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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Marvin Hagler, Estrada-Gonzalez 2, Chocolatito’s greatness)

The man, the myth, the Marvelous One, Marvin Hagler. Gone but never forgotten. Photo from The Ring Magazine/Getty Images
15
Mar

A (BITTER)SWEET SCIENCE WEEKEND TO REMEMBER

Greetings Dougie,

Long time reader, second time writer here, who wanted to share his thoughts.

Sad part first: My jawed dropped when I read about the passing of Marvin Hagler. Even though he retired four years before I was born, he has always been among my five all-time favorites. It seems his name always comes up when the subject is “favorite fighters.” As superhumanly tough as he was in the ring and as fresh as he seemed in recent years, I would’ve thought he had reached a 100 birthdays. Alas, a sobering reminder, that you shouldn’t count the days.



Anyways, Rest In Power, Oh Marvelous One.

On to the big fight: What a wonderful fight it was! I’ve not seen such an exciting fight on live-TV since Bradley-Provodnikov. I was rooting for my old boy Chocolatito, but he got me worried in the first and the beginning of the second round. Looked weary to me. However, he put any worries to shame. Son of a bitch was just warming up! He put on an incredible Armstrongesque performance. Estrada is sublime though. As I saw it Gonzalez got the better of him, most rounds, but El Gallo is just so damned crisp and cool headed. And those wrecking power punches Chocolatito hammered in Gallo’s face in the last round, could have dropped a heavyweight. Shows what magnificent beasts both guys truly are.

I did not agree with the decision and I actually didn’t see a lot of swing rounds (had it 116-112 for Gonzalez), what did you think about the decision? Still, I won’t let a controversial outcome ruin what was a night turned morning to remember and it is always impressive when a fighter avenges all his losses, especially when those loses came against other titleholders. Can’t complain about a third fight either. Since Estrada always does better in rematches, do you think he will do even better in the rubbermatch? Lastly, Sor Rungvisai looked strong on Friday, how do you think he fares against Gonzalez or Estrada?

Hope you make the days count. Kind regards. – Hjalte, Denmark

Thanks for that reminder, Hjalte, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on Marvin Hagler and that amazing rematch that Estrada and Gonzalez delivered.

I thought Srisaket Sor Rungvisai looked sharp during the three rounds of his stay-busy/WBC “step-aside” bout and I believe that he can give both Estrada and Gonzalez sheer hell in third bouts with either future hall of famer. The Thai tank won’t back up against Gonzalez, which detracts from the Nicaraguan’s game; and as long as he battles Estrada from the southpaw stance, his stronger inside punching will keep the Mexican master honest.

Would Estrada do better in a rubber match with Gonzalez? I assume so. He was better this past Saturday than he was eight and half years ago at 108 pounds, naturally, but now he’s got almost as much wear and tear on his body that Chocolatito has. Gonzalez is at the point in his career where we never know when his body will hit the proverbial wall and he gets “old” overnight. I can tell from being in Dallas and staying at the host hotel with all the media from Nicaragua and Mexico that a lot of members of Spanish-language press thought that Gonzalez’s “Last Hurrah” was against Kal Yafai and Israel Gonzalez last year. Most of the Mexican media thought Estrada would win clearly, half figured the ‘W” would come by way of knockout, and even some of the Nicaraguan media was picking Estrada. (Off the record, they told me they thought he was gonna be stopped.) I had no problem telling them they were wrong.

However, the Herculean effort Gonzalez gave on Saturday may have emptied his tank. We won’t know for sure until we see him in the ring again. Although I picked Gonzalez to win, it was a heart pick, and I admitted that Estrada had earned the right to be the odds/media favorite. I still think El Gallo should be the slight favorite (even though I thought he lost the rematch). But there’s no telling how much all those punches that Gonzalez landed took out of him. Also, Estrada really thought he could stop Gonzalez, so Chocolatito may have won a psychological battle in standing up to his best punches. Who knows who really has the edge in a rubber match? All I know is that they will always combine to make a hell of a fight.

