One of last Saturday night's title fights at The Horizon in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont resembled bayonet practice at Parris Island. The other was, in effect, a 15-round footrace that went to the slowest. Marvin Hagler was the bayonet, and when he had finished slashing up Mustafa Hamsho at 2:09 of the 11th round, he was $1 million richer and still the world's only middleweight champion. Mike Weaver, trim at 215 but rusty after a year's layoff, plodded to a unanimous decision over James (Quick) Tillis, who fought as though he were in the Boston Marathon. In his second defense of the WBA heavyweight title, Weaver worked about 13 minutes longer than Hagler did but was paid $250,000 less.
Early Sunday morning Hagler sat on a hotel-room bed and reviewed his performance. He had just come from a hospital where five stitches had closed a deep slice above his right eye. The cut had come from a clash of heads in the second round. The bandages over the eye were partly concealed by sunglasses and a black hat pulled low.
When Hagler had left the hospital, the doctors were still working over Hamsho, who, until his trainer, Al Braverman, jumped into the ring to stop the fight, looked as though he would run out of blood before he ran out of heart. He was badly cut under both brows: Each wound was at least two inches long and half an inch wide. There was another slice under his left eye. He didn't win a round from any of the three officials.
Hagler smiled without warmth. "There was no love lost in this fight," he said. "It went exactly as we planned: Keep him in the center of the ring, pick my shots and make him look like an amateur."
Hamsho, who was born in Syria, is a street brawler. "I'll tell you what kind of style he has," Braverman said before the bout. "He's got no style. He just wades in, throwing punches from any angle." On such assaults Hamsho takes with him an iron jaw and unslacking courage, attributes that had helped him win all but one of his 34 fights and moved him up to No. 1 contender and a $200,000 shot against Hagler.
It was like sending a pit bull against a machine gun. "He can't fight a lick," said Goody Petronelli, who, with his brother, Pat, manages and trains Hagler. "The only thing we're worried about is his head, which he uses like a billygoat, and his shots below the belt."
Very early in the first round, Hagler introduced Hamsho to the evening's fare: two crackling jabs that almost snapped the challenger's head off at the neck. Hagler's jabs are a combination of jackhammer and straight razor. In the next round Hamsho introduced Hagler to the top of Hamsho's head. The champion went back to his corner with blood streaming from the cut over his eye. He sat calmly while Goody worked on the cut. "I've been there before," Hagler would say later. "Goody's the best cut man in the world. He does his job and I do mine."
While performing his ministrations, Goody also persuaded Hagler to change strategy slightly: "Keep moving and jabbing. Tire him out. Don't throw anything else unless you got a good spot."
Hagler found a good spot nine seconds into the second round, nailing Hamsho with a straight right. Snarling, Hamsho fired back with both hands. He enjoys his work. His punches come like buckshot; a lot miss, but those that land sting.
In the third Hagler ripped open Hamsho's right eye but didn't slow him down. Late in the round Hamsho twice stuck his tongue out at the champion. Both licks missed.