Hagler like he said he wanted to. He’s moving side to side, but also throws six punches before Hagler throws one. Hagler’s fighting right-handed and is on the chase. Leonard throws a solid combination that makes Hagler smile. There’s a body thickness difference, but not really as much of a size difference as you’d think.

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

Round Two

Duan: Dundee in Leonard’s corner feels his man is already getting to the champ. Just keep messing him around is his advice. He’s spotted the frustration building in Hagler. Marvin starts the second again boxing right-handed. Commentator Gill Clancy picks up on it and asserts that Marvin can’t win this fight boxing orthodox. That story is already starting to be written. They lock up early and Hagler thuds with the right to the ribs. That’s the type of punishment that will test out Ray’s resolve. Leonard is playing the matador to Hagler’s bull here. He shows the target, strikes and then gets out of dodge. When he’s got nowhere else to go, he ties up momentarily and tries break away before Marvin can rough him up. If he waits too long to break clean, he’s made to pay for it in close. The flashy shots steal him the round though.

GG: Leonard lands the first punch of the second too, which is a jab. Hagler lands a lunging hook, but he looks a little off-balanced, but he wasn’t always the prettiest mover, so he probably feels okay here. Larry Merchant makes a great point about the extra weight possibly weighing Leonard down later in the fight. Hagler takes a step back to reset himself as he tries to cut off the ring and when he thinks he’s got room to take a breath, Leonard hits him. Hagler lands a nice punch late, but after Leonard’s quick hands land too.

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

Round Three

Duan: At last a southpaw round from Marvelous Marvin. He instantly finds more success landing his first damaging blows of the fight. You can tell Ray is having difficulty reading his right jab. He can’t get his head out of the way of it. I feel Hagler is having the better of the exchanges in this session. When Leonard tries steal a shot, he times him and comes back with something better. Even though Marvin is starting to make this much more the type of battle he wants, he’s showing signs of frustration and beginning to fight angry. Ray pushes him off when Marvin tries to rough him up showing that he won’t be easily bullied. Leonard has done an enormous amount of movement for a guy with a lot of miles on the clock. He’s already got his mouth open, gasping for air in the closing moments of the third. I liked Hagler in this one, but it’s the type of round many would have Ray stealing.

GG: Leonard is on his horse for most of the first half. He only throws punches when he knows he can catch Hagler and immediately get out. He’s also controlling the clinch, using it to his advantage so he can take a break. Hagler is supposedly the stronger guy, but Leonard is able to hold his own in there and hold and hit.

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

Round Four

Duan: Both corners know where this fight is going to be won and lost. Petronelli wants Hagler to take it in tight and rough him up. They know Ray is tiring and they’re trying to bring Marvin’s confidence up by telling him that Leonard is playing games because he doesn’t want to fight him. Angie is calling for Leonard to throw more feints to keep Hagler guessing and deter some of the pressure. Ray makes himself a difficult target all the time making Marvin chase the fight and letting his frustration grow. He then hits a hard low blow on the champion and doesn’t get admonished for it. Just as it seems a fired up Marvin might be starting to take over, we get a classic Sugar Ray bolo punch to the body and then a beautiful left-right-left combo which will surely have caught the eye of the judges. Nothing’s going Hagler’s way in this one and he is now furious about the showboating to boot.

GG: Hagler is fighting the fourth with more immediacy. I think he feels that Leonard pretty much stole the first fourth of the fight. Leonard is still moving well. Hagler’s fighting left-handed now. Hagler’s way more active this round and is workmanlike. Leonard winds up and throws an uppercut to the body and the crowd erupts. Leonard lands a combination late. I think this is Marvin’s first round.

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

Round Five

Duan: Hagler is far more aggressive in this round. Relentless. Not giving Ray room to breathe. As a result, he has to eat a lot of shots on the way in. Whenever he gets overzealous and overreaches, Leonard blasts him in that moment he’s trying to reset. As the rounds wears on though, through sheer force of will and pressure he starts to get to Leonard. He traps him on the ropes and works him over and for the first time in the fight Ray is not able to do his escape artist routine and retreat to safety. There was a right uppercut that wobbled Ray and he’s starting to show signs that the wheels may be about to come off. He’s been spirited, he’s boxed tremendously, but this is where you get the sense that reality is about to set in in a very cruel way.

