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Oleksandr Gvozdyk’s Opponent Didn’t Have a Leg to Stand On

Bernard Fernandez




PHILADELPHIA – It is a fairly common practice in boxing for a newly minted world champion to make his first title defense against an opponent who might be considered a bit of a soft touch, particularly if he rose to the top of his alphabet fiefdom by dethroning an especially dangerous predecessor.

If one oddsmaker is to be believed, WBC light heavyweight champ Oleksandr Gvozdyk’s first defense of the belt he lifted last Dec. 1, on an 11th-round knockout of the long-reigning and favored Adonis Stevenson  – arguably the hardest-hitting 175-pound ruler since Michael Moorer, or maybe even all the way back to Bob Foster – was easier than most such ritualistic demonstrations of superiority. So dismissive was one sports book linemaker of Doudou Ngumbu’s chances against Gvozdyk that the champion opened as an -8000 wagering choice, meaning a bettor would have to put up $8,000 on the 31-year-old Ukrainian in order to win $100. The message sent by such an absurdly wide line was clear: as an aspirant to displace Gvozdyk, Doudou, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo now living in France, was, well, more like doo-doo.

It would be unfair to Ngumbu (38-9, 14 KOs), who at 37 was getting his first, and undoubtedly last, shot at a bejeweled belt, to point out that his official fifth-round technical-knockout loss, at the sold-out 2300 Arena here, came about without a punch being landed by Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KOs), whose victory was all but assured from the moment contracts were signed. To his credit, Ngumbu was trying his darndest to cash that lottery ticket, although his darndest  never was going to be good enough to pull off an upset twice as unlikely as Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson. But when Ngumbu, his face contorted in pain, began hopping around on his left (good) leg, what was already a long and weird night became stranger still.

Referee Eric Dali appeared to be momentarily flummoxed by Ngumbu’s impersonation of a one-legged Easter bunny. Dali first called time to allow the challenger time to recover, ruling an accidental foul had occurred, even though Ngumbu’s distress had not been caused by a punch from Gvozdyk, legal or otherwise. What followed was a scene straight out of the fight game’s theater of the absurd, with Dali, Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission executive director Greg Sirb, the ring physician and members of Ngumbu’s corner team, none of whom apparently spoke English, bunching up on the ring apron to decide what determination needed to be made.

It finally was decided that Ngumbu had suffered a torn Achilles tendon, an injury more serious than a cramp or pulled calf muscle, which would have been bad enough. Gvozdyk, a bronze medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, was awarded a less-than-satisfying win by stoppage, after an elapsed time of 58 seconds.

“(Gvozdyk) didn’t even hit him,” Sirb noted. “That’s a cheap KO. There was no foul. (Ngumbu) was trying to avoid a punch, and he obviously hurt himself trying to twist away. He wound up tearing his Achilles tendon. That’s nasty. You could see it. He couldn’t put any pressure on his right leg.”

For Gvozdyk, whose celebration of the take-down of Stevenson was muted when the stricken champion had to be rushed to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery for two brain bleeds and was placed in an induced coma (Stevenson is, thankfully, recovering, but his boxing career is over), another ending to a winning fight ended in an unexpected manner.

“I’m satisfied I won. I keep my title,” he said in his dressing room, apparently unaware of the extent or legitimacy of Ngumbu’s injury. “How it happened, I’m definitely not satisfied with. Probably the people who came are not happy. It’s important to make your fans happy. I tried to do my best in this fight. What happened was not my fault. I guess the guy just came to get a paycheck. I don’t know. I don’t want to insult him.

“Maybe something happened. I don’t know. I don’t feel I hurt him. For a second time something screwed up my celebration. I really thought the fight would go longer and be more exciting. I was just starting to accelerate.”

