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30 Years Later We Appreciate How Hagler And Hearns Elevated Each Other

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It was early spring of 1985.

Larry Holmes was undefeated and considered the baddest heavyweight in the world.

Mike Tyson was 2-0 as a pro.

Michael Spinks was the undefeated/undisputed light heavyweight champ.

Sugar Ray Leonard was 11 months removed from his latest comeback fight.

Marvin Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champ and very disappointed that Leonard retired after beating Kevin Howard in his last fight.

Thomas Hearns was the WBC junior middleweight title holder and was lobbying for a fight with Hagler.

In 1985 boxing was thriving. Khaosai Galaxy was the man at junior bantamweight. Jeff Fenech, Daniel Zaragoza and Richie Sandoval were fighting it out at bantamweight. Juan Meza and Lupe Pintor were title holders at junior featherweight. Eusebio Pedroza, Azumah Nelson and Barry McGuigan were passing the title back and forth at featherweight. Julio Cesar Chavez, Rocky Lockridge and Wilfredo Gomez were title holders at junior lightweight. Hector Camacho, Livingstone Bramble and Jose Luis Ramirez were the top lightweights. Aaron Pryor was the king at junior welterweight and Donald Curry was going through the welterweight division like a hot knife through butter and would be the undisputed champ by year’s end.

Today, professional boxing is driven by the so-called must see fights that do nothing to enhance the sport usually headlined by Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, available only via PPV.

In 1985 there was only one PPV bout, Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns on April 15th for the undisputed middleweight championship (a fight that was originally scheduled for May of 1982. However, Hearns hurt his right hand and the fight was cancelled and never rescheduled, much to Hagler’s dismay, though they tangled in 1985).

At the time due to Sugar Ray Leonard’s retirement, Hagler 62-2-2 (50) and Hearns 40-1 (34) were the two biggest pound-for-pound stars in boxing. Both had their eyes on Leonard, who was either starting or squashing rumors that he was returning to the ring. Hearns felt that he had Leonard beat when they fought in their 1981 unification showdown before being stopped in the 14th round, and was trying to goad him into a rematch. Hagler felt stood up at the altar when Leonard invited him to his special dinner “A Night With Sugar Ray Leonard” in November of 1982, then looked Marvin in the eye and said that a fight between them is never going to happen.

Hagler smiled and kept churning along and beating every middleweight in the world who was qualified to fight him, and doing so in a convincing fashion. But Marvin was always griping about how much money Leonard made and often spewed he just wanted some of it and only fighting Leonard could bring it to him. At the time Hagler hadn’t lost in nine years and avenged the only two losses on his record by stopping the perennial Philadelphia contenders who beat him, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts and Willie “The Worm” Monroe. Hearns was 8-0 since losing to Leonard and 10 months before fighting Hagler, knocked out Roberto Duran face first for the count, the same Duran who seven months earlier had gone 15 full rounds with Hagler for the middleweight title and was never hurt or in trouble once during the bout.

With Leonard on the sideline and working for HBO as color analyst, Hagler and Hearns was the next biggest fight that could be made. Hearns, 26, figuring that he was never going to get a rematch with Leonard, rationalized that beating Hagler would quell the sting he carried with him after losing to him.

As for Hagler, 30, the closest he’d ever been to a super fight was his battle against Duran a year and a half earlier. And in the eyes of the public, Marvin underperformed because he had to rally back during the last third of the fight to secure the decision victory he rightly earned. In the back of Hagler’s mind he had to take Hearns out faster and more impressively than Leonard did because everybody was using Duran as the measuring stick to compare him with Hearns. And Hearns never let Hagler forget during their press tour that he devastated Duran in two rounds with one punch, whereas Marvin had to go the full route with the former lightweight and welterweight champ. Which led many to speculate and believe that the matured Hearns would be too much for even a monster like Hagler.

