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by Carlos Acevedo  |  Photos: Will HarT

 
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t was like something out of the Circus Maximus played out in a ring.  On April 15, 1985, a sold-out crowd of over 15,000 gathered in Las Vegas to witness Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns recreate a gladiatorial battle featuring Reyes gloves, over-the-calf tube socks, and Ponys instead of parmas, hastas, and galeas. The kitschy Roman trappings of Caesars Palace were an appropriate backdrop for these two warriors—even if they were fighting on tennis courts lined with bleachers beneath the big sky of Nevada.

Thirty years after they pushed each other to their physical limits, Hagler-Hearns remains a milestone of ultraviolence.

Its opening round set a baseline for havoc that may never be surpassed. Even Nero might have overdosed on adrenaline that night. What made Hagler-Hearns one of the most memorable brawls of its star-crossed era, however, was the raw talent under the lights. These were not mid-card pugs putting the boots to each other for rent money in front of a sparse crowd at some VFW or bingo hall. No, by 1985, with Sugar Ray Leonard already retired after a lackluster comeback, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns were the two best fighters in the world, and they would enter the ring on April 15 with a combined record of 100-3-2.