For numbers-crunchers interested in such things, Gvozdyk landed 47 of 204 punches (23 percent) to just 18 of 108 (17 percent) for Ngumbu, who went in as the WBC’s eighth-rated light heavyweight contender. But while winning and losing is always of paramount consideration, how either outcome is achieved also matters, and Gvozdyk did not win with the flourish he and his many supporters in the standing-room-only crowd of 1,350 or so had anticipated. That opened the door for a couple of snide remarks from at least one interested onlooker.

Philadelphia’s Jesse Hart, a two-time world title challenger as a super middleweight who is planning to move up to light heavyweight, is a member of the Top Rank promotional stable, as is Gvozdyk, and he said he could and would eventually capitalize on the openings he saw against the champion that the limited Ngumbu was unable to.

“(Gvozdyk) fought down to the kid’s level,” Hart said, although, at 37, few would characterize Ngumbu as a kid at this late stage of his career. “He should have gotten him out of there within the first four rounds.”

Nor was the ESPN-televised lead-in to the main event — Philly welterweight “The New” Ray Robinson (24-3-1, 12 KOs) vs. Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs), a Ukrainian now fighting out of Oxnard, Calif. — particularly compelling, although it did provide a symposium for debate on the vicissitudes of how to score a boxing match. One judge’s scorecard had Robinson winning by 97-93, while the other two saw the fight as a 95-95 standoff – a majority draw.

For those who place a high value on slick boxing technique, the mobile, jab-flicking Robinson deserved a clear-cut victory. One ringside writer had him winning nine of the 10 rounds. ESPN boxing writer Dan Rafael went way over to the other side, giving nine rounds to the continually stalking Kavaliauskas, a -1800 favorite.

Despite the fact that seven of the 11 bouts on the card ended inside the distance, three of which were one-round quickies, fans who came early and stayed late must have felt like they had attended a double-feature at their local movie theater, with Dr. Zhivago followed by Lawrence of Arabia, with a half-hour intermission in between. With the first bout getting underway at 5:30 p.m. EDT, and Gvozdyk-Ngumbu wrapping up near midnight, the 6½-hour  marathon tested the endurance, and possibly the bladder capacities of fans who helped pass the time with multiple trips to the beer concession stand.

The audience, reflecting the global lineup of fighters, was a blend of many nationalities and cultures. Including those representatives who pledged allegiance to two flags – like Ngumbu, who was born in the Congo and became a naturalized French citizen – countries represented were Ukraine, Mexico, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, Japan, Canada, Cameroon, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, France, Congo, Guatemala and Puerto Rico, although the last is technically an unincorporated territory of the United States. The loudest contingent appeared to be Ukrainians and Ukrainian-Americans, not surprising in that 20,000 or so such residents of the U.S. can be found in the Eastern seaboard corridor from metropolitan New York to Philadelphia and many are rabid boxing buffs. From the first round on, Gvozdyk backers shouted “Gvozdyk! Gvozdyk!,” which for the phonetically challenged sounds very much like Vod-zik. By decibel level, the Ukrainians seemed more plentiful and louder than Philly patrons, who made themselves known with their off-key renditions of “Fly, Eagles, Fly,” the local NFL team’s fight song.

In other action:

*Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KOs) of Malaysia by way of his native Uzbekistan scored a unanimous, 12-round decision over Japan’s Keita Obara (20-4-1, 18 KOs) in an IBF welterweight elimination bout.

*Super middleweight Christian Mbilli (14-0, 13 KOs), from Montreal by way of his native Cameroon, saw his knockout streak ended as he settled for an eight-round, unanimous decision over Mexico’s Humberto Gutierrez (33-8-2, 18 KOs).

*Juan Ruiz (22-4, 14 KOs) of Mexico came away with a fourth-round TKO victory over Ghana’s Fredrick Lawson (27-2, 21 KOs) in their scheduled eight-round super welterweight bout.

*Super featherweight Joshafat Ortiz (6-0, 4 KOs), a Puerto Rican based in Reading, Pa., needed just one of the six scheduled rounds to put away James Thomas (6-5, 6 KOs), of Grand Rapids, Mich.

