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Your boxing viewing guide this week

Hagler V Leonard boxing
Matt Christie trawls YouTube to highlight five fights from the first week of April that are worthy of your attention

5. ROY JONES JNR w ko 1 ART SERWANO April 3, 1992; Reno-Sparks Convention Center, Reno

One to keep you busy while the kettle boils. On the undercard of Greg Haugen-Ray Mancini – the last ring outing for “Boom Boom” – Jones Jnr dazzled with one of the great one-punch finishes of his career.

Serwano, a former USBA super-welterweight titlist, had lost four out of five coming into this contest but had been a stubborn competitor. Yet he displayed little respect for his opponent’s burgeoning reputation as he chased him all over the ring like a lemming looking for a cliff edge.

Jones – in front of esteemed commentary due Al Bernstein and Bert Sugar – waited for the opportune moment to land his right hand. He didn’t have to wait long.

Did you know? Two and a half years later, Uganda’s Serwano lasted until the 11th round in an unsuccessful bid for Richie Woodhall’s Commonwealth middleweight title.

Watch out for: The bombastic finisher and its effect.

4. JESS WILLARD w ko 26 JACK JOHNSON April 5, 1915; Oriental Racetrack, Havana, Cuba

A historic fight but far from a thriller, there is a sumptuous film available on YouTube that colourises events to give viewers a taste of life in the early 20th century.

We see footage of the two fighters before the contest, Johnson dressed in pristine white suit, before the action cuts to the day of the fight. As was custom then, the boxers weighed in while in the ring before the opening bell. Johnson is seen wearing black leather driving gloves beforehand, as he shakes the bare mitts of his opponent before their boxing gloves are fitted in the 103-degree heat.

Johnson would famously claim he threw the fight; a claim that was rubbished by a 1921 Boxing News investigation into the contest and by most eye-witnesses. The mystery remained, though – largely due to the fact that footage of the fight was not uncovered until 1967.

Did you know? The timekeeper was gunfighter, lawman, journalist and Old West celebrity, Bat Masterson.

Watch out for: Judge for yourself if the final punch did indeed knock Johnson out.

Jack Johnson

3. MIKE McCALLUM w pts 12 SUMBU KALAMBAY April 1, 1991; Stade Louis II, Fontvielle

A technical and tactical extravaganza for the boxing connoisseur to savour. The middleweight division of the late 1980s and early 1990s was a hotbed of talent but lacked the marquee names of the Hagler-Hearns-Leonard-Duran era that preceded it.

McCallum and Kalambay were artists of the ring, and worthy of the highest stage. In their first fight three years before, Kalambay tightly outscored the favoured McCallum over 12 rounds. It was the Jamaican’s first loss in 32 bouts. But the gifted “Body Snatcher” did not sulk for long.

He won the WBA middleweight belt that Kalambay had lost as a consequence of challenging IBF titlist, Michael Nunn. In successive bouts, McCallum defeated Herol Graham, Steve Collins and Michael Watson – incredible.

Though the skilled Italian was knocked cold in a round by Nunn, he was far from finished himself and he pushed McCallum all the way before going down via split decision scores of 116-114, 116-115 and 114-115.

Did you know? Carl Thompson, 9-2, was stopped in two rounds by the vastly more experienced Yawe Davis on the undercard.

Watch out for: Everything; the footwork, the punch selection, the defences. Watch it carefully and score the bout for yourself.

2. COLIN JONES w rsf 9 KIRKLAND LAING April 1, 1980; Conference Centre, Wembley.

This is worth revisiting for so many reasons: To watch Laing at his bamboozling best and Jones call upon all his predatory spite to catch up with him. But, perhaps best of all, to drift back in time and listen to Harry Carpenter provide the commentary.

“This has the makings of a classic fight,” Carpenter’s silky tones mused. “The boxer against the puncher. The puncher is Jones, and he really can punch. It sounds to me like there’s more Welsh supporters here for Jones than there are for Laing.”

Lauded as a better fighter than Howard Winstone and Ken Buchanan by his manager, Eddie Thomas, Jones was initially kept away from London and Mickey Duff, until the promoter won the purse bids for Laing to defend against the young Welshman in the capital.

In the end, it didn’t matter where the fight was nor how brilliant Laing might have been because Jones – as he proved again in a rematch – was the better man.

Did you know? Roland Dakin was the referee who, at the time, was courting criticism for scoring Alan Minter a lopsided winner over Vito Antuofermo in a close fight the month before.

Watch out for: Carpenter comparing Laing to Muhammad Ali moments before Jones turns the fight on its head.

Kirkland Laing

1. RAY LEONARD w pts 12 MARVIN HAGLER April 6, 1987; Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Most boxing fans will have watched this countless times so, for something different, find the HBO production – presented in the studio by Larry Merchant that stretches over 90 minutes – that looked back on the contest.

We get to see the fight in full and then we’re treated to analysis and a fascinating interview with Leonard. When asked if he could have gone 15 rounds, Ray said: “I was exhausted in the 12th round but I would have found a way to go three more rounds with Hagler.”

Merchant then asks if Hagler could have demanded the fight was scheduled for the longer distance? “He was champion, he could have insisted the fight went 15 rounds, I don’t think he realised that,” Leonard replied.

“Once he watches this fight, he will know he made a bad mistake to accept more money to do less rounds.” One wonders if Hagler has been thinking of anything else since…

Did you know? Boxing News’ Harry Mullan believed Hagler deserved to win, scoring seven rounds to four (with one even) in his favour.

Watch out for: Judges Jose Guerra (who scored 118-110 for Leonard) and Lou Filippo (he favoured Hagler, 115-113) justify their scorecards in interviews.

Further viewing: Marco Antonio Barrera w pts 12 Naseem Hamed (2001); David Haye w rsf 9 John Ruiz (2010); Jarrett Hurd w pts 12 Erislandy Lara (2018); Jeff Chandler draw pts 15 Eijiro Murata (1981); Mbulelo Botile w ko 11 Ancee Gordon (1996).

2 Comments

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  • Hagler and most of the boxing media underestimated Leonard following Hagler’s destruction of Hearns 2 years earlier. Hagler was so over-confident he allowed Leonard’s requests for 12 rounds, a 20 foot ring & 10oz gloves with attached thumb in exchange for increasing his purse after agreeing to each request. Hagler never thought the fight would go anywhere near 12 rounds and thought the judges wouldn’t be needed. Leonard boxed superbly and deserved the points win.

  • Harry Mullin, and others, either had an incorrect view on how a fight should be scored or he was biased for/against Hagler/Leonard. Having watched and scored the fight many, many times my view is Leonard took the fight 116 – 112. Hagler lost the fight before half way by trying to outbox, rather than pressurising Leonard, allowing Leonard to build up a big lead.

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