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Bob Arum Looks Back At Leonard vs. Hagler 30 Years Later

With the 30th anniversary of The SuperFight: Hagler vs. Leonard just days away on April 6, Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum looked back at one of boxing's most spectacular events.

He shared his experiences of that promotion with undefeated WBO world champions Óscar Valdez, Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez and Jessie Magdaleno, as well as 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson, who are headlining an exciting world championship tripleheader, and Stevenson's pro debut, which will take place on Saturday, April 22, under the stars at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. It will be produced and distributed live on pay-per-view.

In turn, each fighter and his respective trainer took a break from training to watch a clean tape of the fight, minus audio and graphics, and score it. The fighters shared their views on the fight as well.

Bob Arum: You are going to be hearing from these great young fighters that after reviewing the tape of the Hagler-Leonard fight will give you their opinions on who won the fight based on what they saw from the telecast which was given to them without any sound or graphics on it.

Top Rank promoted that fight, which took place on April 6, thirty years ago, before any of these men were born and it was a momentous event in the world of boxing. I want to set the scene for that event particularly for the younger people who may not be aware.

The scene was very important. Marvelous Marvin Hagler had come up the hard way in boxing. He had never been to the Olympics and he fought any fighter that would step in the ring with him. He’d have to go from Boston to Philadelphia and other places to find opponents who would fight him.

Through intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neil and Senator Ted Kennedy who sent letters to various people, including myself at Top Rank, they forced everyone to give Marvelous Marvin Hagler a shot at the middleweight title.

His first shot, I thought he clearly won the fight against Vito Antifermo, but the judges scored it a draw. A year later he fought Alan Minter over in London and stopped Minter in the early rounds, bloodying him so much that the fight had to be stopped. Marvin was greeted by the great sportsmen in England by a barrage of bottles and cans so that everybody had to hide under the ring until the police were ready to restore order.

But [Hagler] came back to the United States a real hero then he embarked on a streak of defending his middleweight title. His first big fight was in 1983 against Roberto Duran and then in ’85 in a major, major event he and Thomas Hearns fought a great middleweight championship battle and Marvin knocked Tommy out in the third round.

Marvin wanted to retire from boxing at that point but his managers and myself as the promoter convinced him to carry on and in 1986 he fought John “The Beast” Mugabi and Mugabi was a tough hard-punching guy, they went toe-to-toe and in the eleventh round, Marvin knocked Mugabi out.

Ray Leonard had been retired for a number of years and he had been watching that fight and he saw what very few people saw – that Marvin was aging, he was slowing up and Ray, even though he was retired, felt he could come back and take on Hagler.

When he announced that he was coming out of retirement, people were incredulous. Hagler went off as a 6:1 or 7:1 favorite in the fight because Leonard was retired and Hagler was this dominant champion – nobody gave Leonard a chance.

To put it in perspective, remember the media frenzy when Manny Pacquiao fought Oscar De La Hoya? All of the media people were saying what a mismatch it was and De La Hoya was an overwhelming favorite.

We remember, because it was fairly recent, what happened in that fight, Pacquiao dominated and won that fight, but the feeling was the same going into the Hagler-Leonard fight. Ray Leonard was a great fighter, retired, and then coming out of retirement against this dominant middleweight, Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

The country was mesmerized. Ray Leonard was extremely popular – he was the poster boy for boxing. I hope that young Shakur Stevenson will follow in the footsteps of Ray Leonard because he has that kind of personality, but Ray was the darling of America and the darling of boxing.

Marvin was respected – everybody realized what a workman-like fighter he was. To sell that fight I called it ‘The Yuppie’ being Leonard who came out of the Olympics with a Gold Medal and had big television exposure from the beginning against the blue collar guy Marvin Hagler who had worked himself up and become the dominant middleweight of his time.

The closed circuit locations were filled. This was the first fight that really touched/started into pay-per-view in various parts of the country. It was a massive, massive event. The fight was sold out in one day and everyone was gathered for this terrific event.