*Popular Philadelphia heavyweight Sonny Conto (2-0, 2 KOs), a recent addition to the Top Rank lineup, bombed out Omar Acosta (1-6, 1 KO) of Hereford, Texas, in one round and will next be seen on June 15 in Las Vegas on the  undercard of a show headlined by Tyson Fury against Tom Schwarz.

*Jeremy Adorno, a lanky super bantamweight from Allentown, Pa., by way of Puerto Rico, made his pro debut by pitching a four-round shutout at Sebastian Baltazar (1-4), from Tacoma, Wash., by way of his native Guatemala.

*Super featherweight Donald Smith (9-0, 6 KO), a southpaw from Philly, seemed headed to a four-round unanimous decision over Jose Antonio Martinez (11-18, 6 KOs) when he turned out the lights on the Mexican, now residing in Albequerque, N.M., with an overhand left late in the final round.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Three Punch Combo: An Early Look at Inoue-Donaire and Under the Radar Fights

Matt Andrzejewski



Inoue vs Donaire

THREE PUNCH COMBO — This past Saturday, Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KO’s) punched his ticket to the bantamweight final in the World Boxing Super Series when he impressively knocked out Emmanuel Rodriguez in the second round of their scheduled 12-round fight. The win sets up a showdown with veteran Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KO’s) who punched his ticket to the final with an impressive knockout of Stephon Young last month.

As expected, Inoue has opened as a monstrous favorite in the betting markets. While this suggests a one-sided wipeout, I have some other thoughts.

Inoue is pound for pound one of, if not the, hardest puncher in the sport today and put that power on full display in his destruction of Rodriguez in the semi-finals. But having enormous power does not make him indestructible.

In watching that fight against Rodriguez, there were clearly flaws on display on the defensive side of Inoue’s game. For one, Inoue does not move his head at all and as such can be hit. Rodriguez landed several clean punches on Inoue in the first round. And Inoue frequently keeps his hands low looking to bait opponents into throwing to set up counter opportunities. It has worked so far but could be something he pays for down the road.

Donaire is a smart and skilled fighter and though he is 36, his last few fights have shown that he still has plenty left in the tank. Moreover, he possesses one thunderous left hook and has always been at his best when fighting below 122. He has all the capabilities to expose Inoue’s flaws and a left hook that can alter the course of a fight as we have seen him doing plenty of times in the past.

Unlike a lot of people, I do not consider Donaire to be another layup for Inoue. There is real danger in this fight for Inoue if he does not make changes to his game. Donaire has starched big punching rising stars before and I would not discount his chances to expose the significant defensive flaws in Inoue’s game.

 Under The Radar Fight

Boxing returns to ESPN on Saturday with a card from Kissimmee, FL headlined by 130- pound champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13 KO’s) who is making the second defense of his title against former US Olympian Jamel Herring (19-2, 10 KO’s). While I think this should be an excellent fight, the co-feature, which is flying deep under the radar, should be even better.

In this fight, former two division world champion Jose Pedraza (25-2, 12 KO’s) makes his return to the ring after losing his lightweight title to Vasiliy Lomachenko in December to face Antonio Lozada (40-2-1, 34 KO’s). Given their respective styles, this fight at the very least will provide plenty of sustained action.

Appropriately nicknamed “The Sniper,” Pedraza at his best is a precision puncher. A boxer-puncher by trade, he uses subtle movement inside the ring to create angles that are used to land sharp power shots on his opposition. He is also a very good inside fighter and will shift around on the inside to once again set up just the right angle to land his power shots with maximum efficiency. But despite being a good inside fighter, Pedraza has a tendency to stay in the pocket a bit too long which leaves him open to getting hit.

Lozada is best known for his upset TKO win against one-time blue-chip prospect Felix Verdejo in March of 2018. However, he failed to build momentum off that win and is coming off a lackluster split draw his last time out to 12-7-1 journeyman Hector Ruben Ambriz Suarez.

