By Keith Idec
“Sugar” Ray Leonard eventually was all in on a rematch with Marvin Hagler.
Promoter Bob Arum and the legendary Leonard knew a second middleweight title fight against Hagler would’ve made even more money than their famed first fight at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The public demand was extremely high for Leonard-Hagler II in 1987 and 1988 because Leonard’s split-decision victory over Hagler was so controversial.
Hagler, however, got tired of waiting for Leonard to grant him an immediate rematch following what was considered one of the biggest fights of the 20th century.
The ex-middleweight champion, who was disgusted following his loss to Leonard, announced his retirement in June 1988 and later moved to Italy. He was just 32 when he fought Leonard on April 6, 1987 (30 years ago today), but the Brockton, Massachusetts, native never boxed again.
Arum, who was Hagler’s promoter, recalled on a recent conference call how he approached Hagler one last time to try to talk him into fighting Leonard again.
“I remember a year later at Caesars, they were having a big dinner to honor the fighters that had fought at Caesars,” Arum said. “And it was really a salute to boxing. And at that dinner, they had Muhammad Ali there, I was there, Tommy [Hearns] was there, Ray, Marvin, Roberto Duran. And Ray called me over and he says, ‘Bob, go speak to him,’ meaning Hagler, ‘and say let’s do the rematch. It’ll do a fortune of business.’
“So I went over and I talked to Marvin. And I said, ‘Marvin, Ray asked me to come talk to you about doing the rematch.’ And Marvin looked at me with that scowl that he had. And he said, ‘Tell that guy to get a life.’ So that was it, man. We tried. We tried and there was no use to trying harder. Marvin was having no more of that.”
Leonard, who retired temporarily for the third time after he beat Hagler, returned to the ring in November 1988 in Las Vegas. Donny Lalonde dropped Leonard in the fourth round, but Leonard came back to stop Lalonde in the ninth round of a fight that somehow was contested for the vacant WBC super middleweight title and Lalonde’s WBC light heavyweight championship.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.