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FANTASY FIGHTS: Marvin Halger v Roy Jones Jr

by Cain Bradley

Marvin Hagler was born in Newark in 1954. At the age of 13, following riots in Newark, his family moved to Brockton, Massachusetts. It was there he would begin boxing at the age of 15. After only four years as an amateur boxer he became the National AAU champion. His record according to Sports Illustrated would end at 52-2.

His first coaches Pat and Goody Petronelli would become his trainers and managers throughout his entire career. This was one of numerous things that Hagler would keep the same throughout his professional career. Unlike many of his peers, he would have no entourage and even carried his own bags. He spent his time in Massachusetts and trained in army boots as he described running shoes for “sissies.”

Hagler would have two main motivators throughout his career. The first was the poverty he was born into. Marvin fought in order to make his way into prosperity. It was the reason he turned professional when he did and can be seen as a motivator throughout his career.

As well as this, Hagler always felt he was given a lack of respect throughout his career. He reportedly remained angry at a Sugar Ray Leonard who earned $40,000 for his debut compared to the $40 that Hagler received. This feeling was amplified throughout his career as Hagler saw himself on the wrong end of disputed decisions and was avoided at all costs by numerous fighters.

He was told as a young boxer by Joe Frazier that he had three strikes against him; he was black, he was a southpaw, and he was good. He also felt this lack of respect when he was not referred to as “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. This irked him so much he had the name legally changed. Marvin would always resent this lack of respect and the feeling he was never truly given the credit he deserved managed to push him onto greater things. 

His first two years would see Hagler take on 23 bouts. In his 15th he would hand the first loss to Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales. The second bout between the pair would be a draw. After his 25th fight he would head to Philadelphia to fight the hometown boy Bobby Watts. He would lose a disputed decision and the promoter J. Russell Peltz would apologize to the Hagler team.

Two months later after defeating Matt Donovan he would return to Philadelphia and lose to Willie Monroe on two week’s notice. This would be avenged with two stoppage defeats, the first in 12 rounds and then in the 2nd round. After 20 consecutive wins Hagler would get his world title shot against the Vito Antuofermo. Hagler would outbox the Italian brawler with the referee Mills Lane congratulating him and telling him to face the cameras until they announced him the winner.

Unfortunately for Marvin Hagler, it would result in a draw which saw Antuofermo retain the title. He would get another shot, after three more wins including one over Bobby Watts. The shot would come against Alan Minter, who Hagler would dominate in three rounds. He would go on to defend this title 12 times including a win over Antuofermo. He would also earn his first $1million purse defeating southpaw Mustafa Hamsho in 11. Hagler defeated Panamanian Roberto Duran in a hard-fought decision. He would stop his next four opponents, Juan Roldon in 10, Mustafa Hamsho in three, Thomas Hearns in three, and John Mugabi in 11. The Hearns fight is generally known as “The War,” lasting eight minutes and generally described as one of the greatest fights of all time. His final fight would be against a returning Sugar Ray Leonard where he lost another split decision. Hagler would never return to the ring. His final record would stand at 62-3-2 with 52 KOs. 

Hagler was a right-handed southpaw which meant he had a sledgehammer of a jab. He could also switch to orthodox comfortably, a tactic he employed against Sugar Ray Leonard. Despite not being a tall fighter at 5’9 he had long arms with an incredible reach of 75 inches. He was commonly described as a boxer-puncher who really had it all.

He could counter-punch, wear his opponents down with big combos and brawl with anyone. Leonard commented after the first Hamsho fight that he never realized Hagler could box too. He could box at distance or use feints to lure his opponent into making mistakes. His lateral movement, especially against an orthodox boxer where his style would move him away from the powerful right hand, was brilliant. He had one of the best chins in boxing history, being knocked down only once. This would come against Juan Roldon and replays would show it to not be a punch but a slip. The end of his career would see Hagler move from a slick boxer-puncher into more of a flat-footed stalker with heavy hands. It could also be argued he lacked the speed of a Sugar Ray Leonard or a Tommy Hearns and was too machined in the ring rather than being spontaneous. 

Roy Jones never suffered the lack of acceptance that made Hagler bitter throughout his career. He was born in January 1969 and raised in Florida. He was raised for boxing success, taught by his father, Roy Sr.

His father was tough on young Roy and their relationship was forever tainted by this. Roy Sr. would drop to his knees and box his young son as well as using pipe on his thighs if he got out of line in a workout. Senior described this as training but Roy Jr. never forgot the torment and when his Dad shot Roy’s beloved pit bull the relationship broke down, with neither speaking to the other for years.

He was a decorated amateur and a two time Golden Gloves winner, the first win coming at the age of 17. At the 1988 Olympics he competed at the tender age of 19. He would shine throughout the tournament, but in the final would come up against Park Si-Hun the hometown fighter. He would outland Park by over 50 and out throw him by over 100. Despite this he lost the decision 3-2. One judge reportedly said afterwards he was so sure Jones had won he gave Park his scorecard so to not embarrass the home nation. Despite this loss Jones would win the Val Barker trophy. His final amateur record was 121-13.

Despite the incredible start to his career Jones was promoted by his Dad in his early fights. He missed out on the chance to be on network TV and earn the huge sums of money that someone like Sugar Ray Leonard did early in his career. Despite this, Jones would start his career flawlessly with 15 stoppages.

He would stop the former world champion Jorge Vaca in the first round and after 21 wins he would fight Bernard Hopkins for the vacant IBF title. Despite being hindered by a broken hand Roy would cruise to an easy decision win. In his next fight he would stop Sugar Boy Malinga in six rounds. He would step up to super middleweight to face the pound-for-pound number two James Toney. Roy was an underdog for the first time in his career but he danced circles around James with The Ring calling it the best performance in a big fight for 20 years.