My jawed dropped when I read about the passing of Marvin Hagler. I think we were all blindsided by that terrible news. It was a real gut punch. I learned of it an hour or two before leaving the hotel for the American Airlines Center and I still had a lump in my throat as I climbed into the shuttle. As much anticipation and enthusiasm as I had for the Estrada-Gonzalez rematch, I sat on press row with a heavy heart. But the show must go on. I’m glad everybody on the card gave their all, especially the headliners.

Even though he retired four years before I was born, he has always been among my five all-time favorites. I watched a few of Hagler’s fights on network TV and HBO during his title reign but I didn’t truly appreciate him until a few years after he retired (during my college years) when I was able to review his early career (via collectors’ VHS tapes) and re-watch his more-notable showdowns with Leonard, Hearns and Duran.

On to the big fight: What a wonderful fight it was! I’ve not seen such an exciting fight on live-TV since Bradley-Provodnikov. That’s high praise. Estrada-Gonzalez II didn’t exhibit the brute-force that Ruslan Provodnikov brought to his slugfest with Tim Bradley, or the drama of one of the fighters battling back from the brink of unconsciousness (as Timmy did in 2013), but it featured a higher-level of skill and technique, as well as more sustained action.

I was rooting for my old boy Chocolatito, but he got me worried in the first and the beginning of the second round. Looked weary to me. The Nicaraguan media seated around me were also concerned. I thought it was a good sign that Gonzalez was taking his time, gauging Estrada’s energy and strategy, while gradually getting into his rhythm. I didn’t expect a 33-year-old junior bantamweight version of Gonzalez to start the rematch the way the 25-year-old junior featherweight version Chocolatito did back in 2012.

“Chocolatito” gave as good as he got during an unforgettable rematch. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

However, he put any worries to shame. Son of a bitch was just warming up! Indeed, and once Chocolatito gets into his rhythm he’s a marvel to behold, a threat from the outside, mid-range and, of course, inside; punches flowing like water, one power shot sets up the next, and he never loses his balance or his leverage, and it all seems effortless. Those who can’t see Chocolatito’s brilliance must have a narrow view of what boxing craft is. I pity those fools like Mr. T.

He put on an incredible Armstrongesque performance. That’s the highest praise, but you’re not wrong! I think Gonzalez belongs with boxing’s greatest volume punchers, a fearless indefatigable cadre that includes Pancho Villa, Henry Armstrong, Joe Frazier and Aaron Pryor. There isn’t any film of Harry Greb or Tiger Flowers to compare Gonzalez’s technical style of “swarming” to, but my hunch is that the Pittsburgh Windmill and the Georgia Deacon would have been Chocolatito fans. Did you know Gonzalez threw 158 punches in the 12th round vs. Estrada, according to CompuBox?

Estrada is sublime though. I call him the Mexican master. He’s just as complete a fighter as Gonzalez, but he’s got more versatility. Estrada deserves his spot in the pound-for-pound rankings and probably deserves to be rated higher.

I did not agree with the decision and I actually didn’t see a lot of swing rounds (had it 116-112 for Gonzalez), what did you think about the decision? I thought one of the judges (Jesse Reyes) got it right. I wasn’t mad at David Sutherland’s 115-113 tally for Gallo, but that 117-111 score from Carlos Sucre is PURE ASS. I haven’t watched a replay yet but from press row I scored it 115-113 for Gonzalez. I scored Rounds 1, 4, 5, 7 and 11 for Estrada; I thought the 11th could have easily gone to Gonzalez (so I would have had your scorecard had I done that). However, I thought Rounds 6 and 9, which I scored for Gonzalez, were also really close, so had I scored those rounds for Estrada, I’d have had Sutherland’s tally.

 

BLIND MICE

They did it again.

I would have been fine with everything from 114:114 to 116:112 for Chocolatito. Even a 115:113 Estrada is not a robbery. But 117:111? But still: Great fight – great fighters – great personalities. In my humble opinion Chocolatito is an ATG with this fight. THE KING IS STILL ALIVE! – Matthias, Germany

There’s only one “Chocolatito.” Photo: Naoki Fukuda

Gonzalez was the king before he ever fought on HBO. He was the pound-for-pound king during his “Big Drama, Little Drama show” run with Gennadiy Golovkin from 2015-2017. He was still the KING after back-to-back losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, he reminded the nay-sayers and non-believers of this when he stopped Kal Yafai, and he reminded Estrada (and all of El Gallo’s overconfident fans) this on Saturday. He’s STILL THE KING following that split-decision loss. His legacy is as strong as ever. No shame in losing to the likes of Sor Rungvisai and Estrada, especially when most observers thought he won the first bout with Srisaket and the rematch with Gallo (AND both of those fights were Fight-of-the-Year caliber). Official judges be damned.

