By Edgar Rider
Boxing in the eighties had it all great names, promo videos, and melodrama. It was an era of larger than life spectacle. Fighters knew how to prolong the drama.
Let’s take a trip to an age gone by shall we.
Case in point: There was a time when everybody asked the question about Iron Mike Tyson. Who could beat him or who could stop him. The commentators played it up and believed no one could beat Tyson. Tyson had an unbelievable run becoming one of the youngest champions in history.
Even the legendary Larry Holmes was knocked out by Tyson of course Holmes was not in his prime. This still kept the fans and everybody else wondering is Tyson simply unbeatable. One name they threw out was an up and coming young fighter named Evander Holyfield. But by 1990 Tyson’s reigned had ended. He was first defeated by Buster Douglas in a surprising upset thus ending an era..
The middleweight division was especially entertaining. The fighters came up with creative flashy names like Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and Tommy Hitman Hearns. Leonard seems like the leader as far as creating showboat excitement was also mastering the trademark fancy showboat style footwork but Leonard could throw a punch
Hagler was the more serious. He always down to business fighter. The juxtaposition between him and his opponents made it even more exciting.
In the Hearns Hagler bout , It appeared that Hagler was done. Hearns had him right where he wanted him. but then Hagler hit Hearns with a vicious right hand knocking him down. Hearns struggled to get up but couldn’t continue. It was a complete turn around and had the audience on their feet.
Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran had three epic encounters. The first fight with Roberto Duran went Roberto’s way.. Leonard lost the first and won the last two. Roberto Duran said ‘No Mas. No Mas’ during the final encounter.
Leonard said a famous quote after the encounter ,”to make a man quit was better than knocking him out.”
Duran was known as a fighter who could get down and dirty. There was a mystery to Duran that captivated the audience. Whether he won or lost he knew how to entertain the crowd.
Fighters like him created Epic Drama.
Hagler also had one bout with Duran. He beat Duran in a decisively way no controversy surrounding the decision. Hagler also had a bout with Sugar Ray Leonard. It too was a showstopper. Leonard was announced the winner. In a bizarre twist Leonard whispered to Hagler minutes before that he beat him right before the split decision. Leonard believed he had lost but still had his hand raised. The split decision is disputed to this day. Many feel that Hagler was robbed that day. Leonard’s admission didn’t help mute the controversy. If anything it fueled it more. Propelling both to legendary status.
It showed the chemistry between these select group of fighters that doesn’t seem to have been duplicated in the modern era.
Some final notes.
Fights used to be events of extraordinary spectacle. The Hype surrounding it was spectacular. You had to watch.
Controversy plagued the industry to its benefit . The success of boxing movies like Rocky III and IV didn’t hurt either.
So what is the conclusion. The era had it all. Rivalry was played up. It was theatre to the nth degree. It is a time gone by.
The hype they relied on is gone. Technology was not where it is today. There was no internet. Promoters had to promote the old fashioned way.
Hopefully some of the up an coming stars can learn from the boxing legends of the past and bring the excitement back into the sport.
Edgar Rider with his brother and cousin both named Paul saw Mike Tyson win the championship from Trevor Berbick in 1986. Tyson was not even old enough to drink. He remembers that generation and the way they built their names and reputation.Rider’s other work appears in Modern Rock Review, Birmingham arts Journal, Criterion International Journal, Rogue Cinema, and Room 101 magazine. He also wrote a comic book essay under the pseudonym Bob Eager in Comic Book and Movie Reviews.com.