Boxing's Fab Four Part Five: Hagler Vs Duran
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
10th November 1983, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Undisputed Middleweight Title
Marvelous Marvin Hagler Vs Roberto Duran
Marvin Hagler won seventeen contests in a row, before picking up his first blemish in November 1974; a draw against the 1972 Olympic champion, Sugar Ray Seales, who Hagler outpointed to inflict the first defeat on his record three months previously.
In January 1976 Hagler travelled to the tough city of Philadelphia and suffered his first defeat to Bobby 'Boogaloo' Watts. The loss was controversial and many deemed Hagler to have been robbed. Two months later he was back in Philadelphia, losing on points again to another local fighter Willie 'The Worm' Monroe. This time there was no robbery and Hagler's credentials as a serious contender took a massive dent.
Hagler kept winning and beat Monroe twice on stoppage defeats. His third fight with Seales ended by a first round TKO and many people sat up and took notice of the man from Boston as he challenged the Italian-American Vito Antuofermo for the undisputed middleweight title on 30th November 1979.
With the challenger boxing superbly in the first half of the fight, the ragged New Yorker got his brawling style to work in the second part of the contest to retain his belts with a controversial draw. Hagler had to play the waiting game again, but in the process gained revenge over Bobby Watts with a second round TKO victory.
Hagler got his second crack at the world title in Wembley Arena, London, against local man Alan Minter on 27th September 1980. The challenger made no mistake this time around and cut the champion to ribbons as he finally became world champion after seven years as a pro.
Ugly scenes marred his victory as drunken and racist scenes of yob-ism engulfed the arena that put British boxing to shame. Hagler had to be escorted out of the ring by police as beer bottles and other debris were hurled into the ring. The new champion stated that he would never fight in London again.
Before facing off against Roberto Duran, Hagler was on an amazing world championship run of eight stoppage wins in a row, including a fourth round retirement, on cuts, against ex-champ Vito Antuofermo.
Since losing his WBC welterweight crown to 'Sugar' Ray Leonard in the infamous 'No Mas' bout, Duran campaigned as a light-middleweight and challenged Wilfred Benitez for the WBC light-middleweight championship. The champion retained his crown with a fifteen round unanimous decision.
Eight months later Duran returned to action and dropped a shock ten round decision to Kirkland Laing and it looked like his career at the highest level was over, but a good win over former WBA welterweight champion Pipino Cuevas earned him a shot at WBA light-middleweight champion Davey Moore.
Moore was only 12-0 and against Duran was making his fourth defence. The challenger went on the attack from the get-go and became a three weight world champion with an eighth round stoppage. The victory set up the clash with Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
The first round was a mere feeling each other out process. Hagler would work behind his right lead whilst the challenger attacked the body. There was nothing between them as the gong of the bell echoed around the arena.
Hagler continued to work behind his southpaw jab and surprisingly did the better work on the inside, where Duran was expected to be more dominant. Every time the challenger had any success it was cheered appreciatively by the crowd.
The unexpected chess match continued in the third. The challenger's right hand was coming up short, but the crowd were cheering as if it landed. Hagler stayed on the outside, giving Duran's power the upmost respect. Towards the end of the round both men had successes with their own flurries.
Hagler was told there was no need to knockout Duran during the minute break, "That's not the name of the game," said Goody Petronelli. Both men met each other in the ring's centre and traded shots, then Hagler heeded the advice of his corner and got back to his boxing.
Duran was forced to feint, trying to find openings. He did land a right hand right on the button, but the champion wasn't fazed. The challenger definitely had the crowd on his side as they continued to loudly chant his name.
The champion switched between southpaw and orthodox a lot in the fifth round for the first time in the contest. His defensive boxing offered an elusive target for the Panamanian. They traded body blows and Duran found Hagler's chin with a right just before the bell, but it had no effect on him, as Hagler's superior boxing won him the round.
The fight began to hot up in the sixth. A left from Hagler made Duran lose his footing, he wasn't hurt and he shook his head at the champion to express he wasn't. The smaller man then bulled forward to try and impose his will on the natural middleweight.
Hagler, constantly switching, seemed to shift through the gears and stood his ground and backed Duran up with some meaty shots, landing lefts and rights as he pleased. It looked like the natural power of the champion would make the man from Panama wilt, but Duran was made of strong stuff as he made it to the bell.