Lozada certainly does not have the technical proficiency of Pedraza. He is slow and plodding. But what he does bring to the table is relentless pressure combined with a high volume of punches. He will press forward, recklessly at times, winging punches consistently hoping to wear down his opposition through attrition.  As such, he tends to get hit a lot and can be involved in shootouts.

Cleary, Pedraza is the more skilled fighter, but given Lozada’s all-offensive mindset as well as Pedraza’s willingness to stay in the pocket, the leather is all but guaranteed to be flying from the opening bell. Neither are big punchers either so I suspect we see a fight that goes rounds providing many exciting exchanges and one that could certainly steal the show on Saturday.

Another Under The Radar Fight

Also on Saturday, Fox Sports 1 will televise a card from Biloxi, MS featuring a crossroads fight between former 154-pound champion Austin Trout (31-5, 17 KO’s) and former US Olympian Terrell Gausha (21-1, 10 KO’s). But it is another 154-pound fight on the undercard that is receiving almost no coverage that I want to highlight. It pits Chordale Booker (14-0, 7 KO’s) against Wale Omotoso (27-3, 21 KO’s).

Booker turned pro in 2016 after a successful amateur career and has kept up a fairly busy schedule. He is coming off a dominating 8-round unanimous decision over veteran Juan De Angel in January and now is taking a big jump up in his caliber of opposition in facing Omotoso.

Booker, a southpaw, likes to press forward behind a stinging right jab. He possesses elite level hand speed and likes to use that jab to set up quick power punching combinations. Booker is also an excellent counter puncher and possesses a very potent right hook coming from that southpaw stance. He will often hold his left low to bait his opponents into opening up to set up counter opportunities. However, he has also been clipped by his share of left hooks fighting in this manner and this is something he will need to tighten up against Omotoso. So just how will Booker respond to Omotoso’s pressure and heavy handed body attack? Depending on the answer, we will either see Booker step up to the next level or get exposed. And that’s what makes this fight so intriguing to me

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Serhii Bohachuk KOs Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez in Hollywood

David A. Avila



in Hollywood

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.-Super welterweight prospect Serhii Bohachuk got his first taste of upper tier boxing from Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez and gave him his best Sunday punch to win by knockout.

Bohachuk (14-0, 14 KOs) showed the excited Hollywood crowd he’s more than ready for former world title challengers like Hernandez (34-11, 22 KOs) or maybe even the current contenders with an exuberant display of pressure fighting at the Avalon Theater.

The smiling Ukrainian fighter has been steadily attracting fans to the 360 Promotions fight cards.

Trained by Abel Sanchez, the lanky and pale Bohachuk – whose nickname “El Flaco” fits perfectly – always moved forward against Mexico City’s Hernandez who has made a reputation of being crafty despite the strength of competition. With Bohachuk constantly applying pressure the Mexican fighter used the first round to touch and feel his way around the Ukrainian bomber.

In the second round a sharp counter right floored Hernandez who quickly got up and resumed the contest. It looked like the end was near until Hernandez caught Bohachuk with a solid right cross. It was a warning shot well heeded by Bohachuk.

Both fighters exchanged vigorously in the third round with the Ukrainian fighter’s youth a definite advantage. Hernandez was able to display his fighting tools more effectively in the third round but could it be enough?

Bohachuk was clearly the heavier-handed fighter but was finding it difficult to connect solidly against the Mexican veteran. But in the fifth round Bohachuk lowered his gun sights and targeted the body with a left hook that dropped Hernandez.  The fight was stopped by referee Wayne Hedgepeth at 1:40 of the fifth round.

Other Bouts

A battle of super featherweights saw Rialto, California’s Adrian Corona (5-0) rally from behind to defeat Florida’s Canton Miller (3-3-1) by split decision after six rounds.

