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Ring Magazine

Concannon's Corner

Personal Biography

Dream Match
Hagler - McCallum

By:  Paul Concannon

After ripping the undisputed title from Britain’s Alan Minter in September of 1980, Marvin Hagler secured his place as one of the great Middleweight Champions in thrilling battles with fellow greats such as, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard to name just a few. There was another great fighter during this era, however, who sadly was never able to secure a fight with Hagler or any of the other ‘big four’ that helped mark the eighties as one of the great decades in the history of the sport.

While the aforementioned quartet regularly went to war in multi-million pound extravaganzas, Mike McCallum quietly peddled his trade in the background during an unglamorous yet outstanding WBA Junior Middleweight Title reign that saw him make six successful defenses. He later complemented this with World title success at 160 and 175 pounds into the nineties as well.  A skilled craftsman with a granite jaw, solid punch, beautiful skills and an exquisite line in body punching, it was unfortunate for McCallum that boxing only had so much room in a decade crammed with mega talent and mega stars.

Style wise, I think Hagler-McCallum could have been a beautiful match- up featuring the firepower, pressure, chin and southpaw sharp-shooting of Hagler against the speed, wiles and counter-punching acumen of McCallum.


Marvelous Marvin Hagler
Country: USA
Status: Retired
Record: 62-3-2 (52).

World titles: Undisputed Middleweight Champion 1980-1987

Style and strengths: Aggressive, granite jawed, versatile southpaw slugger with heavy hands, a thumping jab and relentless stamina. He was also an excellent boxer capable of switching stances and boxing when faced with aggressive sluggers.

Weaknesses:  Nothing of note although for all his aggression and strength Hagler was occasionally criticized for being an arm puncher and not getting the full bodyweight into some of his shots.

Notable wins: Sugar Ray Seales, Willy “The Worm” Monroe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Benny Briscoe, Kevin Finnegan, Alan Minter, Fuly Obel, Vito Antuofermo, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, and John Mugabi. 

Notable defeats: The later defeated Monroe and Watts both out-pointed Hagler in his outstanding pre-title career and a famous split verdict to Leonard in Hagler’s last fight.

Mike ‘The Bodysnatcher’ McCallum
Record: 49-5-1 (36)
Country: Jamaican based in the USA.

World titles: WBA Light-Middleweight 84-87, WBA Middleweight 89-91, WBC Light-Heavyweight 94-95.

Notable wins: Luigi Minchillo, Julian Jackson, Milton McCrory, Donald Curry, Herol Graham, Sumbu Kalambay, Steve Collins, Michael Watson, Jeff Harding  and a super draw with James Toney.

Notable losses: Kalamabay (later avenged), two tight decisions to old foe James Toney, Fabrice Tiozzo, and  Roy Jones.

Styles and strengths: Defensively cunning counter-puncher with a full repertoire of hooks, jabs, uppercuts along with crosses and terrific footwork. His superb body punching earned him his nickname after some heavy sparring sessions with Thomas Hearns at the Kronk Gym. He was also the owner of a rock solid Jaw.

Weaknesses: While always a stiff puncher at Junior Middleweight his power generally lessened slightly as he moved up through the divisions.

The Fight

15 rounds for the Undisputed Middleweight Championship of the World

Exploratory jabs are traded early in the first. Hagler’s southpaw stance seems to be no real problem for McCallum who is able to get his left jab through the high guard of Hagler. Marvin opens up with a combo and McCallum spins out of trouble and counters with an uppercut. Hagler responds with a decent left to the body. Both are clearly looking to make a mark early. McCallum dances away from a Hagler combination and lands a countering uppercut and following left right to the body. Hagler has the last word with a clubbing right hook. Good crisp punching on both sides as both have fine moments in a lively first round.

More boxing from the Jamaican in the second with Hagler stalking patiently; McCallum spins away from Hagler’s dangerous right hook and counters with a stiff right cross. Hagler smiles and slots in a double jab but misses with a left uppercut. Hagler attacks the body but is countered by another stiff right, Hagler fires a barrage in response, but McCallum spins out of range and counters with a left hook to the body. Hagler snaps through a jab, his most effective punch in the early going, and McCallum ends the round with a double left jab. McCallum edges a tense and riveting second.

