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Why No More Fifteen Round Fights?


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How Twelve Rounds Helped Ray Leonard Beat Marvin Hagler

 

In 1982 the WBC reduced championship fights from 15 to 12 rounds. Other sanctioning bodies quickly followed. What if nothing had changed? Would Marvin Hagler have won?

 

When the Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler middleweight championship fight was signed in 1987, much was made of Leonard's insistence on limiting the fight to 12 rounds, but Leonard / Hagler was hardly pioneering in that sense. The boxing world started changing several years earlier.

 

In 1982, Duk Koo Kim died from brain trauma sustained in the ring. This epic battle between Kim and WBA champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini ended when a tough, but rapidly weakening, Kim was stopped in the fourteenth round--he died four days later. Kim wasn’t the first man to die from ring injuries, but his bout had the distinction of being televised. A great lever had been thrown and the gears of change creaked into motion.

WBC Investigates Brain Injury in the Ring

 

The WBC had already begun investigating the neurological effects of 15 round bouts and theorized that fatigue, along with dehydration, had the greatest effect on a fighter between rounds 13 and 15. Shortly after Kim’s death, the WBC officially reduced its championship bouts from 15 to 12 rounds.

 

Along with that significant, if questionable, revision, the WBC also made some real progress in the monitoring and maintenance of fighter safety. Pre-fight electroencephalograms and a mandatory standing eight count for boxers who had been knocked down were among such improvements.

 

Nearly lost in the whirlwind of post-Mancini vs. Kim, was the effect of Kim dehydrating himself of several pounds before the bout in order to make the 135 lb weight limit. Without enough cerebral-spinal fluid surrounding his brain, there was little natural protection from Mancini’s blows. The truth is, there is no way to know if the fatal damage had occurred before twelve rounds or after, but that Kim was dehydrated is indisputable.

The Last Fifteen Round Fight

 

The last 15 round fight in history was Jorge Paez’s decision over Calvin Grove for the IBF featherweight title in 1989, but 15 round fights had already become rare by the time Hagler vs. Leonard took place two years earlier.

 

As one of the conditions of accepting the fight, Leonard proposed that the contest be limited to 12 rounds. Hagler agreed, although it wasn’t as deep a concession as some might have thought. Of Hagler’s last five fights, only one had been scheduled for 15 rounds. That, against Mustafa Hamsho in 1984.

 

In any event, Leonard wasn’t concerned about his brain; it was his legs he worried about. He knew that he would have to employ a run and gun strategy against the maniacally conditioned, more powerful Hagler if he were to have any hope of victory. As it was, Leonard fought again, retired, and unretired through a series of high profile, but essentially meaningless fights. Hagler, disgusted with the judges decision, moved to Italy to make a series action of movies.

 

What would have happened had their fight gone 15 rounds?

 

At the end of 12 rounds, Sugar Ray Leonard was completely spent. One could argue that if the fight were 15 rounds he would have paced himself for the longer distance, but in doing so he would have found the rounds much harder to win with his lateral movement and end-of-round flurries.

 

Hagler would have continued to press and his superior conditioning would have taken over in rounds 13 through 15, earning him a split decision.

 

The consequences of a Hagler victory? Sugar Ray Leonard would have retired slightly less famous, “The Contender” would never have happened, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler wouldn’t have his funny Italian accent.

 

http://www.suite101.com/content/what-if-fights-still-went-15-rounds-a83664

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Re: Why No More Fifteen Round Fights?

 

The last 15 round fight in history was Jorge Paez’s decision over Calvin Grove for the IBF featherweight title in 1989, but 15 round fights had already become rare by the time Hagler vs. Leonard took place two years earlier.

 

I really like what you wrote, but there is a small error here. This bout took place on August 4, 1988.

 

There were also several more scheduled 15 rounders after that, including:

 

August 29, 1988

Thailand

Rajadamnern Stadium, Bangkok

Minimumweight

Samuth Sithnaruepol 105 W In-Kyu Hwang 103½ UD 15-15

Referee: John Wheeler | Judge: Rey Cementina 147-144 | Judge: Leon Johannes 146-142 | Judge: Niphon Larhula 146-144

IBF Minimumweight Title

The last 15-round world title bout

 

There were 4 other 15 rounders after this bout as well, the last being in 1997.

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Re: Why No More Fifteen Round Fights?

 

The last 15 round fight in history was Jorge Paez’s decision over Calvin Grove for the IBF featherweight title in 1989, but 15 round fights had already become rare by the time Hagler vs. Leonard took place two years earlier.

 

I really like what you wrote, but there is a small error here. This bout took place on August 4, 1988.

 

There were also several more scheduled 15 rounders after that, including:

 

August 29, 1988

Thailand

Rajadamnern Stadium, Bangkok

Minimumweight

Samuth Sithnaruepol 105 W In-Kyu Hwang 103½ UD 15-15

Referee: John Wheeler | Judge: Rey Cementina 147-144 | Judge: Leon Johannes 146-142 | Judge: Niphon Larhula 146-144

IBF Minimumweight Title

The last 15-round world title bout

 

There were 4 other 15 rounders after this bout as well, the last being in 1997.

 

I didn't write the piece and I always make sure to code the site where I got it from, but GREAT catch.!!! You definitely gave me some more to review.

I am fairly new to the sport and any interesting articles I find I like to post..., a lot of the vets always chime in or give a recap that really helps me put the picture together (like you just did grin// )

I would love for you to continue to elaborate on any articles you have insight on [and even ones you don't :) (loved the belts as you already know)].

Your knowledge and passion is assuredly appreciated!

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An interesting article. Hagler v's Leonard is an all time classic, but you can't knock Leonard's brainpower both in, and out of the ring. I can imagine him stacking the deck in his favour like he did with Duran calling a rematch early so that Duran would have to 'crash diet' even more that he did usually and so not being as sharp. Twelve rounds make sense for health reasons, but they would also have suited Leonard for his style in the fight.
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