Round Nine: You Gotta Fight Sometime
By Martin Wade (July 12, 2004) 
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Watching Micheal Moorer make a case for expulsion from boxing's worst class of heavyweights in years last week didn’t sit well with me. First, because it seemed an omen for more uneventful action to come. I also didn’t like watching a truly sensitive guy like Moorer add to a legacy filled with depression and alcohol abuse. Though Joel Casamayor was his usual tough, 'crafty' (code for semi-dirty) self, I felt no urge to sit at my laptop and write about him. You see I am a creature of inspiration, like a wife of many years, when I’m not 'in the mood' I’m not in the mood. When I replayed Showtime's double bill in the morning I toyed with titles for my next piece, “Saturday night, not yet alright for Showtime” or maybe “And?” As I scrolled through the Moorer v. Castillo fight from program to program (that’s right fellas, I record in DVD) something exposed itself to me, something that would allow me a platform to make an argument in one of most heated boxing debates in modern times. Between round three and four, Castillo’s trainer (already establishing himself as the real show) instructed (okay, yelled at) his charge the following phrase “you gotta fight sometime!”

A light shut on in my head, reminding me of boxings most passionate debate, the myth of “who won the fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler?” Both sides of the argument are equally divisive, each lending to personality traits (supposed charismatic guys liked Leonard), age, ideologies on scoring, and just raw passion. The comment brought to mind a conversation that could have easily dissipated into argument the night before. I was at a cool jazz spot with 'the Big Oak', chillin, chomping on a Cuban (I mean cigar) while nursing a cocktail when he introduced the topic of boxing. After breezing through the usual what’s up with Tyson/De La Hoya/was-that-a-lucky-punch stuff, The Big Fella asked what I thought of Leonard/Hagler. Sticky stuff, I’ve known the Big Guy for years and I know he’s a 'Hagler guy' and I felt him tensing up knowing for years that I am an unrepentant Sugar Ray man. The big Oak made his case, that Leonard stole rounds with flurries and that his showboating and very survival contributed to the 'perception' he was winning.

As a younger man I would have engaged my buddy on all counts, arguing like Johnny Cochran on rappers behalf. With experience, and the belief that there are 'no' punk fighters (maybe inferior, maybe uninspired) I looked at my old buddy and calmly asked what about round 9? Round 9? I’ll have to watch it again, the Big Fella responded admitting that he hadn’t viewed the fight in years. I went on to state my case, detailing my view with the following points.

Judges are Human

Before I establish this position please try to differentiate between the judges that are 'human' and those who are blind or borderline corrupt. As a boxing judge, you are not only familiar with each combatant's style, but you do know based on public opinion what is 'supposed' to happen. Sitting at ringside, as most big time scribes will attest, you see nuances in the bout that can’t possibly be captured by television. When a fighter is responding a step slower than in past times when you’ve seen him up close the impact on your eyes is alarming, enough to dictate the emphasis on what you are seeing. Hagler's inability to position himself to get off cleanly against Leonard in the first five rounds was in alarming contrast to the way he seemed to descend upon a moving Hearns only two years earlier. Leonard’s run and pity-pat flurry fight plan has been mythologized over the years but in truth Leonard planted and fired meaningful shots frequently throughout the fight. Imagine seeing this up close, against a guy that many believed to be too strong. Haglers promise of WAR and his history against multiple fighting styles placed the onus squarely on his 'Marvelous' shoulders to follow suit and basically make Leonard quit. Not only did he not follow through on his promise, he failed to 'outman' Leonard in that fateful 'moment of truth'; that moment that stamped an impression on the minds of fight fans and judges alike.

