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25 Years Later, Debate on Leonard-Hagler Continues ...

By April 11, 2012

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April 6 marked the 25th anniversary of the classic fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. After twelve back-and-forth rounds, Leonard was awarded a disputed 12-round split decision: 118-110 and 115-113 for Leonard and 115-113 for Hagler.

The debate over who should have gotten the decision continues to this day. Did Leonard truly do enough to win the fight and take the middleweight crown from Hagler? Or did he simply exceed expectations (remember, he came into the fight as a big underdog) and impress the judges with flashy flurries that did little damage?

Who do you think really won Leonard-Hagler? Vote in our poll.


April 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm
(1) Angelo says:

Very close, but strictly based on scoring, Leonard had a very slight edge. I give him the edge for the same reason I believe Ali beat Norton at Yankee Stadium: Ring generalship. People (mostly Ali haters) still say Norton was robbed. I’ve rewatched the fight—-Ali fought at a controlled pace, scoring with lighter punches and avoiding Norton’s best—-sometimes making Norton look amatuerish in the process. To a lesser extent, Leonard did the same to Hagler. I hated to see a long standing Champion like Hagler unseated by pitter pat punches—–but those score points and Hagler couldn’t fight his fight. Leornard won.

April 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm
(2) JDR says:

Rember it like yeterday. Leonard was far more busy.Although it was close it was the correct decision.
Duran actually deserved a decision over Hagler as well.
If they all fought in there prime Duran wins 10 out 10 times.

April 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm
(3) pantaleon says:

i thought the desicion was for Lenard although very close but he was more accurate.

April 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm
(4) Cameron Moffat says:

I felt Hagler clearly won.The 118-110 score for Leonard (if i remember correctly,the judges name was JoJo Guerrero)still blows me away!

April 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm
(5) Phil says:

I was rooting for Hagler & went to see the bout on close circuit TV in the Stanly Movie Thether on Close Circuit TV in Jersey City, NJ. I thought Leonard won then & still do now.

April 11, 2012 at 5:38 pm
(6) Jim Lassu says:

Let me just say that I loved both fighters for their personal styles and achievements. I remember that fight real well. Hagler was in it to win it by wanting to slug it out with Leonard as a boxer should and Leonard being a Mohammed ALI copycat, or a thinking boxer, ran half the time to dodge Hagler’s punches, becoming an opportunistic but acurate counter puncher. Running or hiding is NOT what I would call ring generalship, therefore I would have given the close decision to Hagler.

April 11, 2012 at 10:58 pm
(7) Luthando Wotshela says:

Come on guys this is not about who we favor but who really won. surely before you comment on this you must have seen the fight time and time and again. I still give it to Suger Ray buy a close margin. Although it was close he managed to convince the judges and most of us and if he could’nt knock him out what else could he have done

April 12, 2012 at 2:37 am
(8) phlogger says:

April 6th, 1987. Closed circuit TV on a movie theater screen. $20.00 entry fee. Not live boxing at Caesars Palace, but in my opinion the next best venue to watch the long anticipated bout aptly named “The Superfight”. A night day I surely won’t forget.
MMH is my all-time fav middleweight and fighter, but I liked SRL equally as a welter during this era. In my opinion, Ray won the fight – but only on style points. I feel that Marvin gave him way too much respect, in the same way he gave Duran too much of the same when they met.
Ray danced and ran most of the fight scoring with quick, painless shots and Hagler hurt him in the late rounds but didn’t follow thru and take him out in the typical “Destruct and Destroy” fashion that he took so many others out during his seven year tenure as Undisputed Middleweight Champ.
With that said, I’ve always wholehertedly felt that in order to beat the Undisputed titleholder, his opponent should at least knockdown or severly punish the champ to earn it, which Leonard clearly didn’t accomplish from how many of us saw it.
I lost all respect for Sugar Ray when I learned that he chickened-out by not allowing Marvin a rematch (knowing full-well Hagler would’ve severly busted him up beyond recognition and regained the title). This ultimately retired the Marvelous One.
Marvin left the sport at the top of his game with the better overall record comparatively and with dignity and class. Sugar on the other hand, relinquished any amount of class he had by the undignified crushing KO delivered at the hands of none other than the much shorter Hector “Macho” Camacho – a fighter with a low KO percentage. Go figure. Yeah, I know – Sugar was washed-up at the time. But still…a stupid move.
All I can say to Ray is, you’re shrewd yet extremely fortunate for not taking a rematch with Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He would’ve undoubtedly put you into permanent retirement long before Macho got the job.

