This is the first in a new monthly series of Flashbacks on RingTV.com, a look at a past issue of THE RING magazine. Today: March 1982.
COVER STORY: The cover illustration of future Hall of Famers Ray Leonard and Salvador Sanchez marked the third time in the 53-year history of The Ring that the Fighter of the Year honors was shared. The first half of Randy Gordon’s story is devoted to Leonard, who was named Fighter of the Year based on his sensational 14th-round knockout of Tommy Hearns. “Boxing has not boasted of anyone so young, vibrant, talented, and so thoroughly exciting since Cassius Marcellus Clay emerged from the 1960 Rome Olympics with a Gold Medal around his neck,” Gordon wrote. As for the great Sanchez, he shared top honors mainly on the strength stunning performance against previously undefeated Wilfredo Gomez. But the Mexican also beat Roberto Castanon, Pat Cowdell and Nicky Perez in ’81.
It’s interesting to note that 1981 was the last time Leonard was named Fighter of the Year. He fought on for 15 more years, filled with starts and stops, while unfortunately Sanchez’s quest for boxing immortality was cut short when he was tragically killed in a car accident on Aug. 12, 1982. Sanchez was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. Leonard joined Sanchez in the Hall six years later, in 1997.
“Fight Of The Year”by Herbert G. Goldman delves into a fight that exceeded all the hype – Leonard’s 14-round demolition of Hearns. It was an epic contest that underwent several role reversals. Hearns outboxed Leonard early. Then Leonard, sporting a badly swollen left eye, came back from a scorecard deficit to stop Hearns with 1:45 left in the 14th. “The action, to be sure, was not continuously great, but, in terms of pure drama, the shifting tides of battle, the tension, and, not too infrequently, the terrific action, it was more than a great fight,” writes Goldman.
Sanchez’s destruction of unbeaten Gomez was the runner-up choice, though it was a one-sided fight.
“Round Of The Year”by Dean Coleman came with an unusual twist, as it was won in a bout between a pair of fighters that were neither contenders nor titleholders. Since The Ring instituted Round of the Year in 1945, every previous choice involved a rated world-class fighter. Not so in 1981, when the prize went to be the fifth round of the William “Caveman” Lee-Johnny LoCicero middleweight brawl. Lee toppled LoCicero, who got up and fought back so effectively he soon had Lee in trouble. And just as suddenly, Lee came roaring back to stop Cicero at 2:54 of the fifth. Lee fought just four more times after beating LoCicero, including a first-round KO loss to world middleweight champion Marvin Hagler. LoCicero, ironically, also fought four more times, going 1-3 in his last four bouts.
“Upset Of The Year”by Ben Sharov focuses on Roger Stafford’s 10-round decision victory over Pipino Cuevas. This was supposed to be a stay-busy fight for Cuevas, who was awaiting a shot against the Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns winner, or possibly a fight with Roberto Duran. No one figured Stafford would interrupt those plans. But Stafford sent Cuevas down in the second round and by the end of the bout a “grotesque mask of blood covered Cuevas’ face, but he managed to remain upright as the final seconds ticked away.”