GG: Leonard looks to be breathing a little harder and he’s not moving side-to-side as much. Hagler is having an easier time walking him down. Leonard is a little flat-footed. Hagler takes a chance and looks bad because of how badly he missed. The crowd pops whenever Leonard lands a punch, or defensively makes Marvin look bad. Hagler knocked Leonard against the ropes and hits him a couple more times. Leonard is having a hard time keeping him off. This is Hagler’s best round so far.

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

Round Six

Duan: Leonard’s team implores him to box. They know he won’t hold up to many more rounds like the last. Ray looks exhausted and Hagler is going after the body. When they exchange, no matter who lands more, Marvin lands better. The power is clearly with him now as Ray has nothing behind his punches. Leonard is still moving well and making things tricky for Marvin. Hagler put a huge shift in that last round and it’s taken its toll on him too. He telegraphs some tired looking swings and almost like magic, Leonard comes alive again. In the previous round, as time went on Leonard found space harder and harder to come by. This is the total opposite. Marvin is flagging and that gives Ray the room he needs to do his little cameos. This is the text book example of a fighter nicking a round by saving his best work for the last 30 seconds.

GG: Leonard’s three rounds were slick. Hagler’s two rounds were more punishing. Leonard is doing a good job countering Hagler, who is super confident at this point. Hagler’s not nearly as active as he was in the round prior. He’s letting Leonard get the action started, which is what happened in the first three rounds. Leonard’s punches are flashier and look good, even if there’s not a ton on them. Leonard ends the round strong with a nice combination.

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

Round Seven

Duan: Deep breaths in both corners before the 7th. Hagler is back bullying things again. He’s in the southpaw stance again where he’s had most of his success. His work is more focused in this round; more economical. He’s still struggling to find Ray’s head and does waste some shots that way. Leonard’s legs have weakened though and he’s relying on his upper body movement to avoid the shots. Hagler nudges Ray with the forearm and it sends him flying back 3 or 4 steps to the ropes. These are worrying signs if you’re a Leonard fan. When it looks like he may be about to fold, Leonard throws in an Ali shuffle and follows it up with his best few punches of the round. He tries to repeat the smash and grab steal of the previous round. Hagler has been smartened up to it this time. When Leonard looks to spring into action late in the session, Marvin is ready and waiting to put a beating on him to close out the round. Leonard landed after the bell and then Hagler doesn’t want to break the action.

GG: This is a hard round to score. Hagler backed him up against the ropes, but then Leonard countered back well. Leonard is getting warned a lot by Richard Steele to stop holding. Leonard’s trying to steal the round with theatrics, but I think this ends up being Hagler’s round as he again gets Leonard on the ropes.

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

Round Eight

Duan: Right jab buzzes Leonard to start the round. That’s really been a great punch for Hagler in this fight and it’s been criminally underutilized. The tape comes loose on Leonard’s glove which gives both men a chance to rest. Marvin comes back from the break stronger. He’s scoring with the lead right and he’s finding a home for the hooks to the body. Ray at this point is mostly just moving. There’s very little in the way of offense. He is forced to trade with Hagler down the stretch and again lands after the bell.

GG: Leonard is brilliant about knowing where he is at all times. He’ll get close to the ropes, and then be able to flurry, still step back and not touch the ropes, and then get out of dodge. He’s so slick. And I think he won the round, or maybe even stole it. Hagler didn’t do a ton and when he doesn’t do a ton, it just looks like Ray wins the round.

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

Round Nine

Duan: Dundee is urging Leonard over the finish line. Every round that ends is treated as a small victory. The message for Ray is to box; for Marvin it is to fight. It’s exactly how it should be for both guys. This is the best round of the bout and one of the most savage you’ll see. After a big effort in the previous round, Hagler has again slowed and it just gives Ray that foothold back in the fight. He banks some points early as Marvin labors to pin him down. When the onslaught does come, he takes a beating, but he gives one out too. They each throw the kitchen sink at it and Leonard shows a champion’s heart to dig in and stay in the fight. If you saw this as a Hagler round, I won’t argue with you. I find it impossible to give Leonard nothing for what he put into it though.