The champion couldn't wait for round seven to start. He was on his feet, tapping his gloves, telling Duran to get up, as he was still on his stool, gaining valuable seconds of rest. The bell dinged and Hagler landed a right from the orthodox stance, then reverted back to southpaw.
He was landing crisp punches and Duran started firing his jab and Hagler complained that he was being thumbed. Duran just sneered as they exchanged shots, with the champion looking the more dominant.
The eighth proved to be a quieter round, both men didn't land a clean shot but that was probably due to the defensive abilities of them. Duran was rolling with Hagler's punches, taking the sting out of them as the champion kept blocking the challenger's right. Hagler fired in two hurtful right jabs as the bell rang and referee Stanley Chrisdodoulo jumped in between them as Duran went to push the title holder.
The challenger came out flat-footed in the ninth as he looked to mix things up. Hagler out-worked his man and continued to punish Duran's body. Anything that landed from the Panamanian didn't bother the naturally bigger man, but Duran's chin was also not severely bothered by the punches he took either.
They stood in the centre of the ring and exchanged body blows in round ten. Duran's pace had dropped significantly, but he was quite happy to trade. The challenger was still in the contest, but his rights to the head were having little affect on the champion, who was still the busier of the two. At the bell the Panamanian gave Hagler an icy stare from his dark eyes.
It was the first time since Hagler defended his crown against Mustafa Hamsho in October 1981 that he entered the eleventh round. The champion also changed his tactics, instead of taking the fight to Duran like he had been doing, Hagler got on his bicycle. The crowd let their frustrations out with jeers, as it appeared the champion was letting a fatigued challenger off the hook. Both men didn't let their hands go, but the the challenger was coming forward behind his jab, trying to walk down the dancing champion.
In round twelve the dancing stopped and Hagler came out punching. Duran, always looking for a tear-up obliged and even though he took his fair share of leather, he probably had his best round yet. Hagler was beginning to look tired and his left eye was swollen.
Round thirteen was a round of two halves; Hagler won the first 90 seconds but Duran definitely won the last. Going back to their corners Duran was a point up on two of the judge's card and even on the other. All the challenger needed to do was win one of the remaining rounds on the two judges who had him in front and he'd add the undisputed middleweight crown to his WBA light-middleweight title.
The champion dispelled any concerns that he was severely fatigued in the previous round as he came out punching in the fourteenth. He worked well on the inside and backed the tough Panamanian back. Duran stuck out his chin and showed the champion his mouth-piece in an attempt to intimidate the champion, but Hagler just went about his work and dominated the round. Hagler sustained a cut left eyebrow, but it didn't deter him from the job in hand.
The referee brought them together to touch gloves to start the final round. Duran gestured to his chest in a come to me motion. Hagler obliged and hardly took a backwards step as he let the leather fly. The challenger had some success, but he was being out-punched five-to-one. They traded punches in the last 30 seconds and there was no exchange of pleasantries at the finish.
Hagler had been taken to points for the first time in his championship reign. Judge Guy Jutras had it 144-142, Yusaka Yoshida and Ove Ovesen both scored it by a round 146-145 and 144-143 respectively, meaning Marvelous Marvin Hagler kept his three belts by the closest of unanimous decisions.
"It seemed everybody was disappointed that I didn't knock him out. I felt that way myself. But he wasn't that vulnerable to a knockout. It was hard to hit him with a solid punch," conceded the champion who also admitted his cut eye had been an old wound from two contests ago. "You don't barrel in there on a guy like Roberto Duran. Why take unnecessary punishment unless you have to? I'd been effective and was winning the fight, so it isn't like I had to go in there and take punishment to bomb him out."
"He came to tear my head off, but when he saw that I could hit him hard, with strength, he got scared and became coward. That's why he didn't take too many chances and mix it up with me," stated Duran. "Everyone was saying he was a destroyer, but when he hit me, he didn't do anything to me. His punches absolutely did me no damage. He got scared every time he threw a jab because I could get my right in under it. That's why he held off so much."
Even though Duran lost, he came out of the contest with his image enhanced and looked forward to another big payday in a unification match with WBC light-middleweight champion Thomas Hearns. The champion, whose reputation had been tarnished for going the distance with Duran, had no other big names to look forward to as the mediocre middleweight challengers lined up to wait their turn to get a shot at the undisputed champion.
All the best fight fans