The Moment of Truth

Ironically, in a round that Harold Ledderman judged in favor of Hagler, Sugar Ray sealed the deal by standing his ground and doing what Oscar De La Hoya will have to do in September. There are critical junctures in super fights that the decided 'stylist' will have to 'fight' sometimes. Leonard, starting to show signs of fatigue made his mark on the round with sluggish one-twos. Minus a sharp six punch combination, it was evident that Hagler possessed the momentum driving Leonard onto the corner with hard left hand leads, body shots and uppercuts. At 1:35 of round nine Hagler cornered Leonard, pounding and hurting the comeback kid. It was at this point the Sugar Man, with his back to TV audience, backed Hagler up with nine unanswered shots (not slaps) freeing himself from the corner. After Ray turned Hagler several times landing nice one-twos, Hagler could clearly be seen exhaling deeply. You don’t back up a tiger like Hagler and fight out of danger with slaps, unless in some way you are not a tiger in your own right. No amount of taunting in the world can keep a guy like Hagler at bay. This is the point in which I believe Hagler lost, to hell with the 'if only it were 15 rounds' theory, he had Sugar Ray where he wanted several times but was 'fought' off. Like no other fight in history this fight, and how it really unfolded, is shrouded with the cobwebs of myth.

The Flurry/Taunting Myth and What We Really Remember

The first taunt from Leonard came in round 7 with the patented Sugar Ray shuffle, although according to many Sugar Ray bashers the taunting began with the opening bell. Though Ray will attest to the 30-second flurry strategy, they weren’t of the shoeshine variety. A lot of Ray’s combinations consisted of vicious body-head hooks that had to have contributed to Haglers slowness of foot. The funny thing about 'perception' is Leonard was the rougher-dirtier fighter in spots; Hagler should have never forfeited this to the pretty boy. Leonard’s bolos punches and body shots were often low without warning; his 30-second combos often resulted in blows coming after the bell without warning. Ray also held Hagler behind the head and gauged Hagler by placing a glove on top of the Marvelous ones shaven dome. Watching this fight again brought to mind a basic truth in boxing, one that is in a lot of ways a truth for those of us who struggle to make a way for ourselves outside of the ring. Sometimes, when the going get’s tough, you have to stand up and fight.

Self-promotion in Boxing

I recently received a great e-mail from a well-respected colleague that elicited great thought and self-analysis. In the e-mail my buddy commented that a former colleague was "all about advancing his own image” within the sport, that the boxers are the stars, not the writers who write about them. True, but in my opinion only partially, as a fan/reader, I look for certain writers because I am interested in their take on a fight and in that way they are part of the show. You see, I am an ambitious person and I don’t mind saying that I like attention. Since I started writing for Doghouse I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to write about boxers but the biggest thrill I get is from the attention. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t have aspirations of being a personality, a person that all boxers 'want' to speak with. I am not 'educated' formally nor do I spend hours scouring My aim is to 'entertain' and illicit response. There is definitely a way to promote one's agenda; I choose to promote The Boxing Junkie with a wink and a smile. So without further delay, here is my attempt at shameless self-promotion.

Coming up: My interview series: 'Holla at yo' Boy' where I track down and speak with up and coming fighters and allow them to shamelessly promote themselves. If you want me to shed light on your plight, give me a 'holla' at the e-mail address below.

The next addition of 'Pay-Per-View with the Boys' will be in September (Hopkins/De La Hoya featuring 'the boys' -- 'Chicken Grease', 'Big Oak', and 'Crazy' David!).

Kudus to Tyson: I’ve long felt that Teddy Atlas used the pulpit of ESPN2 to diagnose Mike incessantly (as if Mike don’t know he’s got problems) with an underlining of personal beef. I am not condoning Mikes alleged behavior with the family member, I’m only saying that Mr. Atlas has presented himself as an expert on a man's psyche that he hasn’t spoken with in years. Remember, this guy is not a mental health professional and never went out of the way to put Michael Moorer or Grant in with the man he claims “doesn’t know himself”. Mike put it best when he recently said; “the guy talks as if he pulled a gun on me yesterday”.

Until the Next “Jones”
The Boxing Junkie
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