Greatest Must-See Rounds in Boxing History: Round 1

July 28, 2011

If someone wanted to learn about the greatest and most noteworthy moments in boxing history, what rounds would you tell them to see? Heck, what great rounds of boxing do you like to see over and over again?

In a series of articles, the DSH will begin to provide a list of nominees and winners for the greatest must-see rounds in boxing history, from Round 1 to Round 15.  The rounds nominated are listed in chronological order and were selected based upon an unscientific calculation which considered the round's skill-level, exciting action, historic impact, and controversial conclusion.  Today we discuss the greatest Round 1 in boxing history.

Most memorable 1st Round in Boxing History


(A) Jack Dempsey v. Louis Firpo (September 14, 1923) – Heavyweight Title Bout. 9 knockdowns in the round, 2 of Dempsey.

(B) Joe Louis v. Max Schmeling II (June 22, 1938) – Heavyweight Title Bout. Louis avenges defeat with 1st Round KO of Nazi poster boy. Louis becomes an instant hero in the eyes of nearly all Americans, regardless of race.

(C) Ali v. Liston II (May 25, 1965) – Heavyweight Title Bout – Ali knocks out Liston in rematch with the seemingly innocuous “anchor punch.”  People still debate whether Liston took a dive or not.  The photo of Ali standing over Liston after the knockdown is the most recognizable photo of Ali's fighting career.

(D) Hagler v. Hearns (April 15, 1985) – Middleweight Title Bout. Greatest high-caliber action round of all-time.  Two powerful and exceptionally talented fighters in their prime going toe-to-toe.

(E) Mike Tyson v. Michael Spinks (June 27, 1988) – Heavyweight Title Bout – Tyson’s 91 second KO of Spinks represents the highpoint of his career.  Tyson was not yet 22 years old and seemed unbeatable after this bout.

(F) Manny Pacquiao v. Juan Manuel Marquez I (May 8, 2004) - Featherweight Title Bout - Pacquiao explodes out of the gate and breaks Marquez's nose and knocks him down three times.  Just as significant is that Marquez, in a career-defining performance, survives this round and largely dominates the rest of the fight with Pacquiao.

Winner? Hagler v. Hearns.  Louis-Schmeling II is the most historically significant and Ali-Liston II the most controversial.  But no fight has had an opening round where two fighters the caliber of "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler and Tommy "Hitman" Hearns provided such all-out action. 

Hagler, the long-reigning Middleweight champion, opened the round charging at Hearns, seeking to bully him into an inside fight. Hearns, rather than moving and using his abnormal 78" reach, chose to stand toe-to-toe with Hagler and unleash his lethal right hand.  Within the first 10 seconds, Hearns rocked Hagler as he was coming in with a right hand to hurt the previously immovable Marvelous one.

The early success emboldened Hearns and he proceeded to throw bombs at Hagler in search of a quick finish. Occasionally, Hearns used a "range-finder jab" to set up the right, but just as often he would recklessly throw lead-right hands.  Who could blame him? It was a known fact that Tommy Hearns had the most lethal right hand of his era, and if anyone could actually hurt Marvin Hagler's legendary chin, it was the Hitman.

Despite the initial stagger, Hagler continued charging forward and refused to alter his strategy.  He smothered Hearns and refused to give him any space.  Hagler banged Hearns to the body and when Hearns hands dropped to protect himself, Hagler tagged Hearns with a right hook that knocked Hearns into the ropes.  Not a good place to be.

But Hearns was now determined that Hagler would not back him up.  He believed, rightly or wrongly, that to back up would create a precedent for the entire fight.  No, the "Hitman" was committed to being the aggressor, despite his superior reach and boxing skills.  There would be no holding, no clinches, no strategy at this point, Hearns threw only power punches, mixing lead right hands with savage left hooks. That was about 60 seconds into the round.

Throughout the rest of the round, the two continued to exchange blows, with Hearns appearing to land the more effective blows.  However, it was not known until after the fight that Hearns broke his right hand in that same round after glancing a haymaker off the powerful bald head of Hagler.  Further, Hagler appeared to effectively shake off anything Hearns landed and continued his attack.  Hagler continued to stalk and crowd Hearns and knocked him back in the closing seconds of the round, the first sign that Hearns' legs were a little wobbly.

Although Hearns likely won the round, Hagler's will, chin, and intensity had dictated that the fight would be on his terms.  The style of the fight and perhaps the broken right hand of Hearns would later lead to a 3rd round knockout by Hagler.  But to this day, it is the 1st round that everyone remembers.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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