Hagler vs Monzon: Who Wins?
You all want to really talk about a fantasy fight. I can’t think of one that would have been closer than between two of the greatest Middleweights of all time; the Argentinian, Carlos “Escopeta” (Shotgun) Monzon versus Brockton, Massachusetts own, Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Oh my!
What a fight this would have been. These two greats are always ranked in the top-5 Middleweights of all-time, but for me, they are 1,2. Actually, let me correct that, they’re 1″A” and 1″B.” The difference would be razor thin.
They’re a lot of ways to go about demystifying a fight like this, talking and writing about a fight like this, analyzing a fight like this. During my research for this piece, I found several offerings on the topic. Most were good to very good.
They were split right down the middle as to the result, 3 for Monzon and 3 for Hagler. Still, there was a sense of “I’ve read all this stuff before” as I read on. I wanted to do something different.
So, I have. What follows is how I think I would have described this fight on a round by round basis, if it had taken place and I’d had the privilege of a ringside seat. (Honestly, I think I’d have pawned my first-born for a ticket to this one, lol.) In deference to the greatness of these two men, I’ve assumed a 15-rounder (something which I think should be resurrected for major championship fights.) Here we go.
Saturday night, Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas. The place is abuzz. The undercard has been sizzling. In the semi-final event, folks have just watched Philly’s own Bennie Briscoe get the nod with a hotly disputed split decision over the Virgin Islands’ Emile Griffith. Briscoe won, but Griffith’s supporters aren’t having any of it.
There are fights in the upper seats between members of the two factions and security is just on the edge of losing control. The main event can’t start soon enough.
At last, the lights dim. Celebrities who’ve coughed up $250 a ticket for ringside, rush to their seats. The three judges have taken their positions around the 20′ ring and referee Carlos Padilla has stepped between the ropes. A “chacarera” is being piped into the stadium signaling that Monzon is on his way from the dressing room.
The closed-circuit TV’s in the arena light up as the great Argentinian makes his way to the ring and the already noisy South Americans find another few decibels within themselves as they welcome their standard-bearer into the evening.
Not be outdone, the leather-lunged American fans raise their voices in a crescendo of emotion as “The Stars and Stripes” begins to play over the P.A. system – a sure indicator that the always patriotic Marvelous One is on his way to the ring.
Hagler’s wearing red, white, and blue and his hood is over his head as he swaggers in the middle of his entourage on the long walk from his dressing room. The fans on both sides are in seventh heaven. If you’re a boxing fan, it just doesn’t get better than this.
Hagler and Monzon are both in the ring now. Tonight’s anthem singer, Marvin Gaye, steps in and renders his usual soulful rendition of “God Bless America.” The ring announcer, Jimmy Lennon Sr. motions to the judges’ table and the bell sounds. It’s time for the introductions.
He begins with Monzon who comes out of the blue corner at a fit and ready 160 lbs. Monzon looks a little on the slight side as he stands nearly 6′ tall, but don’t let that fool you. Monzon hits like a truck having starched his last 4 opponents inside of 4 rounds.
Hagler looks like a fireplug. At 5′ 9 1/2 inches and 158 1/2, he’s shorter than Monzon and looks far more powerful. Hagler doesn’t quite have the lightning speed of a middleweight but he boasts the punch of a heavy. As they come to the center of the ring, both men exude an almost eerie sense of confidence.
They stand toe to toe on either side of Padilla. There is no fear, but there is a sense of mutual respect – and in the crowd, foreboding. The pleasantries are complete. The fighters return to their corners, the lights in the arena go up. The time has come. The bell sounds.
Monzon immediately sets to work with his left jab. It’s not particularly fast, but it’s powerful and accurate. He throws it at Hagler repeatedly, trying to use it as a mask to set up his right cross. But unlike most of his opponents, Hagler takes no backward step.
Hagler goes to work on Monzon’s somewhat lanky body, staying under the jab, circling away from it and crowding him against the ropes.
Hagler gets in a hard right to the body, then another one. But Monzon is no slouch and he has a somewhat unorthodox weapon of his own, an uppercut to the body. As Hagler presses the case against the ropes, Monzon unleashes a vicious left uppercut to Hagler’s body that hurts Marvin. Undeterred, Hagler barrels in again but is once more caught with that uppercut.
That one really hurt! Hagler backs away to compose himself. The bell rings. End of Round 1. Both fighters return to their corners. No feeling out process here. The men know they are in for a very long night.