April 14, 2012 at 2:25 am
(9) kenb. says:

I placed a bet against Mr. Hagler back in 1979 against Vito Antuofermo-I previous sae Vito fight and showed he was a tough cookie-but I never saw Mr.Hagler-up until that evening. At the end I clearly thought the Hagler won hands down but was relieved when it was called a draw-so I didn’t lose any money but learned Hagler was the best in that division and had my respect eversince-taking on every top contender and destroying them. I placed large bets on him up until the fight with Leonard. Leonard’s camp seemed to dictate where the fight was held&who the refs would be. Talking about stacking the deck-to top it off the fight rounds were reduced from 15to 12.Remember Hagler had pulled out some gutting performaces in previous fights in rounds 13-15. So now Marvin Hagler had to fight in someone’s backyard as Leonard was the Olympic champion&Wide world of sports(Ch.7 back then&Cowsell always layed on the overexgerating on the chosen Leonard as the darling of the sport, It was a fight I couldnot bet on as I felt Mr. Hagler was clearly the best but I just had the feeling-he was going to get robbed of his Title.Even in Leonardslast fight w/Hearns-again given a victory w/o winning the fight.What was Dundees’ instruction/ .for the fight-yellout 30 seconds Ray-so he could put on hid pitypat flurry of candyass punches but obviously won some of the judges

April 14, 2012 at 2:36 am
(10) kenb. says:

Marvelous Marvin Hagler walked away from the ring with dignity, whereas, Leonard- even a garbage man beat him -left the ring with No-Class, and Hector Camacho knocked him out!

April 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm
(11) old timer says:

First of all, there was only ONE Sugar Ray.

Leonard was an excellent showman with a genius for a cornerman.
Hagler was a fighter.
We found out that Leonard wasn’t a fighter in the first Duran fight.
Today, Leonard would be a good contestant in Dancing With the Stars.

April 18, 2012 at 8:25 pm
(12) johnlboc says:

Marvin Hagler Beat the crap out of Sugar Ray! Wasnt even close and I am sure Sugar knew he got his aasss whipped

April 18, 2012 at 8:26 pm
(13) johnlboc says:

Marvin Hagler Beat the crap out of Sugar Ray! Wasnt even close and I am sure Sugar knew he got his butt whipped

April 19, 2012 at 8:42 am
(14) Emmanuel Otti says:

Sugar, won the fight as you watch it back & forward but a fight with” The Beast mugabi” if Marvin would have met in as a Junior Middleweight or ” Between middlweight & Junior Middleweight-Mugabi would have beasted on hagler with both hands with no mercy at all. Cheers.

April 20, 2012 at 4:15 am
(15) John Wilkinson says:

Definitly Ray Leonard won that match! I “wished for” Hagler; Hagler –deserved it more– BASED ON THE FACT THAT HE WAS AN ACTIVE CHAMPION AND RAY WAS IN RETIREMENT SOME -YEARS- . Leonard WON AND FROM THAT TIME Line I REMEMBER THINKING IT WAS DOUBLE THE ROUNDS ON LEONARD’S PART! Sorry! Didn’t mean it to be ALL CAPITALS! “Blue colar” People will ALWAYS go for Marvin Hagler. Hagler was a truly “Great champion”. “Surprise” when Ray Leonard was able to upset him like he did! If Marvin had gotten a win in that fight it would of put him right into the Company of Monzon as a top spot guy in middlewt. div.

