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Articles of 2004

Revisiting Hagler-Leonard

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With the Hopkins-De La Hoya fight less than two weeks away, many have compared the similarities it shares with the Hagler-Leonard Super-Fight of 1987. It's been 17 years since Sugar Ray Leonard upset Marvin Hagler, winning a split decision as a 4-1 underdog. Like Leonard, De La Hoya is an underdog going in against Hopkins. For De La Hoya to score a Leonard type upset, he'll have to fight almost as brilliantly against Hopkins. I thought this would be a good time to look back at the Hagler-Leonard fight and how Leonard defied the odds makers.

Understanding an opponent’s fighting style and identifying what he is vulnerable to provides a fighter a big advantage over his opponent. When Fighter-A can lure Fighter-B into fighting a fight that takes him away from what he does best, Fighter-A will most likely have his hands raised when the fight is over. That is exactly what happened on Monday April 6th, 1987, when undisputed Middleweight Champion Marvin Hagler defended his title against former Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight Champ Sugar Ray Leonard.

In my lifetime, with the exception of Joe Frazier in his first fight with Muhammad Ali, I can't recall another fighter being better prepared mentally and physically for his opponent than Ray Leonard was for Marvin Hagler. Leonard knew exactly what he had to do in order to make Hagler fight his fight. Leonard was so in tune with Hagler, it was as if he knew what he was thinking.

As an HBO commentator, Leonard did the color commentary for the Hagler-Duran bout in November of 1983. Leonard said it wasn't until Hagler defended his title against Roberto Duran that he saw a vulnerability in Hagler that he could exploit, but he kept it to himself. Leonard revealed after the fight that he noticed Hagler could be hit with lead rights, and that he wasn't nearly as formidable when he had to assume the role of the aggressor for the whole fight. Hagler was a counter-puncher who was at his best when his opponents moved to him. All you have to do to confirm this is look at Hagler' title defenses during his seven year reign as champion. Only two fighters went the distance with him, Roberto Duran and Ray Leonard. Ironically, they were the only two fights in which Hagler was forced to be the aggressor the whole fight.

What Leonard showed the boxing world in his fight with Hagler, was that Hagler wasn't that great at cutting off the ring. He tended to follow more than stepping in front of Leonard to block his escape route. The only time Hagler was able to corner or pin Leonard against the ropes was when he tired and started slowing down. By Leonard moving and using the ring, Hagler wasn't able to take advantage of his most significant advantage, his physical strength. Because Hagler had to constantly keep his feet moving in order to track Leonard down, he was never able to mount a sustained offense, especially in the early rounds. Leonard continually beat Hagler to the punch and was just about always a step ahead of Hagler, forcing him to reach and sometimes miss wildly.

Some have inferred that Leonard's punches were nothing but pitty-pat punches that lacked power. What amazes me about that is, Hagler had one of the best chins in history. If Leonard's punches had nothing on them, why didn't Hagler just walk through them so he could force Leonard to fight instead of Box? Another ridiculous statement made over the years is that Leonard should've fought Hagler like a man. In other words, Leonard should've nullified his own strengths and made it easy for Hagler.

Suggesting that Leonard should've fought Hagler like a man is one of the most ignorant statements I've ever heard about a fight or fighter. Maybe I'm wrong. I guess Ali should've fought Frazier and Foreman toe-to-toe like a real man. Looking back, maybe De La Hoya should have traded and slugged it out with Trinidad?

The style in which Leonard fought Hagler wasn't a surprise to any knowledgeable fight observer. It was the only style he could employ. On top of that, it was the style Leonard fought in every fight of his career, with the exception of his first fight with Duran. If Hagler was shocked by Leonard trying to keep the fight from becoming a slugfest, shame on him. Was there ever a doubt that Leonard was going to use the bigger ring that he demanded? Leonard knew the bigger ring enabled him to avoid the stationary type fight that Hagler was going to try and make him fight. In order for Leonard to score the upset, he knew that the less trading he did with the Hagler, the better his chances of winning.

As for Hagler, he knew that to win he had to make it a street fight. Cutting the ring off and not allowing Leonard to get in and out while fighting in spurts is what Hagler had to prevent. Both fighters knew what they had to do to win the fight. The deciding factor was Leonard was physically able to carry out his strategy, which prevented Hagler from executing his.

Another thing that was overlooked prior to the fight was that Leonard had a much better chin than given credit for, and Hagler wasn't the “catch and kill” knockout artist that he was perceived as being after his fight with Hearns. In order for Hagler to stop Leonard, he would have to catch him with a monstrous shot that froze Leonard to where he wasn't able to move or get away. Had Hagler hurt Leonard to that capacity, he probably could've finished him. The problem was Hagler was never able to land that bomb to incapacitate Leonard enough to finish him.

The bottom line is Sugar Ray Leonard out-fought and out-thought Marvin Hagler. He set the pace early by moving and boxing, using his greater hand and foot speed to its fullest advantage. In those first three or four rounds, Hagler couldn't get near him. Starting around the fifth round, Hagler began to get closer and scored as Leonard started to slow.

There is absolutely no doubt that Leonard was up 3-0 after three rounds. At best Hagler won 5 of the last 9 rounds. That makes it 7-5 Leonard or 115-113. On top of that, there was not a 2-point round in the fight. Although Hagler was the aggressor in the fight, he wasn't the effective aggressor. An effective aggressor is Frazier versus Ali in their first fight, or Duran versus Leonard in their first fight. Not Hagler versus Leonard.

Lastly, some have said that a reigning champ shouldn't lose his title on such a close decision. The problem was, despite not having the title, Leonard was the star and bigger personality which neutralized Hagler being the champ. However, that had no bearing on the fight. Sugar Ray Leonard was just a little sharper and more effective than Marvin Hagler the night they fought. The only negative about the way Leonard fought against Hagler is from a few scorned Hagler fans. They're mad at Leonard because he didn't cooperate and make the fight easy for Hagler.

Give Ray Leonard all due credit for dictating the tempo and terms of the fight that took place inside the ring. The last time I checked, Hagler and Leonard were paid millions as professional boxers. There was no bonus check for street fighting. As two professional fighters at the highest level, Sugar Ray Leonard out boxed Marvin Hagler and won a very close, but clear decision.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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