 

TEARS

Dear Dougie,

What a night! I haven’t got many words for it, but I still wanted to share.

I only heard from Michael Buffer that Marvelous Marvin Hagler had passed away and I immediately teared up. There is nothing I can add to what has been said about him as a boxer and I didn’t know him or anything but for some reason he was one of the boxers I felt most emotionally attached to. He was just very likable to me, as are Golovkin and Chocolatito today.

About the main event: I don’t know why, but I don’t care much about the result. It was a great fight and I thought Chocolatito won. The fact, that they gave it to El Gallo doesn’t change how great the fight was. In the twelfth round I was an tears again – tears of awe and amazement and tears of joy. Maybe I’m just so emotional, because I had to get up at 4 in the morning to watch it and I’m just bloody tired now.

Rest in Peace, Marvelous Marvin!

Long live Chocolatito!

Best wishes. – Hans from Berlin

Thanks for sharing from heart, Hans. I felt it too, brother. I had a lump in my throat and misty eyes several times before, during and after Estrada-Gonzalez II, and Hagler’s passing was a big part of the emotional connection. Even though he wasn’t one of my favorites when he was the reigning middleweight champ, I always respected him, even when my boyhood idol challenged him. I didn’t care who won that 1987 superfight, I just wanted it to live up to the hype, and I didn’t want Leonard to get seriously hurt. I admired that Hagler left the sport on his own terms and I grew to appreciate his Spartan preparation, aggressive style, steely focus and underrated craft during the immediate years following his exit from the sport. The older I got the more I realized that professional boxers like Hagler were becoming a rarity. So, when I witness complete fighters compete on an elite-level with the kind of courage and stamina that the Marvelous One did back in the day, as Estrada and Gonzalez did Saturday night, I get a little choked up. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one.   

 

THE GREATNESS OF CHOCOLATITO

Hey, Dougie,

What a mix of feelings we had this weekend, huh? The sadness with the death of the all-time great Marvin Hagler, and the happiness and gratitude with the fight of the year (definitely I don’t think any fight can match this one).

My question is simple and quick: he didn’t win, but can we already say Gonzalez is an ATG after this? Honestly, I think the dude could fight any little champion in history and give him hell. Plus, the best word to describe what I saw Saturday night is “greatness”. How blessed we are to be able to witness two such magnificent fighters with our own eyes. – Andre, Brasil

I’m proud to say that I was in the arena for both fights. It’s really an amazing story that their rematch could match – arguably surpass – their fierce first 108-pound showdown EIGHT years-plus later, and that they’d both be top dogs in the deep 115-pound division when they finally got it on again. Only the Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns rivalry, also separated by eight years, can compare (although as good as their rematch was, it didn’t surpass their epic first fight).

Can we say Gonzalez is great? Hey, I won’t argue too much with anyone who views him as such. My ATG criteria is ridiculously strict, so in my book, Chocolatito is a borderline great. I thought he clinched his ticket to Canastota with the UD over Carlos Cuadras in 2016 (beating a real guy, unbeaten at the time, to win his fourth world title in a fourth weight class). He’s a hall of famer without question. I think he added to his legacy by coming back from his disastrous 2017 (although I don’t think his first fight with Sor Rungvisai detracts from it at all) and eventually regaining a world title vs. an undefeated standout. Had he won the Estrada rematch and done so clearly via comfortable scorecards (provided the official judges were competent) and then went on to gain revenge vs. Sor Rungvisai, I’d pull the trigger on the “ATG” label.   

I have no idea what Gonzalez has left, but there might still be time for him to state his case for true all-time greatness. Return bouts with Estrada and Sor Rungvisai, as well as a fascinating matchup with fellow four-division titleholder Kazuto Ioka, are available for him. Let’s just enjoy this ride, fight by fight. When he says he’s done, then we can truly assess his legacy.