I’ll tell you I haven’t seen that fight in 30 years but I remember it as if it happened yesterday. We will talk to the fighters on the call that recently watched the fight and get their views.

Óscar Valdez, Undefeated WBO Featherweight Champion who defends his title against the No. 1 contender, Miguel Marriaga on Saturday, April 22, at StubHub Center, Live on Pay Per View:

“First of all I want to say it was a great, great fight. I saw the fight when I was a kid because my dad always showed me tapes of the fights. Watching without the audio I thought that Hagler was the more aggressive fighter. Leonard was moving a lot in the early rounds but was trying to win the later rounds with that speed. I think Hagler did enough to win the fight and I had him winning 115-113.”

Gilberto Ramirez: Undefeated WBO Super Middleweight Champion, defends his title against top ten contender Max Bursack, also on April 22, live on pay per view:

“That was really interesting and a great fight to watch – for me, for my trainer Hector [Zapari] and for the whole team – we watched the fight together. For me, I had Sugar Ray Leonard by three rounds because at the beginning of the fight Hagler pressured more but he looked a little bit tired later - he fought the whole fight going forward. I thought Leonard won the fight because he moved around the ring and he threw more punches.”

Jessie Magdaleno: Undefeated WBO Junior Featherweight Champion defends his title against Adeilson De Los Santos on the April 22 pay per view show at StubHub Center:

"I scored the fight real close. It was a great fight. They both did a tremendous job and they went in there to pretty much kill each other, but I scored the fight 115-113 for Leonard. I thought Leonard controlled most of the fight. He never let Hagler get in the rhythm or get inside like Hagler usually does to use his power. Leonard really out-boxed him for the full 12-rounds and used his smarts, speed and footwork to keep Hagler away and that’s what got the victory for him."

Shakur Stevenson: 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist, makes his pro debut in a six-round featherweight bout on April 22, live on pay per view:

"I would love to say that I thought Marvin Hagler won because he was from my hometown [Newark], but to be honest, watching the fight and watching Sugar Ray Leonard – Leonard was a beast. I had it 115-113, but Leonard was real good especially coming out of retirement."

Bob Arum: I thought it was a great fight. I thought Ray did a tremendous job, better than anybody expected him to do. I had it 115-113 for Marvelous Marvin Hagler. The same score that Lou Felippo – one of the judges had it for Hagler. The other judge from Las Vegas, David Moretti, had it 115-113 for Leonard. Jose Sulaiman’s appointed judge, Jo Jo Guerrero, who never judged another fight, had it eleven rounds to one for Leonard.

Many people thought Ray was stealing rounds with flurries at the end – did you see that?

Arum: Absolutely, but that was not a unique tactic for Sugar Ray and it was modeled after Muhammad Ali. Very often, in close rounds, particularly in the Norton fight, he would flurry at the end so that the impression he left in the judges’ minds was that he won the round. Obviously rounds should be scored for the full three minutes but there is no questions that human beings being human will give more credit for the last part of a round – not that that’s correct, but that’s how it works.

That pretty much tells the story of Sugar Ray’s smarts in the ring.

Arum: He was a brilliant fighter, because physically he couldn’t compare. at that point, to Hagler.

Did they not really like each other?

Arum: No. No No. Marvin could not do a fight unless he got himself into a position where he disliked the opponent. He would put a picture of his opponent up on his bedroom wall so that he would glare back at it. To motivate himself he was the kind of fighter that had to create a dislike for his opponent. Now the guy he really hated, when he fought him, was Hearns.

Because when we had them on a tour, Tommy got under Marvin’s skin. But Marvin was disdainful toward Ray because he believed Ray had it so easy in boxing and that he, Marvin, had struggled so hard, but it wasn’t the same kind of hatred that he had for Tommy. I must say that now, many years later, these guys are great friends.

Why did Hagler quit after the fight?

