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Showtime’s ‘The Kings’ zeroes in on Marvin Hagler’s biggest victories and devastating loss to Sugar Ray Leonard

Marvin Hagler (left) lost his April 1987 fight to Sugar Ray Leonard by split decision, a controversy that still hasn't been laid to rest despite Hagler's death earlier this year.
Marvin Hagler (left) lost his April 1987 fight to Sugar Ray Leonard by split decision, a controversy that still hasn't been laid to rest despite Hagler's death earlier this year.LENNOX MCLENDON

The final two episodes of “The Kings” will deliver a focus on Brockton’s Marvin Hagler that local fans might be hoping for after watching the first two installments of the Showtime series.

Episode 3 of the four-part documentary on Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran airs Sunday at 8 p.m., and features Hagler’s two highest-profile victories, over Duran and Hearns.

The final episode airs the following Sunday, June 27, and includes Hagler’s clash with Leonard. While it reopens some of the old wounds Hagler’s followers felt after his controversial split-decision loss, fans would be doing themselves a disservice to not watch it.

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There for it all were legendary broadcasters Barry Tompkins and Tim Ryan, who called many of the fights in that era.

Tompkins called Hagler’s bout with Duran in November 1983, with Leonard serving as the color commentator. Hagler trailed after 13 rounds, but rallied to win the 14th and 15th to take a split decision. Tompkins recalled how, after the decision was announced, Duran walked over to where he and Leonard were ringside, stuck his head between the ropes and said to Leonard: “You can beat this guy.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that that was when Ray decided, ‘I’m going to fight this guy,’ ” said Tompkins, who at 81 still calls fights for Showtime’s ShoBox series.

A few months later, Tompkins and Leonard were in Florida, preparing to call a Hector Camacho fight, when Leonard asked Tompkins to meet him for lunch.

It was then that Leonard laid out his plan to beat Hagler.

“You have to fight three times in every round for 15 seconds at a time,” Leonard told Tompkins.

“ ’You have to start the round with a flurry, somewhere in the middle of the round, you have to have a flurry, and then you’ve got to end the round with a flurry, and you’ll steal the fight,’ ” Tompkins recalled Leonard explaining. “That’s exactly what he did. He stole the fight.”

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Not everyone agreed with that decision, which Leonard would soon come to find out. Shortly after the post-fight press conference, he sought the opinion of Ryan and the late Gil Clancy, who called the fight for CBS.

Ryan, 82 and retired from announcing, shared the story, which he also wrote about in his book, “On Someone Else’s Nickel: A life in television, sports and travel.”

“Ray had done a little bit of commentary with us, and we had done a number of his fights, so we had built a relationship with him,” said Ryan. “He’s a personable guy. He’s easy to be around and enjoy his company.

“So he asked us: ‘How did you score it?’ ”

Ryan told Leonard he had Hagler winning by a close margin. Clancy had Leonard with a close win, but told the fighter it could have just as easily gone the other way. The trio arranged to get together and watch the fight again. They scored every round, with Leonard pleading his case every time Ryan scored a round for Hagler.

“He absolutely wanted to know how we scored it, because he knew it was a disputed result himself,” said Ryan. “He understood the case could’ve been made for Marvin.”

Tompkins scored the fight for Leonard, while fellow Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Bernstein gave it to Hagler.

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“That fight, more than any other fight I’ve done, to this day, people ask me, ‘Who won that fight?’ ” said Tompkins. “It probably happens a dozen times a year. It’s amazing, and everyone has an opinion.”

The one thing most agree on: judge JoJo Guerra botched the scoring. While judge Lou Filippo scored the fight 115–113 for Hagler and judge Dave Moretti had the fight 115–113 for Leonard, Guerra scored it 118-110 for Leonard.

“Everybody thought that was ludicrous,” said Ryan. “How do you explain that? People can make up their own nefarious reasons, but it was just ridiculous. It begs the old question: ‘What fight was he watching?’ ”

Stung by the loss, Hagler never entered the ring again, although he would work with both Ryan and Tompkins as a commentator for several fights, including Hearns-Leonard II.

“Marvin really had some chops as a color commentator. He really did,” said Tompkins. “The further removed he got from the sport, he would have been better and better. I guess it was something he never really wanted to pursue.”

That Hagler died just months before the documentary aired is tragic, said Tompkins.

“I have to tell you, I loved Marvin Hagler, both as a person and as a fighter,” he said. “And I feel as though, because of that fight, he’s never going to get his just due as one of the great middleweights, which I really believed he was.

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“There was really something charming about him that I always not only admired, but thought, ‘What a great character, in so many ways.’

“Marvin was so much more real than Ray, and almost any fighter. I hope that all of this now gets people to see not only what a great fighter he was, but also a really solid individual.”


Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.