GG: At this point, I have Leonard up 5-3. If he just wins one more round, I’d have it as a draw. So Marvin needs to dial it up now. Hagler has Leonard on the ropes a few times in this round and Hagler has issues unleashing punches in volume. He takes a breath and lets Leonard get a short window of opportunity to flurry. I don’t know why he’s not just unleashing bombs at this point. Every time he pauses, or gives Leonard respect, Leonard tries to flurry. I think Hagler takes it.

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

Round Ten

Duan: How Ray is up on his toes I do not know. His gas tank was nearing empty 7 rounds ago. It has to be disheartening for Marvin to see him back bouncing around at the start of each session. I love how Leonard is able to just take a little step, find his angle and then ghost away again. Supreme ring craft from the great man. Hagler is trying to just get through on endeavor. It’s a tired, untidy sort of round and when the fight is like that, it’s Leonard’s cleaner, flashier work which come up trumps.

GG: Leonard looks tired. Hagler’s tired too, but it’s not as visible. He’s just slower mostly. Hagler’s inside work seemed to make the difference in this one, but this wasn’t one of the better rounds of the fight.

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

Round Eleven

Duan: This is a superhuman effort from Ray. Marvin is still digging in and forcing out the punches, but now when they trade, for the first time I feel Ray has the more authority. Marvin is still doing a lot of missing with Leonard being as evasive as he was in the first three rounds. He’s still bobbing and weaving, he’s still circling, and he’s still showboating. It’s still Ray being Ray.

GG: I have it as a draw through ten, so it’s all up to the last two rounds for my card. This is a weird round. It was all Hagler’s for the taking. Leonard was goofing off and just trying to hold off so that he could flurry for several seconds. I guess he won the round, but more so because Hagler didn’t press him like he could’ve. He let Leonard steal that one.

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

Round Twelve

Duan: Dundee reminds Leonard there is three minutes between him and the championship. Ray rises from his stool midway through the break to pump up the crowd and the place goes bananas for him. It’s an amazing moment and you can see Ray is feeling it now. The belief is there. In the other corner, Hagler looks beaten up and dispirited.
Petronelli is telling him he needs the round badly and Marvin comes out fighting like he knows it’s true. He throws everything he has left into what would be the last round of his career. He is over-eager and wild, as he has been in much of the contest, but he was able to put a hurting on Ray down the stretch. What he couldn’t do was pick out the one shot that would put Leonard over and secure the fight.

Ray tried again to fight in bursts. He had one great flurry out of the corner where he spun off maybe 20 or more consecutive punches but had very little else in the round. It was largely showboating and running down the clock while Marvin chased a finish. If you believe Ray needed this round, he probably gave away the fight. He fought it like he had a lead to protect and that may have been a perfect reading of the fight. He was right on my card anyway.

GG: There was a specific moment in this fight that may have told the entire story. Hagler backed Leonard up against the ropes and it was exactly where he wanted him. Instead of being urgent and attacking, he allowed Leonard to flurry and the hand speed made Hagler look old, when the real story was that it’s all Leonard had at this point. He had nothing on his punches, but he had those flurries that looked great and probably did very little damage. They probably hurt Hagler’s pride more than they hurt his head. Hagler let the last two rounds get away from him.

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

Duan’s final Marvin Hagler Vs Sugar Ray Leonard scorecard: 115-114 Leonard
GG’s final Marvin Hagler Vs Sugar Ray Leonard scorecard: 115-113 Leonard


GG: You can tell how close some of these rounds were because of how many rounds Duan and I disagreed on, but nearly came out with the same score. I don’t think I would’ve disagreed with any card that had Hagler or Leonard winning by two or three rounds.

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3 thoughts on “Looking Back – Marvin Hagler Vs Sugar Ray Leonard Scorecard

  1. I think anything from Leonard winning by a couple points to Hagler winning by a couple points is fair. Close, and polarizing fight.

  2. Count the actual landed punches and there is no doubt that Sugar Ray won the fight. At the end Hagler would have had to Knock out Ray to win. All you people forget how Hagler used to fight, He would simply take shots from the other man until the other man was defenseless (tired) then having not thrown many punces or landed any he would knock the other guy out. Sugar won every round but two and Hagler couldn’t knock him out so he lost.

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