5. Jan. 13, 1976, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts W 10 Marvin Hagler I –Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Five days before the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys waged war at Super Bowl X in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Hagler had his own day of reckoning. For the most part Hagler, though a native of Newark, N.J., had been a New England phenomenon because all but one of the 26 fights that made up his 25-0-1 record had been staged there. The only blemish just happened to be his sole out-of-region fight – a 10-round draw to 1972 gold medalist, previous victim and local hero Sugar Ray Seales in Seattle that many felt Hagler deserved.
So when Hagler decided to travel to Philadelphia to face local attraction Watts, no one would have blamed him if he felt some trepidation. Eighteen of Watts’ previous 30 fights were staged in Philadelphia, including eight at the Spectrum. But Hagler always relished a challenge and he correctly felt that facing what he called “The Iron” – Watts, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Bennie Briscoe and Eugene “Cyclone” Hart – would provide invaluable experience on the way to his ultimate objective: the middleweight championship of the world.
The roles remained the same throughout the contest as Watts was the cute boxer seeking to catch Hagler charging in with pinpoint counters and shoeshine flurries and Hagler constantly pursuing with harder but less frequent shots. The action ebbed and flowed and in many rounds the advantages gained were slight and fleeting. The only clear rounds for either man was the third and fifth for Watts and the fourth for Hagler, though Hagler appeared the stronger and fresher fighter in rounds seven, eight and nine. Watts, however, regained his rhythm and verve in the 10th as he moved sprightly and fired excellent volleys that only slowed Hagler’s steady pursuit.
At the bell both men threw their arms in the air and Hagler jogged around the ring to show everyone he could go another brisk 10 if needed. Hagler’s joy turned to anger when the cards were announced over the loudspeaker. Judges Nate Lopinson (48-44) and Earl Vann (46-44) scored for Watts while referee Hank Cisco saw it a 46-46 draw. It was the first loss of Hagler’s career and his next visit to Philly two fights later was equally unpleasant as he lost a clear 10-round decision to Monroe. The Monroe loss, however would be Hagler’s last for an incredible 11 years.
As for the game, it was a classic as the Steelers withstood a late surge by the Cowboys to come out with a 21-17 win that, unlike the fight, was beyond dispute.