East Side Guru
Join Date: Apr 2007
Re: How Would Marvin Hagler Do @ Light Heavyweight?
Mutual sparring partners of both Hagler and Saad Muhammad claimed that Marv was a harder puncher than Matt. (I have also read the same allegations about Hagler and Marvin Johnson, but that strains credulity slightly. As Matt was really an arm puncher, I could buy Hagler as a harder hitter than him.)
Hagler would have had to be much more of a cutie at LH, moving laterally to obtain the proper punching angle for his right jab, and he would probably need to forego the switch hitting he so frequently employed as a MW. (Unless he was a better defensive fighter as a righty, the way Czyz was as a southpaw.) He certainly had the chin to withstand the force delivered by the top LH's of his era. He demonstrated against Hamsho, Minter, and in the Antuofermo rematch, that superior physical strength offered no particularly useful advantage against Hagler. His boxing prowess was more than sufficient to neutralize physically stronger opposition.
I don't think Marvin Johnson would have survived to the final bell against Hagler. His endurance was fine against relatively passive adversaries, but crumbled under significant resistance and toughness. Hagler would hustle him and wear him down. Southpaw Johnson would have been open to Hagler's right jab and hook. Johnson's left cross wouldn't have quite as easy a target in Hagler, and when Johnson did land with it, Hagler could take it.
Saad Muhammad's singular approach to dealing with southpaws was to glue his hook to their bodies. His title defense against Louis Pergaud in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was an exemplary illustration of Matt's philosophy about dealing with lefties. He would have forced Hagler to hold his power arm in check for defending against Matt's hook.
Eddie Mustapha Muhammad would be an interesting case. With his temperament in the ring, he might sleepwalk his way to a decision loss. (Did Easy Eddie ever hustle his way to a decision win?) Like Matt, Eddie would likely forgo Hagler's granite chin to go downstairs.
Dwight Qawi would be more of a chess match and contest for positioning than most might suspect. Ike had the very best counterjab of his era, while Hagler had the hardest right jab of all time. No knockdowns, no stoppage. It will come down to ring generalship. If Hagler can circle right, to the outside of Qawi's jab, and come at Ike with hooks and jabs to the body, and lead lefts from behind Qawi (keeping one step ahead), then Dwight could be in for a frustrating experience. Ike's elegant approach was simply to keep his lead foot between his opponent's feet (splitting his defense and cutting off the ring), then reflexively triggering his own jab when his opponent jabbed. (A peak Qawi would have given Ali a lot more trouble than anyone might suspect.)
Hagler's being a great jabbing southpaw would pose a different set of issues for Ike. In this dance, Marv would need to continually circle right, keeping his left foot outside Qawi's lead foot, as he steps his right behind Dwight, getting Ike to continually turn left to try facing Marv. Every so often, Hagler would want to take a big right step to the outside of Qawi's left, and try splitting his defense with a hard left cross inside Ike's jab and down the pike. Qawi had a nasty habit of breathing through his mouth. (It made him look as if he was constantly sneering at his prey.) That he never had his jaw broken is testimony to what a fine defensive fighter Ike was. But if Hagler can nail his opened jaw solidly from his unorthodox posture, he might do more damage than one might expect of a typical middleweight.
I don't think the 170 pound Mike Spinks of the David Sears fight would have had the picnic with Marv that everybody supposes, at least not in terms of punching him out easily. As smart as Mike and Futch were, they would have more likely utilized Mike's superb boxing skills and mobility to assert their will on Marv. I would expect them to take a page out of Marcos Geraldo's playbook, and employ leftward lateral movement while constantly splashing his jab into Hagler's face. By the time Mike's legs were fatigued to the point where he should settle down more, he ought to have a significant lead piled up on the scorecards. Once Marv catches Mike, he'd find he doesn't have anything in his arsenal like what would be needed to stop Spinks. Mike would still have the strength and firepower necessary to keep Hagler at bay, and win a very clear cut and clever decision.
Former middleweights like Mickey Walker and James Toney have displayed fine chins of heavyweight caliber when their mettle has been tested. Tommy Hearns sustained stoppage losses at WW and MW, yet proved to be a perfectly competent championship caliber LH. Iran Barkley was also kayoed at MW by Hagler's half brother Robbie Sims, yet went on to retire murderous punching former WBA HW Champion Gerrie Coetzee by kayo.
Unlike Hearns, Walker, and Barkley, the measure of Hagler's ability to withstand a heavy punch was never taken. I will not assume that he would have been slaughtered by the top light heavyweights of his era, simply because he had the discipline and dedication to maintain the same weight and a high level of fitness throughout his career. Unlike James Toney, nobody ever punched Hagler to the deck at middleweight, or even come close. I will not presume to penalize Hagler for his superior consistency, and refusal to play weight division hopscotch. He did the right thing in keeping his size steady, and upholding the great tradition of outstanding middleweight champions, one that he carried forward from Monzon, and that Hopkins advanced from Hagler. (Haven't you ever wondered how long and well RJJ and Toney would have performed with the discipline and consistency of a Hagler or B-Hop?)