Corona had problems with Miller’s speed in the first two rounds and was unable to track the moving fighter’s direction. But in the third round Corona began to apply more aggressive measures against Miller and was especially effective with lead rights. The momentum changed quickly.

Miller switched from orthodox to southpaw and it served to pause Corona’s momentum, but he seldom scored with solid blows. Though Miller landed quick soft blows, Corona was landing with strong shots and convinced two of the three judges that he was the winner by 58-56 twice. A third judge saw Miller the victor by the same score 58-56.

“It’s not my job to judge the judges,” said Miller. “It’s my job to just fight.”

Corona was happy with the victory.

“I could have put the pressure on him a little more,” said Corona. “It was a very technical fight and he put on a great fight.”

Other Bouts

George Navarro (6-0-1, 2 KOs) knocked out Cesar Sustaita (3-5) with a perfect overhand right that disabled the senses and forced referee Raul Caiz Jr. to halt the fight at 1:37 of the first round.

“I worked hard to prepare for this fight,” said Navarro.

A super bantamweight clash saw Humberto Rubalcava (10-1, 7 KOs) knock out Daniel Constantino (3-3-2) and win by knockout after a flurry of a dozen blows went unanswered. Referee Angel Mendez stopped the battering at 1:39 of the first round.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler Stood Tall in an Era of Epic Battles

Rick Assad



Leonard & Hagler

It’s been said — and it applies to all sports, but especially boxing — that in order to be great, one has to face great competition.

During the 1980s, in what many consider boxing’s “Golden Age,” several epic battles were waged between Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Ray Leonard, which helped drive the sport’s appeal after Muhammad Ali’s retirement in 1981.

All four are enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, but Leonard and Hagler stood the tallest.

With each celebrating birthdays this month – Leonard turned 63 on Friday, May 17,   and Hagler turns 65 on Thursday, May 23 –  this seems like the perfect opportunity to reflect on their legendary careers.

Leonard, who would become a world champion in five weight classes, was a nonpareil ring craftsman who could box with absolute ease and also unload the heavy artillery.

Some said slick marketing after claiming the Gold Medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics as a junior welterweight helped Leonard vault to fame. Sugar Ray had the look, personality and charm to attract a large fan base, but did he have what it takes to hold his own against the top welterweights?

The answer was yes, but it wasn’t until Leonard stopped Wilfred Benitez in the 15th round for the World Boxing Council and lineal welterweight title in November 1979 at Caesars Palace, that he would be given his due.

Entering the fight, Benitez had a 38-0-1 record and was a two-division world champion.

In the opening frame, Leonard drilled Benitez with a left hook after tossing a jab and a right cross.

Two rounds later, Leonard knocked Benitez on his backside with a rattling jab. “I wasn’t aware I was in a championship fight early because I hit him so easy,” said Leonard, who was named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine in 1979 and 1981, but then he adjusted to my style. It was like looking in a mirror.”

Leonard knocked Benitez down with a thunderous left in the 15th, but couldn’t put him away until the referee called it off with six seconds left.

“No one, I mean no one, can make me miss punches like that,” said Leonard of Benitez, who is also in the IBHOF.

In June 1980, Leonard, who went 36-3-1 with 25 knockouts, returned to the Canadian city where he first gained fame and faced the indestructible Duran, the former lightweight king, who came into the bout with a 71-1 record and was regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

The fight drew international attention and although Leonard lost, his showing removed any and all doubts about his greatness.

With 46,317 inside Olympic Stadium, Duran dictated the early pace by cutting off the ring and not allowing Leonard to extend his arms.

For four rounds, Duran didn’t give Leonard enough room to move and unload any significant blows.

Leonard finally came alive in the fifth and unleashed numerous combinations. The remainder of the fight saw Leonard score, but it was Duran who looked stronger and sharper.

