On This Day: Marvin Hagler tames ‘The Beast’ John Mugabi
Marvin Hagler retains his world middleweight title against 'The Beast', writes Sean Ellis
MARVIN Hagler was a 3-1 favourite with the bookmakers to beat John Mugabi, heading into their 1986 middleweight title clash, despite the fact that the Ugandan had rendered his previous twenty-five opponents unconscious. ‘The Beast’ had ripped through the likes of James Green, Frank Fletcher and Earl Hargrove to earn a shot at the undisputed middleweight king, where the WBA, WBC and IBF straps would await the victor. Unfazed by Mugabi’s reputation, Hagler promised he would “Feast on the Beast.”
ON fight night, in what was seen as a bid to cause as much hassle as possible, John Mugabi’s promoter, Mickey Duff, made himself busy in the champion’s dressing room thirty minutes before the bout. The Englishman was unhappy with Hagler’s protective cup, and declared that it exceeded legal regulations. After closer inspection from the Nevada State Athletic Commission however, the issue was squashed.
‘MARVELOUS’ Marvin Hagler – unbeaten in 10 years – was making his twelfth world title defence, and a little rain could not deter a crowd of 15,553, from descending on the Outdoor Arena at Caesars Palace to see him. The high-paying patrons sitting closest to the ring, were given plastic bags to protect their expensive clothing from the downpour. The kind gesture was not needed for the main event however, as the rain duly ceased.
DON King had once referred to Mugabi as “The meanest mother****** I’ve ever seen in my life”, due to his ferocious punch-power. A weapon highly anticipated by the Hagler camp. It makes sense then, that Hagler opened up proceedings as an orthodox, if even to disrupt the challenger’s rhythm early on.
ANY suggestion that Mugabi was just a slugger however, was quickly dispelled in the middle of the opening stanza. He snapped left jabs to the head, and hooks to the body of Hagler, made him miss, and looked the more prominent boxer.
REALISING the threat that Mugabi posed, Hagler took the fight to him, and after switching back to his usual southpaw stance began to find success with his jab throughout the opening rounds. It wasn’t until the sixth stanza however, that the champion got the better of Mugabi. He dominated the Ugandan, knocking him around the ring. Instigating the action had its consequences though, as Hagler opened himself up to punishment, and a flurry of accurate shots sent him back to his trainer, Goody Petronelli, with a bloody nose.
THE seventh round saw a small momentum shift in favour of Mugabi, as Referee Mills Lane, deducted a point from the champion for a low blow. As the fight wore on, the crowd began to get behind the Ugandan, shouts of ‘Beast!, Beast’ echoed around the arena.
FRUSTRATION was clear on the face of Marvin Hagler; he manhandled Mugabi on the inside, landed right-hands at will, yet couldn’t follow up with his sweeping left. That frustration turned to anger as a punched-out Mugabi was saved by referee Lane in the ninth, who demanded loose tape on his glove be repaired.
WITH his right eye nearly closed, Marvin Hagler entered the eleventh round and produced a solid right hand, that was followed up by two thunderous left hooks, sending the Ugandan to the canvas. It was a combination ‘The Beast’ could not get up from.
THE win brought about Marvin’s twelfth consecutive title defence. From those twelve, Roberto Duran was the only man who had gone the distance with the Brocktonian. Marvellous made $2.5 million, plus a percentage of the revenue from the fight. But it would be his last win in a professional ring.