Arum: Well, he wanted to quit after the Hearns fight - and I want these fighters to hear this. Then we got him to fight Mugabi, then he didn’t want to go any more – he didn’t want to fight Ray Leonard and what happened was, I remember driving through the night with Pat Petronelli, Hagler’s manager, from Boston to New Hampshire where Hagler had a house. We went through fog and everything. I waited and Pat started talking to him and Marvin was banging his hands on the table and afterwards I asked Pat ‘what was that about?’

He said well, I said to Marvin, my brother Goody, who is Hagler’s trainer, we were getting a third of his purse, and we would cut it down if he would take this fight, and he banged the table, Marvin did and said ‘I don’t know if I’m going to fight this punk, but if I do you better take one third.’ He was a hell of a guy, Marvin – he is a hell of a guy. Ray was great too. Ray, Tommy, Roberto – those four guys are examples for all fighters. They were terrific fighters and terrific people.

Shakur, how are you looking to make your pro debut?

Shakur Stevenson: I am very excited and I can’t wait. I feel like I perform under the lights and I am actually excited to perform on April 22 and do what I’ve got to do.

Ray Leonard was not only a great boxer but also a pretty good showman. Do you pattern yourself after him?

Stevenson: Actually, to be honest with you, I just started watching Ray Leonard. As I am watching, and watching more and more, I try and pick up certain things that he does and trying to add that into my style.

Any regrets about not making your debut in Newark?

Stevenson:

No regrets. I don’t care where I am at. I am a fighter and I am going to fight either way.

Bob, what do you think about Shakur’s prospects?

Arum: I think that Shakur is going to be a major star in boxing. He has the talent and he has the personality and he is managed by good people – James Prince and Andre Ward. I think the sky is the limit for him. I am really proud of this April 22nd card - introducing Shakur to professional boxing and to have my three great young world champions defending their titles.

These three young kids, relatively young, Oscar, Gilberto and Jessie are tremendous young men and great fighters. They works their asses off – they really work hard. They are great role models now that they have been fighting for four or more years now. They are great role models for Shakur. We are looking for big things for all of them and as far as Shakur is concerned, I think he should emulate a guy like Sugar Ray Leonard, who was a great personality, as well as a great fighter.

Ray had an outgoing personality and a million dollar smile to match. How was Hagler?

Arum: Hagler was the polar opposite. He was relatively introverted. He didn’t show his emotions particularly but I got to know him over the years extraordinarily well and he was a real man and he was the kind of guy that if you were in a war and in a foxhole you would want to be with a Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

But he didn’t affect the personality – that really wasn’t him. He was true to himself. In other words, he would never have the personality of a Sugar Ray Leonard or even try to have that personality. He always was Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Ray – that personality was natural. If you speak today to Ray, it is the same bubbly smile and the same personality many years later. So these two guys were true to themselves.

Where are they now?

Arum: Hagler is still in Italy and has an Italian wife. Listen you guys – this is for the young guys, for the fighters - Marvelous Marvin Hagler never spent five cents in a casino. All the time I knew him he never bought me a meal. Every dollar that he made he put away in the bank so that when he retired he had all the money that he would need for the rest of his life. He kept that money and he lived off the interest and also money that he got for speaking engagements and so forth.

He is a wealthy man today because he was so frugal with his money. As Shakur said, he was born in Newark, went to Brockton, Massachusetts, in New England. New Englanders have a reputation for being frugal and he had an accountant that looked after his money. He was very conservative in his investments. Today he is a very wealthy guy and he enjoys himself in Italy and comes out from time to time to make speeches at conventions or boxing dinners and he never missed a Hall of Fame induction – he is just that kind of guy.

Sugar Ray invested extraordinarily wisely. He is a very well to do guy. He is very active in charities. He lives a very good life. He has a wonderful family and I must say that both of these guys are extraordinarily happy people as their lives have turned out. Ray does broadcasting from time to time, as a lark, because he is into other things. He plays a lot of golf but he is very active in charitable endeavors.

Does Marvin still act?