Monzon: 10 – 9
Hagler switches stance and is now showing as a southpaw. Monzon seems surprised and is clearly uncomfortable. Hagler presses his advantage and lands two straight lefts to the upper chest of the taller Argentinian. Carlos spins away and sees an opening.
Hagler’s defense is not as good in the southpaw stance. Monzon rakes him with a whistling right cross that bounces off the left ear of Hagler. He’s not quite stunned but he doesn’t want to get hit with too many of those.
Hagler backs away looking confused. He knew Monzon was good, but not this good! Monzon, sensing that he has the upper hand, presses his advantage. His jab is working overtime; finding Hagler from time to time but Hagler’s crouch, combined with his shorter height and hybrid high glove, defense is proving harder to solve than he had hoped. Monzon tries another right cross. This one catches the ever-crouching Hagler at the top of his head. Hagler again takes a step back.
The bell sounds. Round 2 is in the books.
Monzon: 10 – 9
Marvin comes out of his corner first – probably as much to get away from his Manager, Goodie Petronelli, as anything. No-one is closer to Hagler than Goodie, and he really gave it to his boxer between rounds. But Monzon is doing well and he knows it.
Now Carlos is doubling up his jab, blinding Marvin. Monzon is punching around Hagler’s guard and steadily landing that right hand on the side or top of Hagler’s head. Hagler tries to bend under the punch, but every time he does, he catches one of Carlos’ almost straight uppercuts to the body. Clearly Marvin needs to try something different.
Monzon can’t seem to miss and he’s growing in confidence. The Argentinian’s fans roar as he lands yet another right cross. Hagler bulls his way into a clinch. Referee Padilla separates the two men. Hagler greatly increases his head movement now. He begins bobbing and weaving in earnest and Monzon actually misses a jab or two. Hagler pounces!
Marvin leads with a right hook and lands his best shot of the night. There’s just the slightest buckle in Monzon’s knees and he backs into the ropes, pivoting to his right and throwing a pawing straight left to where he thinks Hagler should be. Bell rings. End of Round 3.
Tough round to score. Monzon won most of the round but Hagler landed the more effective punches. More importantly, Marvin has proven to himself that he can hit, and hurt, Monzon.
Toss-up Round: 10 – 10
These men are the two best middleweights in the world for a reason. Monzon, undeterred by Hagler’s late round success in the previous round, comes out intent on reclaiming the momentum. Now he’s standing a bit taller and firing the jab rapidly. He’s punching down at Hagler and while he’s not hurting him, the jab is piling up points.
Hagler for his part, doesn’t seem to know how to take a round off to regroup. He keeps coming forward. Monzon rakes him with yet another right cross and surprises him with a follow-up straight left. Hagler is visibly frustrated now. Monzon is toying with him. It’s never a good idea to embarrass Marvin. He’s famous for his dogged determination and iron chin.
Marvin switches gears now. Marvin abandons the jab and decides on an all-out assault. He figures if he takes away Monzon’s time and space, he’ll have no choice but to rough it up with Marvin. Marvin essentially “bull rushes” Carlos into the ropes and begins mercilessly hooking him to the body. But Monzon is no fool.
He parries a hook and spins off the ropes. Using his length, he starts mixing in uppercuts as Hagler comes forward. Monzon connects with a thundering left hook to Hagler’s right ribcage. The dull ‘thud’ is heard all over the arena and Hagler gasps as the pinch connects.
He staggers back into the ropes and is in real trouble as the bell signals the end of the 4th round. Hagler momentarily staggers on his way back to his corner.
Monzon: 10 – 9
Monzon comes out of his corner like an Olympic sprinter leaving the starting blocks. He’s convinced that Hagler is hurt and is starting to fade. Monzon suddenly starts to fight out of a bit of a crouch. He’s sitting down on his punches now. The fans are on the edge of their seats. Monzon is obviously going for the knockout.
He’s whistling blistering punches at the bobbing and weaving Hagler who just doesn’t seem to have any answers for the Argentinian’s calculated attack. The Marvelous One is being peppered with everything but Monzon’s ring stool. Fans sense that the end may be in the offing. But Hagler isn’t called “Marvelous” for nothing. He switches back to his southpaw stance causing Carlos to hesitate just for a moment.