April 20, 2012 at 5:24 am
(16) John Wilkinson says:

Will like to -comment- further on the other comments, here!Angelo, 1ST comment -good-/ JDR (2) good. Actually you think Duran bested Hagler. wow!/ Pantaleon -check- “good”.Cameron Moffat: Hagler clearly won? Huh?/ Phil, -Exactly!-/ Jim Lassu (6), well, some people would call that “Ring Generalship” [Notice you DID see the same fight I did! ( :]/ Luthando Wotshela -check- “good”/ phlogger, start good, (“great”). yes, challenger should have ‘edge’ (-they say-). but,”severely punish”/knockdown you are using extremes, Sir! Did actually a rematch have a chance, ever? The New Ring aught explore that! &, How do you -know- Hagler could of improved? The deeper perspective is that it was anticipated that Hagler was accumilating -wear- from his title rein. & “Forget” the -loss- to Hector Camacho. It was way past the “pasteing” vs TNT Norris; plus, if you know of Camacho he had his own greatness, also. If you don’t know this, then – you are a limited -fan-. Haglers record; Leonard’s record compare. I think you are looking at only numbers -perhaps-/ Kenb: vs Vito, Marvin was “extremely favored” you are so very correct Vito a ‘very tough cookie’ (He had broncitus that bout, too..).Hearns II a -draw-. Kenb you call Hector C. a Garbage Man? I know you are not a boxer, but still.. Camacho is very distinct. He is CERTAINLY a study in & of itself. You musta came into it -AFTER- the Rosario fight when “The Macho man’ was stunned somewhat and from then forward the boxing media -always- critisized him for being an under achiever.vs LeonardCERTAINLY -WAS NOT his “Height”.Camacho was at one point a “super-star” AND a “super -performer”, too. but, he -somewhat- bottomed out. His whole career, however he was always MORE THAN STURDY!/ Old timer: where are you coming from? Leonard is unique &’great’.Bert Sugar called him one of the all -time ‘elite’. What you say about Duran-Leonard 1 makes no sense!/ Johnlboc. r i g h t!!!!!!/ Emmanuel Otti: Mugabi –FAN– certainly! ( :

April 21, 2012 at 9:01 am
(17) mike wicks says:

I always thought in a close fight the champion (rightly or wrongly) would be favoured. 118-110 was ludicrous 115-113 could have been correct either way. The fight certainly merited a return and I cant remember why this didn’t happen. Leonard was very marketable and charismatic and this probably helped to colour judgement in his fovour in a close fight. The closeness and controversy of the decision detracted from the amazing feat Leonard accomplished and even if the decision had gone to Hagler, Leonard’s effort would be what boxing history remembers.

April 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm
(18) Richie "B" says:

I have to say it was a long antisipated fight when it did happen. I still can’t get over that Sugar Ray did nothing to the Middle Champion to deserve the win. He never hurt Marvin, he ran most of the fight flashing insignificant flurries at the end of almost every round. Hagler on the other hand hurt him in the late rounds.Again, he did nothing to unseat the Champion. The fact he would give him a rematch tells the entire story. Marvin was “Robbed of his title”. Anyone who really knows boxing would say the same.

April 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm
(19) mike wicks says:

I have to disagree with Richie B’s sweeping statement “Anyone who really knows boxing” etc. There were many knowledgeable boxing people who are convinced Leonard won. This wasn’t a blatantly bad decision apart from the 118 – 110 mistake. This was how individuals see the fight. I fence sat after the fight because pre-fight I was convinced Hagler would win convincingly, certainly another three rounds would have been in Haglers favour. Hagler was the champion and as such should have dictated or argued the venue, judges, ref, duration etc but he didn’t and that was a mistake. Leonard went into the fight with the upper hand and fought on a fairly even basis. I have participated in coached and followed boxing for 60 of my 70 years and I know boxing, and I still cannot say with real conviction who won though had I been a judge it would have been a razor thin nod to Hagler.