The disdain between Hagler and Hearns was real and they almost came to blows more than once during the press tour to promote the fight. Hearns repeatedly called the 5’9″ Hagler a midget, and Hagler reciprocated, labeling the 6’1″ Hearns a freak. As the fight grew near the fighters personalities changed. Hagler closed his workouts and was very secretive and appeared uptight, whereas Hearns trained in front of the public and mixed with the crowd after his workouts. A confident Hearns quit sparring almost a week prior to the fight opposed to Hagler, who sparred as recently as two days before the bout.

The goal for Hearns going into the bout was to keep Hagler at the end of his long left jab and in line for his right hand that carried fight ending/altering power with one clean connect. For Hagler, he knew that allowing Hearns the distance to set up his right hand was the last thing he could do. Marvin was cognizant that he had to smother Hearns and force him to rush his right hand and not allow him to set it up. Hearns was a fighter who could really box and punch, and sometimes came out fast and sought the early knockout. That wasn’t Hagler; as champion he only won inside of three rounds three times in 10 title defenses before defending against Hearns. Hagler opened as a 13-10 favorite but a lot of late Detroit money came in and by the day of the fight Hagler was a 6-5 favorite.

Right before the bell sounded for the first round HBO’s Larry Merchant said, “Hagler is the strongest fighter Hearns has ever fought. Hearns is the best fighter Hagler has ever fought. We’re here to get the answers.”

During the pre-fight, Hagler proclaimed the fight “WAR” and that’s just what it was. Hagler started uncharacteristically fast against Hearns and forced the action with the first punch he threw. There was no feeling out process and he never gave Hearns a chance to box. Within the first seconds of the fight Hagler and Hearns were exchanging their Sunday best punches, and in the very early going Hearns really shook Hagler. However, Marvin had an all-world chin and Hearns fractured his right hand on Hagler’s head. They exchanged bombs for the entire first round, a round that many feel was/is the most exciting three minutes in boxing history, and it could’ve been scored for either fighter.

If you were a fan of Hearns you had to feel uneasy going into the second round because he nailed Hagler with the same right hand that pulverized Pipino Cuevas, Roberto Duran and changed the geography of Sugar Ray Leonard’s cheek and eye socket, and Hagler was still coming at him as if nothing happened. In the other corner if you were rooting for Hagler, you had to feel pretty good knowing that Hearns couldn’t hit him any harder than he already did and it wasn’t like Hearns was going to grow stronger as the fight progressed.

The intense pace resumed in the second round with Hagler still forcing the action and Hearns looking to find the time and space to launch a fight changing right hand with the hopes of impeding Hagler’s aggression, but it never happened. Tommy got off with some good right hands but he was usually off balance because of the non-stop pressure he was under. By the end of the second round Hagler looked strong and Hearns seemed to be running out of steam. In the third round Hagler went right at Hearns as he did in the previous two rounds, but the fight was briefly stopped because of a cut he sustained in the first round. When the ring doctor allowed the fight to continue Hagler went at Hearns as if living meant knocking him out and dying would be having the fight stopped because of the cut and losing. Hagler unloaded everything he had and knocked Hearns out at 1:52 of the third round.

This was Hagler’s finest hour as a pro and the showing had many observers saying “Sugar Who?” Today, 30 years later, everyone who saw the fight can recall it as if it were yesterday. The result boosted Marvin’s reputation as a destroyer and forced some to think of Hearns as not being durable, but neither is the least bit accurate. Don’t forget, Hagler had to hit Hearns with his Sunday best punch over a hundred times before he broke him, and Hearns took over a hundred of Hagler’s best punches–in three rounds!– before he went down just as many other greats would’ve. That’s hardly a guy who is not durable.

After the fight, Jerry Izenberg of the Newark Star Ledger summed it up best, saying, “What Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns fashioned here will make it forever impossible for anyone who saw it to call one’s name without thinking of the other.” And oh how right he was, both Hagler and Hearns were elevated by their historic “WAR” 30 years ago this April 15th, 2015.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans

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Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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