Arum: Well, he is getting to an age where he can’t play the gangster as well. I don’t know when they made their last ‘spaghetti western’ as they call it in Italy, but to listen to him speak Italian is hilarious. He speaks it with this American accent and it’s really funny.

How hard did you try to get a rematch?

Arum: I remember a year later at Caesars they were doing a big dinner to honor the fighters that had fought at Caesars and it was really a salute to boxing. At that dinner, Muhammad Ali was there and I was there, Ray, Marvin and Roberto Duran. Ray called me over and said “Bob, go speak to him (meaning Hagler) and say let’s do the rematch it will do a fortune of business.’ So I went over and talked to Marvin and said “Ray wants me to talk to you about a rematch.’ And Marvin looked at me with that scowl and said ‘tell that guy to get a life.’ That was it – we tried. Marvin was having no more of that.

Were these two the greatest to work with, along with Muhammad Ali?

Arum: They were great fighters and great people. They had a presence about them in the ring and they never ducked anybody. They were happy to take on any challenge that was there. Boxing had extraordinary popularity during the 80’s and a lot of that was attributable to Ray and Marvin and Tommy and Roberto Duran. They were the focus of boxing.

Ali retired in 1978. He came back to fight Larry Holmes unfortunately. But the 80’s belonged to the Four Kings and boxing was extraordinarily prosperous then and boxing was on the tongues of sports people and non-sports people not only in the United States but all over the world.

How easy was it to sign the fight?

Arum: Nothing is easy in boxing and nothing was easy then. The two guys, once we got Marvin on board, now we knew the fight was going to happen and Ray had a lawyer named Mike Trainer, who has passed away, and Trainer wanted Ray to control the promotion. So he said the fight would only happen if Top Rank – Marvin’s promoter – was not involved.

Marvin and the Petronelli brothers, who were loyal guys, said they were not interested in fighting unless Top Rank promoted the fight. So as a result of that, Trainer said ‘OK, Arum buy us out for $11M, which was a big sum at the time, and still is a big sum, but at that time it was enormous, and I agreed to do that and I paid Marvin on a percentage and Marvin earned $19 million for the fight and Ray Leonard will never let me forget that.

Do you think Ray changed the perception that now you only had to win rounds to win a fight?

Arum: Well, the rules say that each round is scored separately and at the end of the fight the fighter that has the most rounds wins that judge's scorecard. The idea that a challenger has to do more than a champion to win a round or the fight is something that isn’t part of the rules – it’s a myth. You score the fight individually by rounds, period, anyone that says the challenger has to take away the title from the champion by doing appreciably more than the champion – that’s nonsense and contrary to the rules.

But the perception?

Arum: That’s the perception because people, journalists talk about this and it is fake opinion. It’s not in accordance with the rules. They love to write about it ‘well, the challenger didn’t do enough to win the title’ well he doesn’t have to do more to win, other than to win the majority of the rounds - that’s what the rules say.

Can you think of another fight that has generated as much controversy?

Arum: Close fights always generate controversy. The Kovalev-Ward fight – people swear that Kovalev won the fight and other people say Andre won the fight. That’s part of what makes boxing really interesting are the very close fights. The second De La Hoya-Mosley fight – I thought Oscar won that fight easily and Mosley got the decision and that was a lot of controversy. The first fight between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield – Lewis won that fight easily – they called it a draw. You know, that’s the nature of the thing - when you have three judges that view a fight subjectively.

Sticking points to negotiation?

Arum: Well, at that point we were transitioning from 15 rounds to 12 rounds and Marvin obviously wanted 15 rounds but agreed to 12 rounds. That really was the only concession that was made that was of any significance.

The judge that scored the fight 118-110 for Leonard actually still judges fight believe it or not…

Arum: Yes, but not in the United States – we built a wall to keep him out.

Was that the worst scorecard you have ever seen?

Arum: Just about the worst – that was ridiculous. The other two scorecards, those of Moretti and Fillippo, they were in the realm, the reasonable realm, but Marvin got cheated because they had that Mexican judge who was rumored to be connected to the organizations which favored Leonard.