 

APPRECIATION OF HAGLER AND THE LITTLE GUYS

Morning Dougie,

Hope everything is well in the sunny states, it’s (unsurprisingly) freezing over here.

We should recognise the loss of Marvin Hagler. I’m not sure what I can say that hasn’t already been said or we don’t already know so let’s just take a moment to appreciate his greatness and mourn his passing.

Let’s also appreciate the FOTY contender that The King and Estrada put on for us last night. Hail to them both. Now I did score it 116-112 for The King but I’m not here to moan about the scorecards.

I don’t care about that, it was a close fight. Let’s just appreciate the balls that these two have to put it all on the line, not care about losing the fight and caring more about performing well against another fantastic fighter for our entertainment (frankly, there’s a few big-name champions that could do to learn from this).

Thoughts on the fight, potential rematch or where else they go from here?

Stay safe, stay happy and thanks again. – Euan, Dunfermline, Scotland

You’ve got the right attitude, Euan. Even if we feel that it’s our duty to call out Carlos Sucre’s egregious scorecard and put pressure on the commission to reprimand him, we should have nothing but respect for the fighters. They did what they were supposed to do, which was give 100% (and I honestly believe Gonzalez and Estrada exceeded human limits in a few of those breathtaking rounds that featured non-stop punching). The fighters sacrificed a lot to give us a ring battle on that level, we owe it to them and ourselves to appreciate their efforts.

Major props to Carlos Cuadras for fighting EVERYBODY! Photo by Chris Farina – K2 Promotions

The Ring’s top three junior bantamweights – Estrada, Sor Rungvisai and Gonzalez – have all fought each other – twice. Can you imagine the excitement and business generated if The Ring’s top three welterweights – Errol Spence, Terence Crawford and Manny Pacquiao – did that?

What’s great about the 115-pound division is that most of the standouts seem willing to challenge themselves. The Ring’s No. 4-rated junior bantamweight, WBO beltholder Kazuto Ioka, has faced McWilliams Arroyo, Donnie Nietes, Aston Palicte, Jeyvier Cintron and Kosei Tanaka since entering the division in 2018. Cuadras, the No. 10 contender, has faced Sor Rungvisai, Gonzalez, Estrada (twice) and Arroyo all at 115 pounds. (Arroyo, who is back at flyweight, deserves props for fighting Gonzalez at 112; Cuadras and Ioka at 115.)

 

WHAT A FIGHT

Hey Dougie,

We saw the Chocolatito-Estrada fight with a friend and the wives and all four of us were awed with the performance by both fighters. All of us couldn’t agree on a winner and thought a win by either of them or a draw was good enough for us.  We were ok with the Estrada win because we thought that there were plenty of rounds that were super close that we just had to pick a winner based on how we felt, so in other words it was just base opinion.

In the end all of us saw it 6-6 or 7-5 either way.

To say this was a draw was ludicrous and was surprised at some claims by fans and even Chocolatito, who normally is very humble about everything. But I do get it. Passions are high when you give it your all and wouldn’t blame anybody for feeling they won. You know who won? We did. Best fight I’ve seen since Marquez-Vazquez 3.

Thanks Doug. I’m humbled. – Juan Valverde, Chula Vista

Proud to say that I was ringside for both Vazquez-Marquez III and Estrada-Gonzalez II. I think both fights required the combatants to push past human limits (even by the incredibly high athletic/physical standards of professional boxing). And I was sincerely at a loss for words (to type in my post-fight reports) following both instant classics.

We were ok with the Estrada win because we thought that there were plenty of rounds that were super close that we just had to pick a winner based on how we felt, so in other words it was just base opinion. I’m not mad about Estrada winning, but I’d be happier if that 117-111 card was not part of the equation, and even happier if Gonzalez got the ‘W.’

In the end all of us saw it 6-6 or 7-5 either way. The members of your crew that had it 7-5 for Chocolatito are just a little bit smarter than the others.

To say this was a draw was ludicrous and was surprised at some claims by fans and even Chocolatito, who normally is very humble about everything. I thought you just said that you foursome was cool with 6-6 or 7-5 either way. So, how is a draw “ludicrous”? And are you saying that Chocolatito claimed that the fight should have been a draw? I doubt that. I’m sure he felt that he deserved the victory.

