Looking back on what we’ll never see again – Leonard vs. Hagler vs. Hearns vs. Duran
During the 10 year period from 1980 through 1989, 9 fights occurred that featured Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran fighting against each other. The almost annual showcase featuring these Hall of Famers made their four person rivalry unmatched in the history of boxing. Their rivalry started in the first year of the decade and ended in the last, dominating the glory days of boxing in the 1980s. For those of you unable to remember or too young to recall their great series of fights, here is the chronological summary of their bouts:
Date Winner Loser Result Site
6/20/1980 Duran Leonard UD 15 Montreal
11/25/1980 Leonard Duran TKO 8 New Orleans
9/16/1981 Leonard Hearns TKO 14 Las Vegas
11/10/1983 Hagler Duran UD 15 Las Vegas
6/15/1984 Hearns Duran TKO 2 Las Vegas
4/15/1985 Hagler Hearns TKO 3 Las Vegas
4/06/1987 Leonard Hagler SD 15 Las Vegas
6/12/1989 Hearns/Leonard Hearns/Leonard D 12 Las Vegas
12/7/1989 Leonard Duran UD 12 Las Vegas
The fighters’ cumulative records against each other therefore are as follows:
Fighter Wins Losses Draws
Leonard 4 1 1
Hagler 2 1 0
Hearns 1 2 1
Duran 1 4 0
The controversies notwithstanding, particularly with regard to the split decision in the Leonard–Hagler bout and the draw decision of the second Leonard–Hearns fight, these fights can all be remembered as great because of the fighters themselves. Of the 9 fights listed, some are classics (Leonard–Hearns I, Hagler–Hearns), others are memorable (Leonard–Duran II, Leonard–Hagler) and others were forgettable (Leonard – Duran III).
Nevertheless, taken collectively, these 9 bouts between these 4 legends have helped to make the 1980s the last great period of boxing. Oh sure, we also had the emergence of Mike Tyson during this period but with the exit of Muhammad Ali, it was these 4 fantastic fighters with their great rivalries, differing boxing styles and unique personalities that still enabled boxing to thrive during this time.
As it so often does, the passage of time seems to elevate the “good” to better than they were and the “great” to legendary status. However, these 4 fighters need no passage of time to insure their greatness and their status as deserving Hall of Famers.
Will we ever have another 4 person “round robin” boxing tournament that Leonard, Hagler, Hearns and Duran participated in? Probably not. Will the sport of boxing itself ever resume its status to the greatness that it once had? I certainly hope so, but with the emergence of the popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA), that remains to be seen.
I look back fondly on this era, these fights and certainly these great fighters, as I’m sure many of you do as well. Besides fighting each other almost annually during the 1980s, they of course also had other fights with other great fighters that occasionally made it into the mix during this time (i.e. Benitez, Cuevas, and Barkley).
However, it was their willingness to fight each other over an extended period of time that made their rivalry so memorable. Other than the Borg, McEnroe, Connors and Lendl tennis rivalry during this same period, I can think of no other sport and no other athletes that repeatedly brought out the best in each other. For me at least, Leonard, Hagler, Hearns and Duran will forever be the “Grand Slam” of boxers during the 1980s.