The fallout from that judge?

Arum: Well, that’s right – everybody realized somehow there was something that smelled wrong and nobody in the United States would allow him to judge a fight again. I didn’t know that he was still around even. You’re the one that said he was judging fights – I didn’t know that. I never heard of him after that fight.

He judges primarily in Mexico but he is 83 still judging…

Arum: Probably now doing a great job since his eyes are failing him – probably getting close to what the real score is.

Was there a fallout?

Arum: There was an investigation by the Nevada commission about the scoring on that fight.

Does Zurdo think he could hang with those guys [Kovalev and Ward] ?

Arum: He doesn’t have to worry about hanging with those guys. The fight Gilberto wants if he is successful on April 22 is GGG and I would agree to take that fight winner take all. I think Zurdo destroys Golovkin the same way that he destroyed Arthur Abraham.

Many thought GGG was showing his age against Jacobs – do you agree?

Arum: Yes we all do, even me, I am 85 and I am showing my age. But yes, sure he is there is no question. The great A.E. Houseman poem, "To An Athlete Dying Young" - an athlete's life is relatively short.

Óscar Valdez: Hagler-Leonard was a great fight. It's a new era where Jessie Magdaleno and Zurdo Ramírez and myself and of course Shakur Stevenson, a great fighter, I love his style. It's a new era and these are examples that motivates us. Jessie and I work in the same gym every day and we push each other to the limit every single day.

And we have a tough, tough fight ahead of us in Miguel Marriaga, the number one contender in the WBO and I can see in his eyes that he wants to accomplish his dream, to become a world champion. But I worked so hard to get this world title and be here and I'm not planning on leaving this anytime soon. I'm working very, very hard because I see these fighters want to take something away from me. I want to give a great fight to the fans at StubHub and those fans tuning into the pay-per-view.

Jessie Magdaleno: Hagler and Leonard made great history and now you have these young and up-and-coming new world champions who are ready to show the world what we're able and capable of doing. April 22 is going to be a night of fireworks.

Shakur Stevenson: Hagler-Leonard, that was a great era but now it's our turn to begin our own legacy and create our own era where we have fights like that [Hagler-Leonard} down the line and I can't wait for that to happen. But as of now, I'm focused on doing what I have to do on April 22, going in there and catching a knockout. That's my plan.

Bob Arum: Thirty years from now, we'll be talking - I hope I'll be talking (laughing) - about major, major fights that these young men will have had. And we'll be looking back to those fights as being key points and key aspects of boxing in our era.

Valdez (21-0, 19 KOs), from Nogales, México, will be making the second defense of his WBO featherweight title against No. 1 contender and NABO champion Miguel "Escorpión" Marriaga (25-1, 21 KOs), from Arjona, Colombia; Ramírez (34-0, 24 KOs), from Mazatlán, México, will be making his first defense of the WBO super middleweight title against Top-10 contender Max "Tiger" Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KOs), of Kiev, Ukraine; Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs) of Las Vegas, Nev., will be making the first defense of his WBO junior featherweight title against WBO Latino champion Adeilson "Dell" Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KOs), of São Paulo, Brasil, and Stevenson, the crown jewel of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team and the pride of Newark, NJ, will be making his eagerly-awaited professional debut in a six-round featherweight bout.

The six world championship warriors have a combined record of 155-7-1 (110 KOs) for a winning percentage of 95% with a victory by knockout ratio of 71%.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with All Star Boxing, Zapari Boxing Promotions and Antonio Leonard Productions, remaining tickets to this world championship tripleheader are priced at $128.50, $77.50, $52.00 and $36.70. They may be purchased online at AXS.com, by phone at (888) 9AXS-TIX, or by visiting the StubHub Center box office.

Produced and distributed live by Top Rank Pay-Per-View, the telecast will begin at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT. and will be available on all conventional platforms, including all major cable and satellite systems, as well as Top Rank's digital distribution via www.TopRank.tv and mobile devices.

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