If only Money-Manny could match the fury of epic 1985 Hagler-Hearns brawl

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The expectations for the latest incarnation of boxing's "Fight of the Century" already are through the roof. Interest and advance coverage of the May 2 welterweight title bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas have been extraordinary, and is only going to ramp up as the days count down until the first bell.

There have been many sensational fights in Las Vegas over the last 40 or 50 years as it stole the mantle from New York as the Fight Capital of the World.

But on April 15, 1985, at Caesars Palace – 30 years ago today – a heavily hyped fight delivered in a manner that no one could ever have expected.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler successfully defended the middleweight title by stopping Thomas Hearns in the third round of an absolutely sensational bout. It was one of the greatest bouts in boxing history and more than lived up to the billing.

Thomas Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler on the cover of Ring magazine in April 1985. (Getty Images)
Thomas Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler on the cover of Ring magazine in April 1985. (Getty Images)

"All these years later, I'm still humbled to have been a part of it," Richard Steele, who refereed the fight, told Yahoo Sports. "It had a great buildup and everyone was predicting a spectacular event, and it lived up to the hype. It made me feel so good to have been a part of it. Everyone in the world – everyone – was satisfied with the fight."

Given the hype of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, a bout that was more than five years in the making, even a match 70 percent as good as Hagler-Hearns would be exceptional and a major shot in the arm for boxing.

Far too often, major pay-per-view events disappoint, and the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight has so many expectations surrounding it that it could easily wind up disappointing. First, the pay-per-view is going to cost $100 to see it in high definition, so many customers aren't going to be happy with the fight. Then, the PPV undercard is only going to consist of two fights, neither of which are expected to be all that appealing.

Mayweather held a media day at his Las Vegas gym Tuesday and did his best to hype the bout.

"From the matchup, it seems like an exciting fight. When I mentally picture the fight, to me it looks like it’s going to be a very exciting fight. I can’t really say it’s hype because this is real life."

Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, predicted that Mayweather would surprise observers with how well he fights offensively. Pacquiao is always aggressive and his trainer, Freddie Roach, has repeatedly said the Filipino will need to force Mayweather to fight in order to win.

But it's hard to imagine a scenario afterward where anyone is comparing the bout to Hagler-Hearns. That was simply seven minutes, 52 seconds of savagery.

"It was the most intense fight and they were trying to hit as hard as they could, both of them, with every punch they threw," Steele said. "They held nothing back and just went at it. The punches they were landing were so hard that they reminded me of a Mike Tyson punch. Tommy hit Marvin with a right hand that was so hard it busted Marvin's head open. That is as hard as you can hit a guy.

"It was a pretty bad cut and I sought a medical opinion to determine if he could continue. We're in the corner and Hagler told me, 'You're not going to stop the fight on the cut. That's not happening.' "

But upon seeing his own blood and knowing he was in danger of being stopped, Hagler increased the pressure and wound up overwhelming Hearns in one of the greatest fights anyone ever saw.

Hopefully, Mayweather and Pacquiao are inspired by the effort and the tenacity that both Hagler and Hearns showed that night in Las Vegas 30 years ago and give similar efforts.

If they do, it will be another night long remembered.