 

REMEMBERING MARVIN HAGLER

Hi Doug,

As exciting as Gonzalez/Estrada was (and it really was) I would like to say a few words about the sudden passing of Marvin Hagler. Personally, it was a real gut punch for me because I always picture him as the strong imposing figure he presented in the ring. I am so glad that I was around during his era (in fact he is a year younger than me). I saw pretty much every fight he had that was televised. He always gave everything in the ring and he worked so hard to get to the top of the sport, not enjoying the kind of lucrative TV contracts early on that some of the Olympians did. I remember the disappointment of him being robbed (I thought) in his first title challenge against Vito Antuofermo and cheering when he won the title in a three-round destruction of Alan Minter (called by Howard Cosell on ABC Wide World of Sports) as British fans pelted the ring with beer bottles and police formed a human shield to escort him from the arena. When he defended the title, if you were his opponent, you had better be prepared for war because as I heard him once say, he considered anyone trying to take his title as trying to take food from his kid’s mouths. He never lost that kind of hunger and drive in his defense of the championship.

When I look at his title defenses, I don’t see a lot of what you would call soft touches and for me each fight was must see for a boxing fan because Marvin’s goal was to get you out of there. Much has been written about the Tommy Hearns fight (and deservedly so) but I just remember sitting in the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville watching on the big screen and the atmosphere was electric, the cheers deafening. I have watched it countless times and it is still thrilling. Hagler’s final bout with Ray Leonard will be debated about long after we are all gone. I can only imagine what a return fight would have been like but Hagler called it a day and in retrospect Marvin Hagler went out on his own terms.

Marvin Hagler’s hall of fame status is well deserved and I always had dreams of meeting him there and shaking his hand. As it is, I am just thankful that I was around to enjoy watching him in his prime. RIP champ. Thanks for all you gave to the sport and to the fans that loved and respected you. – David, Nashville

Hagler left boxing on his terms and never looked back. Photo by The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

Thank you for sharing these special words for one of the greatest middleweight champions ever, David. The Ring will pay tribute to Hagler in our next magazine and I’m looking forward to shedding light on the early/overlooked parts of his career – his climb into the rankings with his battles against the best of Philadelphia, his prime years during the late 1970s when he was avoided by the champs, and his struggle for recognition prior to the 1983 showdown with Roberto Duran (the first star willing to share the ring with him) – for those who may be unfamiliar with his climb to the top of the 160-pound mountain.

For me, Hagler was the King of the Middleweight Mountain. There was no other champion during most the 1980s. Nobody could push him off its peak, not even Leonard. Marvin left on his own accord.

He always gave everything in the ring and he worked so hard to get to the top of the sport, not enjoying the kind of lucrative TV contracts early on that some of the Olympians did. Hagler was more than ready for a title shot by 1977, but he didn’t get Antuofermo until the end of 1979. He fought 16 times between February 1977 and his November ’79 shot at Vito, avenging his 1976 loss to Willie Monroe (twice) via stoppage, outpointing Ring-rated Bennie Briscoe and blasting Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Seals in the process. Hagler had 53 fights under his belt (as many fights as Chocolatito has now) when he challenged Alan Minter for the title in 1980. Between the draw with Antuofermo and three-round drubbing of Minter, he avenged his first loss (to Bobby Watts) with a second-round stoppage.

Hagler turned back the challenges of some rugged contenders, including Mustafa Hamsho. Photo by The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

When I look at his title defenses, I don’t see a lot of what you would call soft touches and for me each fight was must see for a boxing fan because Marvin’s goal was to get you out of there. Antuofermo, who he chopped up to a fifth-round TKO in their rematch, Fulgencio Obelmejias (who he fought twice), Mustafa Hamsho (who he fought twice), Tony Sibson, Wilford Scypion, Juan Roldan and John Mugabi were all Ring-rated middleweights. Hagler’s known for his battles with his fellow Kings (Duran, Hearns and Leonard), understandably so, but the contenders he defeated could fight.  

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom’s or Dougie’s Periscope (almost) every Sunday.

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