William Nack, writing in Sports Illustrated described it thusly: “It was, from almost the opening salvo, a fight that belonged to Duran. The Panamanian seized the evening and gave it what shape and momentum it had. He took control, attacking and driving Leonard against the ropes, bulling him back, hitting him with lefts and rights to the body as he maneuvered the champion against the ropes from corner to corner. Always moving forward, he mauled and wrestled Leonard, scoring inside with hooks and rights.”

After 15 rounds, Duran won a very narrow but unanimous decision, handing Leonard his first setback after opening his pro career with 27 wins.

Angelo Dundee, Leonard’s trainer, had advised him to stick and move against Duran who wanted to brawl. But Duran was able to get inside Leonard’s head and Leonard, wanting to prove his toughness, did not follow Dundee’s advice.

Leonard realized his error and vowed not to make the same mistake if he met Duran again. And they did meet again, five months later, before a national television audience with 25,038 looking on at the New Orleans Superdome.

This time Leonard would fight his fight and not Duran’s. “The whole fight, I was moving, I was moving,” he said, “and voom! I snapped his head back with a jab. Voom! I snapped it back again. He tried to get me against the ropes, I’d pivot, spin off and pow! Come under with a punch.”

Late in a memorable seventh round, Leonard wound up his right hand as if to throw a bolo punch but instead tagged Duran’s face with a sharp jab.

Leonard then taunted him, sticking out his chin and daring Duran to hit it. The taunting continued as Leonard moved around the ring.

It was clear Leonard was ahead on all three scorecards, but it was still close, and Duran, though not hurt, seemed to lack real punching power and probably felt humiliated.

Toward the end of the eighth round, Duran turned his back to Leonard and uttered the now famous line “no mas” (no more).

It was over with 16 seconds left as Leonard regained the WBC and lineal welterweight belts.

Duran said he quit because of stomach cramps after overeating following the weigh-in. To which Leonard replied, “I made him quit…to make Roberto Duran quit was better than knocking him out.”

Leonard then agreed to meet Hearns in order to unify the welterweight title. They met on September 16, 1981, a sweltering night in Las Vegas, at an outdoor arena at Caesars Palace before 23,618. Hearns walked into the ring with a 32-0 mark and 30 knockouts, while Leonard had a 31-1 record with 22 knockouts.

In the early stages, Leonard stayed away and boxed while Hearns tried to find a hole in Leonard’s defense.

After five rounds, Leonard was trailing on the cards and had a swelling under his left eye. In the sixth, Leonard found his range and landed a left hook to the face and he was again the aggressor in the seventh.

Hearns decided to box and piled up points while Leonard wanted to unload the heavy guns.

Hearns dominated rounds nine through 12. But just before round 13, Dundee said to Leonard, “you’re blowing it, son! You’re blowing it!”

For the 13th, Leonard, who now had a badly swollen left eye, caught Hearns with a stunning right and then landed a clean combination as Hearns was on wobbly legs.

Hearns went through the ropes, but it wasn’t ruled a knockdown by referee Davey Pearl because it wasn’t a punch that sent him there.

Late in the same round, Hearns was decked after Leonard connected with multiple blows.

In round 14, with Hearns leading on all three cards but clearly out of gas, Leonard seized control with a sizzling overhand right and a combination that saw Pearl call a stop to the action.

A third round TKO over Bruce Finch in February 1982 with the WBA, WBC, and lineal welterweight titles on the table, was followed by a scheduled fight with Roger Stafford.

While in training, Leonard had problems with his vision. He was diagnosed with a detached retina which was repaired in May of that year.

In November 1982, at a charity event in Maryland, Leonard announced he was retiring from boxing.

Twenty-seven months passed before Leonard returned to the ring in May 1984, when he faced Kevin Howard in a non-title match.

In the fourth round, Leonard was knocked down for the first time in his career. He went on to win, TKOing Howard in the ninth, but then shocked everyone at the post-fight press conference by announcing he was calling it a career once again.

