FOR fight fans who don’t have access to the Discovery+ streaming service, find a friend who does, as it offers an exhilarating documentary series to drool over.
Between November 1980 and December 1989, four giant talents – Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Tommy “Hitman” Hearns – had nine unforgettable fights between them. I had the chance to cover seven for SunSport.
For unparalleled brilliance, thrill and skill and enough pathos to empty a box of tissues, these glorious battles will still be discussed and debated about 100 years from now.
The British director Mat Whitecross has been commissioned by the American network Showtime to make a documentary on these epics.
Whitecross and his producer Fiona Neilson have crafted a masterpiece, aptly named The Kings, that audiences will rave about for years to come.
It took two years to make and consists of four classic one-hour films of such breathtaking magnificence that it captures every nuance of these dazzling duels.
The legendary quartet are interviewed in depth before and after the fights and each provides fascinating insight into their complex characters and personalities.
Four fights stand out from the others, the first Leonard-Duran confrontation, their return five months later, Hagler-Hearns and Hagler-Leonard.
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I missed Leonard-Duran II and Hagler-Duran but the magnificent seven I saw are etched indelibly in my memory, despite taking place four decades ago.
Had Hollywood scripted the kind of 15-round war fought by Leonard and Duran at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, critics would have deemed it too over the top.
They reportedly said it was not possible for two men to have traded such hard blows for 45 minutes at such breakneck speed.
This Panamanian devil Duran got the narrow points decision. Leonard lost his world welterweight title and undefeated record.
This fight was full of brilliance and bravery and remains the best I have ever seen.
When they reunited five months later in New Orleans, Duran, who claimed to have stomach cramps, shouted “No Mas” in the eighth round and quit – the most notorious and ignominious capitulation in boxing history.
Leonard had regained his title and reputation, but his most sensational victory easily came when his hand and foot speed, along with his ring-sense, completely confused Hagler to earn a memorable 12-round split decision. to win the world middleweight crown.
Sugar Ray came out of retirement having had one fight in five years – Hagler who hadn’t been beaten in 11 years never fought again.
Those of us at ringside in Las Vegas when Hagler defended himself against Hearns will never forget the opening round – which claimed to be the fiercest opening three minutes ever. At the sound of the bell, they jumped on each other like two ravenous lions fighting over a carcass.
Blood poured down Hagler’s face from a deep gash in his forehead.
Concerned referee Richard Steele asked: “Can you see, Marvin?” Hagler’s terse response was, “I don’t miss him, do I?” before knocking out Hearns in the third round.
The Kings shine a light on the best in boxing as well as the worst.
Apart from Hagler, who retired at 33, unfortunately, the others have far exceeded their best and have been beaten by inferior opponents.
I found The Kings as compelling as When They Were Kings, the Ali-Foreman Rumble in the Jungle saga documentary that won an Oscar 26 years ago – and I can’t give it more praise than that .