April 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm
(20) Bubba Orr says:

I loved both fighters.I never thought SRL could beat MMH. I think SRL had the smartest corner man in the game.I do think SRL out pointed MMH. But I do NOT think SRL won the fight.
Sugar Ray Leonard sure did NOT do enough to take away Mavelous Marvin Hagler’s title.

April 28, 2012 at 9:47 am
(21) former fan says:

I was a big fan and admirer of Marvelous Marvin so my opinion is probably a little skewed. But if he had fought any other fighter that night there is no way he would have lost his title.

Yes it wasn’t his best fight and he didn’t fight very smart the whole time, but a champion of his caliber deserved to be DEFEATED not outpointed by a slickster like Leonard.

Funny, I still remember pissing off a (big) work friend of mine with my opinion. Boy did I back off quick. haha

Those were the days of boxing for me. Today it’s a joke. Just saying.

December 3, 2012 at 1:14 am
(22) kenb. says:

Comment to Mr. Wilkinson, sorry but the garbage man (who worked full-time,at that trade&boxed on the side-was not “Macho Camacho-who I always though was an entertaining fighter but lacked power. Dundee would yell out 30 seconds and leonard would looked flashy and throw out pittypunches so he pulled out the rounds impressing the deaf&blind judges as Mr. Hagler stated after the fight he never hurt me look at my face not a mark on it. In My day you really had to upset a champion to take his crown!!

December 19, 2012 at 8:33 pm
(23) Lee says:

At the time I wanted Hagler to lose. I was fed up because Marvin just steam rollered everyone. I watched the match again recently on youtube. Leonard ran in and out and did no damage. When Leonard ran in Hagler tried to catch him but failed to nail him. Leonard negotiated a big ring for a share of his ‘media darling’ purse which allowed him space to run away. Leonard completed a smash and grab victory over Hagler. He may have outpointed him with punches thrown but no way did he get close to taking the Champ’s Crown. His punches were toothless and mainly landed on Hagler’s gloves. At best Leonard could say he drew with Marvin Hagler. No way did he win that fight. As previous posters have commented, in order to win the belt, you need to win convincingly or obviously. This wasn’t convincing or obvious at all. Marvin Hagler did not lose that fight. He is a superior middleweight boxer the Ray Leonard ,who in my opinion is absolutely brilliant, but Marvin is the easily the best middleweight I’ve ever witnessed. Apparently Ray Robinson was quite good!
But no way is Leonard to be regarded by boxing historians as a better boxer than Hagler. Leonard fought half the fights, dodged loads and selected his moment when he saw an advantage. A career expedient, unlike Hagler, who like a true Champ, never said no to anyone.
If Leonard had the balls to fight Hagler before 1986 he would been knocked out within 6 rounds like the rest of the planet.
Hagler is the most accomplished fighter I have ever witnessed. Everyone, Roy Jones and Carlos Monzon included, would’ve been defeated too. And they are amazing fighters in my judgment.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler is the greatest middleweight. I bet in his prime he would have beaten Robinson too. Invincible Marvin, Never knocked over (except by a push), never mind knocked out, only ever robbed on dodgy points decision, in morally biased social circumstances.

January 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm
(24) Claude Gibson says:

wish Hagler would stop complaining 25 yrs later…Leonard won fair and square

January 12, 2013 at 10:37 am
(25) Cy says:

Hagler 115-113. Not sure what was up with Marvin that day….but something else was on his mind. He was older and slower for sure, but fighting cautiously gave Ray the start he needed. That being said, I scored rounds 5-10 all to MMH….giving him enough rounds on my card to retain his title. Leonard was fighting in spurts and held after every initiated exchange. Ray fought well in Marvin’s big rounds (5 and 9) and was more impressive in those rounds then the rounds he clearly won (1 or 2). Quite and event for sure, MMH didn’t handle the verdict well and it still bothers him most likely. But the decision wasn’t Ray’s fault and boxing cautiously wasn’t Goody or Pat’s plan…he supposed to go to the body attack and he didn’t. He stood straight up and boxed Ray for most of the first two rounds. Setting himself up for the disappointment of losing that night.

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