Leonard sat ringside for the Hagler-John Mugabi fight in Las Vegas in March 1986 and was surprised to see Mugabi actually outbox Hagler for much of the contest before succumbing in the 11th round.

Leonard had seen enough and announced two months later he was coming back and that his next opponent would be none other than the great Hagler who would be making the 13th defense of his middleweight title.

The fight was set for April 6, 1987 at Caesars Palace. Hagler opened a 4-to-1 favorite.

Leonard won the first two rounds on all three judges’ scorecards as Hagler, a natural left-hander, fought in an orthodox stance.

In the third round, Hagler switched to southpaw and fared much better, but Leonard remained in control with the help of superior hand and foot speed.

Leonard started to tire by the fifth as Hagler buckled his knees with an uppercut toward the close of the frame.

Hagler scored well in the sixth round, but Leonard also had effective moments.

Hagler did well in the seventh and eighth as he landed his jab while Leonard wasn’t able to counter.

The ninth round was the most exciting with Hagler stunning Leonard with a left cross and had him pinned in the corner.

Leonard was able to escape and though each looked sharp, Hagler’s punches were crisper and more resounding.

The 10th round wasn’t as dramatic, but Hagler took that stanza, while Leonard boxed sharply in the 11th.

In the fight’s final round, the 12th, Hagler landed a tremendous left hand that backed Leonard into the corner.

Leonard threw a flurry of punches and the round concluded with each fighter exchanging blows along the ropes.

The final CompuBox stats had Leonard landing 306 of 629 punches for 48.6 percent and Hagler connecting on 291 of 792 for 36.7 percent.

The fight was very close. Lou Filippo had it 115-113 for Hagler but was out-voted by Dave Moretti and Jose Guerra who had it for Leonard by scores of 115-113 and 118-110 respectively.

Hagler, who closed his career with a 62-3-2 mark and 52 knockouts, insisted he won the fight.

This was Hagler’s final time inside the ring and he would eventually move to Italy.

Prior to his famous battle with Sugar Ray, Hagler scored two of the biggest wins of his career, scoring a unanimous decision over Roberto Duran in November 1983 and stopping Thomas Hearns in the third round in April 1985. Both bouts were at Caesars Palace.

Here is Pat Putnam’s lead graph of the classic Hagler-Hearns fight as it appeared in Sports Illustrated: “There was a strong wind blowing through Las Vegas Monday night, but it could not sweep away the smell of raw violence as Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns hammered at each other with a fury that spent itself only after Hearns had been saved by the protecting arms of referee Richard Steele. The fight in a ring set upon the tennis courts at Caesars Palace lasted only one second longer than eight minutes, but for those who saw it, the memory of its nonstop savagery will remain forever.”

After upsetting Hagler, Leonard waited 19 months before getting back in the ring. In November 1988, he defeated WBC light heavyweight title-holder Donny Lalonde via a ninth round TKO. The WBC also sanctioned this fight for their inaugural super middleweight title.

Leonard then faced Hearns in a rematch in June 1989 at Caesars Palace and though it was ruled a draw, many at ringside thought that Hearns, who knocked Leonard down twice, deserved the decision.

Six months later, at the Mirage in Las Vegas, Leonard met Roberto Duran in a rubber match. Leonard prevailed over Duran by unanimous decision.

There would be two more fights for Leonard before he retired from boxing for good. In February 1991 at Madison Square Garden he lost a unanimous decision to Terry Norris in a clash for the WBC junior middleweight crown.

Another retirement followed, but his career wouldn’t officially be over until March 1997 at Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, when Leonard, now 40 years old, was stopped in the fifth round by Hector Camacho with a fringe middleweight title at stake.

These last two fights were aberrations compared to Leonard’s glory days when he was the undisputed ruler of the welterweight division.

Few who watched Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler at their peaks will ever forget what they brought into the ring. No, they didn’t do it alone, but it’s unlikely anyone better than these two titans will appear any time soon.

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