Hagler uses the moment well. Fighting out of an almost impossibly low crouch, Marvin launches himself in an almost “Frazieresque” fashion with a picture-perfect left hook at Monzon’s chin. It doesn’t land cleanly as Carlos rolled with it at the very last second; but it still has the desired result.
Monzon appears shocked that Hagler still has the wherewithal to throw such a meaningful punch! “Escopeta” briefly looks down at his own gloves, perhaps momentarily wondering if they are stuffed with cotton balls or something. He has been beating on this man for the better part of 5 rounds but Hagler isn’t showing any signs of being discouraged.
The round ends in Monzon’s favour, but something in that ring has changed and everyone at Caesar’s Palace realizes it. This fight isn’t over yet.
Monzon: 10 – 9
The pace has been hectic. Both men come out a little more slowly this round, but for different reasons. Monzon is still throwing his jab but he was heard to say in his corner between rounds that he simply cannot believe how tough and brave Hagler is.
Carlos has decided that some caution is in order here as perhaps Hagler wasn’t as close to being finished as he had hoped. For his part, Hagler’s bravado in the previous round has bought him some breathing time. Hagler remains in the southpaw stance and continues to stay just under most of Monzon’s jabs.
Hagler is now also doing a better job of establishing the proper distance and is now out of range of the Argentinian’s devastating uppercut to the body. The round is largely uneventful in terms of action, but impactful in terms of psychology. Hagler is still very much in the fight and Monzon knows it.
Toss-up Round: 10 – 10
As the round starts, it’s obvious that things have changed. Hagler has made a conscious decision. He is going to try to “walk through” Monzon. His jab has all but disappeared and he attacks Monzon with reckless abandon. He seems to have only two punches in his arsenal; right and left hooks.
He eats a couple of jabs from Carlos on his way in but gets to where he wants to be. His nose is placed squarely on Monzon’s chest and he’s not budging. Monzon, for his part, is throwing uppercut after uppercut, but he’s taller than Hagler and Hagler’s crowding him isn’t allowing him the room he needs to throw the punch effectively.
The Argentine tries something different. He makes himself taller by leaning back against the ropes and standing up straighter. Now Hagler’s headshots are falling inches short. But because Hagler is attached to him like a magnet, he’s not catching Marvin coming in anymore. His punches are not as effective.
He’s still landing, but the power quotient is way down. Hagler is frustrated by his inability to land any meaningful headshots so, ever the pragmatist, he goes back to what was effective – body shots. Marvin is digging telling blows into Monzon’s ribs, liver and spleen. Monzon appears to be tiring from the relentlessness of this attack.
But he’s not discouraged and he’s still thinking in there. Monzon suddenly springs off the ropes to his left and catches the off-balance Hagler with a short right to the right side of Hagler’s head. It’s not a hard punch but it gets him off the ropes and into a better position. Bell rings and Round 7 ends. Narrow win for Hagler in this round.
Hagler: 10 – 9
There is no quit in either of these men. Monzon is determined to regain the momentum. Carlos reverts back to his opening round tactics; jab and move, jab and move. His problem though is that he has learned that Hagler is equally effective in both the orthodox and southpaw stances. This means that no matter the direction he circles,
Hagler can hurt him with either hand. Monzon is making a mistake here. He needs to stop circling entirely and use his length instead. It’s imperative he keep Hagler off of him. Monzon now tries leading with the uppercut; a dangerous move but the gamble pays off. He catches Hagler with two straight uppercuts.
Hagler put his head down and charges forward, but this isn’t as effective in the middle of the ring. Monzon easily moves out of the way and keeps the jab flicking. Monzon is setting up Hagler for another of his right crosses. Hagler moves to his left to avoid the Monzon jab and gets caught by a tremendous right cross. Hagler is hurt! Badly!
He staggers backwards and sinks heavily into the ropes. Monzon pounces on him and unleashes a barrage of punches. Hagler keeps bobbing and weaving. Monzon would be well served to throw a body shot but he’s head hunting now.
Marvin is elusive though and his head starts to clear. Marvin clinches and hangs on for dear life. The bell sounds. Another big round in the books for Monzon.
Monzon: 10 – 9
There was a real sense of urgency in Hagler’s corner between rounds. Hagler’s never been knocked out – or even down, but Petronelli knows he’s never fought the likes of a Monzon either. Something has to change.