His reign at super middleweight included a win over Vinny Pazienza before moving up again to light heavyweight. He would win the WBC title by beating Mike McCallum in a lopsided decision. His next fight would be against Montell Griffin who planned the exploit the technical mistakes Jones often made. He made it tough for Jones but Roy had edged ahead by the ninth round. It was here he dropped Griffin but would land two shots on his downed opponent.

This would led to the first loss of his career as he was disqualified. His next fight was a rematch and Jones was irrepressible, stopping Griffin in one round. He would unify the WBC, WBA and IBF belts beating Virgil Hill, Lou Del Valle, Reggie Johnson and Clinton Woods along the way. He decided he needed a bigger challenge, literally, so moved up to heavyweight and would take the title of John Ruiz to become the first middleweight world champion to become a heavyweight world champion in over 100 years.

He returned to light heavyweight noticeably slower and he embarked on a slow decline. He would edge Antonio Tarver for a decision win but would then lose three in a row as Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson both stopped Jones before Antonio Tarver put an exclamation mark on the trilogy with a decision win. He would defeat Felix Trinidad at 170 pounds but a loss to Joe Calzaghe put the end to Jones being thought of as a top class boxer. His career would continue with losses including Danny Green, Bernard Hopkins and Dennis Lebedev. He last fought in March to take his record to 61-8. 

Roy Jones was one of a kind. He was gifted with incredible speed and power which he used to make himself one of the most difficult fighters to beat. His style would possibly be best described as a sniper. He was incredibly smart and his judgment and range was exceptional. The majority of his punches would be described as methodical potshots. He had a low jab output but had an amazing ability to land against a set defender. His catalogue of punches including a windmilling right hand, gazelle punches and long loopy jumping shots. He would often lead with his right and sidestep left away from the southpaw power left. His right hand was one of the fastest punches in history and he was constantly set for it with his right shoulder level with the front and the early twist of his feet and hips. His left hand would be held down by his side and Jones would often stick his chin out. He varied his tricks and counters and was an incredibly elusive fighter.

Opponents found Roy Jones incredibly frustrating and this frustration often played right into his hands. He could land exceptional counters with his split second reactions. Roy was big at middleweight at 5’11 with a reach of 74 inches and often entered the ring as high as 180 pounds. 

Hagler was probably at his best around the time of his fight with Hearns. He had not sustained the damage from that war and still had his abilities to do it all. Jones may have reached the pinnacle of his career at a higher weight, but at middleweight and then super middleweight came arguably the best Roy Jones. The Jones that fought Toney still had the ability to easily make middleweight and it was one of his best performances. 

At middleweight there is really no blueprint on how to beat either. Against Hagler the trick seemed to be the judges, as he often lost close decisions. In theory Hagler struggled when he had to force the action especially against someone with good footwork. Jones did not only lose following his move to light heavyweight. Of the five losses that could be described as Jones at a decent loss two were stoppages, a disqualification and a points defeat.

It was hard to question his chin, the first time he was ever dropped was at super middleweight and big punchers like James Toney did not manage it. Two of his defeats did come to a southpaw in Antonio Tarver and he was dropped by Lou De Valle. Fighting a southpaw tends to eliminate the leaping right hand because of the danger of their left. In theory Roy would struggle with a high volume swarmer with a strong chin or someone who would wait for Roy to throw and use a tight guard. Jones would likely fight the same way he fought Toney, avoiding shots and potshotting. He stayed away from Toney well aware of his devastating power, similar to that of Hagler. Hagler has more in his arsenal but his decisions prior to the fight would be interesting. Hagler was at his best against a fighter coming at him, but surely he couldn’t expect to have enough patience to make Roy come in for exchanges. Would he approach it like he did the Hearns fight, against a quick powerful puncher, know he can outlast and outpunch Jones? I expect Hagler to start a lot slower, perhaps hoping Jones would come to him but his ability to adapt during the fight means it’s always a possibility. 

The fight would no doubt be an incredible spectacle. A timid first round sees Hagler try and draw out Jones but Jones is happy to land a shot and move. With the reach of Hagler, Roy has a tough time landing his potshots but his use of head movement and feints is so good, he can tempt Hagler into mistakes. His lateral movement leaves Hagler struggling to engage.

The second round sees a similar pattern as Jones tries to stay away from Hagler. Hagler is more willing to press the action and he gets the jab off more often but can only land one punch rather than combos. Jones lands a big leaping left hook that hits clean on Hagler but Hagler barely moves.

This pattern continues over the third and fourth but Roy is increasingly backed into corners and put under pressure by Hagler. The impressive lateral movement comes into play for Hagler as he avoids letting Roy off the ropes.

Hagler turns it up heading into the fifth round and manages to get on top of Roy in the corner. He has also managed to time Roy a bit better and by this point is making Roy miss and punishing him. The sixth round sees Hagler drop Jones with a double jab-left combination.

Hagler relentlessly stalks Roy for the rest of the round but cannot put him away. The seventh round sees a faded and cut Roy come out to the middle of the ring and look to land on Hagler. Hagler enjoys this and makes Roy miss before returning big shots which again drop Roy. Roy gets up slowly and tries to avoid the wrath of Hagler but Hagler is so relentless that he finds the chin of Jones and finally stops him midway through the seventh round. 

Marvin Hagler defeats Roy Jones Jr. by Knockout in the Seventh Round.


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