McCallum is content to keep on the move and wait for counter-punching opportunities. Hagler is no mindless slugger and his high guard means that McCallum has to pick his spots, but his neat countering is certainly more than a nuisance to the Shaven headed Southpaw. Hagler is made to miss with a left cross and is caught by a cracking right as he straightens up. McCallum comes off his toes and fires a combination to the body and stiff left hook to the head, Hagler lands a stiff jab and left cross to send McCallum back on the balls of his feet and dancing out of danger. Two more left jabs mark a clear round for McCallum.

Similar pattern through round four with McCallum marginally out-boxing Hagler. On the two-minute mark the constantly stalking Southpaw aims his attack to the body and has some success. It’s frantic stuff with neither giving ground and big punches are traded including some picture perfect body punching from McCallum. A more urgent attack sees the Jamaican pinned to the ropes towards the end of the round, but he nails the swarming Hagler with a hook, cross, and  uppercut. The final punch sends Hagler’s head back on his shoulders and brings a gasp from the crowd. After the bell is there is an intense stare down and the referee separates them.

Hagler is 3-0-1 down in rounds and comes out for the fifth with purpose and zeal. Firing stiff right jabs and heavy crosses he forces McCallum into the trenches. One notable left catches the West Indian slickster and two rights to the body have him backing up. McCallum attempts to retaliate with sharp counters, but Hagler either ducks under or ignores them as he plows forward with sharp, swarming attacks. McCallum really feels the weight of one right hook and spins out of a corner. Mike has some success at rounds end with his right, but it’s Marvin’s round.

Over the next four rounds the pattern continues. Hagler stalks and despite eating several sharp counters and some neat body shots his high volume attack slowly closes McCallum down. It’s exciting stuff with heavy shots going in from both, but Hagler’s edge in power and increasing accuracy see him taking the rounds, though his right eye swells with consistent attention of McCallum’s left jab.

The ninth is pivotal; the Jamaican needs to redress the balance and really begins to put weight into his counters, nailing Hagler with his full armory as the attack continues. Hagler feels the pace this round and seems to take a breather allowing the busier McCallum to take the round.

McCallum dances behind the jab through rounds 10 and 11 and counters Hagler’s less frequent attacks with a stiff right cross. Hagler has his moments and is constantly dangerous with the left, but McCallum takes three rounds on the trot. Hagler seems to feel a nagging left hook to the body on the bell and goes back to his corner wincing.

It’s grueling now and Hagler’s wrenches the initiative back in round 12 with a swarming attack. McCallum is rocked significantly by a huge right hook, then later in the round by a three punch combination; his gum shield flies out of his mouth as a huge right hook has him sagging again on the two minute mark. The brief respite to replace the shield buys him precious seconds. Hagler doles out his own body attack until the bell.

The non-stop attack continues through round 13 and despite eating some heavy counters Hagler’s will slowly descends on the fledging McCallum who absorbs a fearful combination on the ropes at the bell. Two questions remain, Will Hagler punch himself out or will McCallum make it through to the final bell?

Amazingly the Jamaicans immense pride sees him dig deep to take the early part of fourteenth round on shear boxing; he spears Hagler with the Jab and attacks the body when he can. For McCallum it’s like holding back the tide, Hagler cracks him with a huge left hand 20 seconds before the bell and finally the weary Jamaican slumps to the canvas for an eight count. The crowd roar as he bravely staggers Hagler with a terrific right just before the bell.

Hagler, his right eye swollen shut, pours out his entire arsenal in the final round and the brave and mighty McCallum goes to toe to toe to treat the crowd to an awesome three minutes of championship boxing. Ultimately it’s a sniper rifle versus a machine gun though. Hagler’s meatier shots win him the round. The final sequences see a monstrous right hook from Hagler distort McCallum’s face then a whipping right counter from McCallum sending Hagler’s head back on his shoulders. It’s a thrilling end to a bout filled with artistry, skill, toughness, ebbing fortunes and ultimately immense bravery.

Hagler’s middle round dominance and late surge seem to have put him in front, though with McCallum’s early ascendancy and rally through rounds 10-12 if figures to be close.

It is; but ultimately it is Hagler who takes a deserved verdict with scores of 146-143, 145-141 and a close 144-141. Hagler describes McCallum as, “A great fighter, spiteful hitter and maybe my smartest ever foe.” McCallum responds simply with, “What a champion he is, everything I did he an answer for,” summing up the fight perfectly. 

Result: Hagler wins an epic struggle with a unanimous decision.