Hagler comes out clear-headed and as determined as ever. Monzon is exhibiting a bit of a swagger now. He seems supremely confident that the end is near. Once again, Monzon squats and punches. he’s not convinced that Hagler has fully recovered.
But, as Hagler has never fought the likes of Monzon, the opposite is also true; Monzon has never met anyone in the ring that comes even close to Marvin Hagler. Monzon is determined to end the fight this round. He is throwing a mix of crosses and uppercuts with undiluted relish. Hagler continues to prove elusive but he isn’t fighting back effectively.
Monzon’s ability to continually switch tactics is unlike anything Marvin has seen before. Marvin doubles up a right hook to the body and lands a solid left cross to Monzon’s chin. Gets his attention but doesn’t really hurt him. Carlos pushes Hagler away as he tries to rush in. Monzon lands a big left that stops Hagler in his tracks. Round 9 comes to an end.
Monzon: 10 – 9
First real signs of fatigue from Monzon; he’s still on his stool as the bell signals the start of the stanza. He’s breathing heavily now and it’s apparent that the work rate he’s had to keep up to keep Hagler on his back foot, has exacted a price. Still, Monzon is in great shape. He again starts off the round working off his jab.
His menacing right hand stands cocked and ready to explode on Hagler’s ever-moving head. Marvin has now committed to fighting the rest of the bout as a southpaw. Marvin sticks out his right jab repeatedly. By staying low, he’s jabbing under the jab of his opponent and landing fairly consistently just under Monzon’s left armpit. Monzon is missing with the right cross now as Hagler has timed it much better.
Monzon pivots to his right in an effort to surprise Hagler but he’s a step slower now and Hagler cuts him off. Hagler literally bulls Monzon into the ropes and unleashes a withering body attack on the Argentine for a full 30 seconds. Hagler’s conditioning is breathtaking! Monzon refuses to be a pinata though. He changes course again. Instead of pivoting away, Monzon wills himself to walk forward directly at Hagler behind his jab.
The round is approaching its end, when Monzon thinks he sees an opening. Carlos throws a terrific right hand, but Hagler has times it perfectly. Marvin just manages to duck under the shot and as Monzon’s momentum turns him slightly to the outside of the American’s right shoulder, Hagler springs from his crouch with a thundering left hook that explodes off of Monzon’s exposed chin. He’s down! He’s down! Monzon is down!
Referee Padilla ushers Hagler to his corner then picks up the count….3..4..5..6..7..8..Monzon gets to his feet. His eyes are glazed and he’s shaky. Padilla momentarily mulls stopping the bout but the bell rings. Round 10 is over – and not a moment too soon for Carlos.
Hagler: 10 – 8
Caesar’s Palace is so loud you can’t hear yourself think. Monzon’s corner has done all it can to revive their fighter but as the bell rings, he doesn’t look good. Nevertheless, Monzon is a champion for a reason so answer the bell he does. He comes out moving to Hagler’s right, as much as he can; doing all he can to stay outside Hagler’s lead right foot.
He’s clear-headed enough to keep throwing his jab but he’s not able to follow it up with anything meaningful. Hagler again tries to crowd his opponent and throws a couple of “show” left hooks, forcing Carlos to move even more to Hagler’s right. It’s a trap! without any warning, Hagler reverts to an orthodox stance and throws a bruising right hand.
Ordinarily, it might have fallen short, but in Monzon’s still slightly dazed state, he has overcompensated for Hagler’s southpaw stance and is in no position to defend himself from this unexpected right hand.
He’s too far to Hagler’s right now and the punch catches him squarely on the point of his chin. Monzon crumples to the canvas as if he’s been shot. Padilla takes one look and realizes there’s no point counting; Monzon is out. The fight is over. At 1:57 of the 11th round, Marvelous Marvin Hagler has his career and legacy defining win. He has knocked out the great Carlos Monzon!
Now, I’m not saying with any great degree of confidence that this is what would have happened. But I do believe that MMH would have found a way to win. I rate him just the tiniest bit ahead of Monzon.
Had they fought and the result was reversed, I can’t say that I’d have been shocked though. Put it this way; had they fought 10 times, I’d have handicapped it at 6 – 4, Hagler. My goodness, wouldn’t that have been fun to see.
For my money, such a bout would have rivalled Hagler/Hearns or Ali/Frazier’s I and III. We’ll never really know, but the conversation about it is fun enough. Hope you all enjoyed it. My apologies if your guy didn’t “win.”