“I complied, although I lost, because I gambled everything. Well, it’s time to go home, said the Cordovan after that World Cup fight in which he lasted 37 minutes against one of the best midfielders of the time.
A decade ago, he had stood impassively for four minutes fighting a 260-kilo bear during a visit by a Hungarian circus to his native Freyre, a city of just over 5,000 inhabitants in the northeast of Córdoba. But now the challenge seemed much more complicated. Because this rival had a much more refined technique than that gloved brown. And because the bear, in addition, had been able to see it. This champion that everyone called Marvelous (Wonderful), no. “I can’t take it anymore,” Juan Domingo Roldán alleged before referee Tony Pérez on March 30, 1984, after 37 minutes of fighting. Maybe someone should have said it for him earlier.
That unique opportunity had come after a long wait for the Cordovan, Argentine and South American middleweight champion and possessor of a pair of very heavy hands that had earned him the nickname of Hammer, creation of the journalist Gregorio Martínez. And it was well worth the wait if the prize was a shot at the undisputed monarch of 160 pounds and a purse of $ 100,000.
“He was following me for 18 months. This will be the last stop. This is where you will get off the bus. Now I turn on the red light”, The champion had warned the day before his ninth defense of the titles of the World Boxing Association and the World Boxing Council, to which the previous year had added that of the nascent International Boxing Federation.
The road metaphor made sense, since both had shared an evening four times in the previous year and a half. The first crossroads had occurred on October 30, 182 in San Remo, where Hagler had beaten Venezuelan Fulgencio Obelmejias for the second time and Roldán had dispatched Reggie Ford in less than three minutes of action. Then, on February 11, 1983, the American had defeated Tony Sibson and the Cordovan, Wilbur Henderson in Worcester (Massachusetts).
Three months later, at the Providence Civic Center, Hagler knocked out Wilford Scypion in the fourth round a short time after Roldán, then number one in the WBA rankings, beat Teddy Mann on points in a low profile performance. . That night, the champion left the door open for retirement: “I’ve already beaten everyone. There are no big money fights for me and I don’t feel like waiting around for someone to hit me. I’m going to rest a long time and think about this. “
By then, there was already speculation about a confrontation with Tommy Hearns, WBC super welterweight champion, while promoter Bob Arum proposed a duel with Panamanian Roberto Durán and Hammer I was waiting, patient. “Roldan is a joke. And forget about Durán. Hearns is the only rival who can make Hagler a lot of money, he has no other option, “fought Mike Trainer, the lawyer for the Detroit snake.
However, your client would have to wait almost two more years to challenge Marvelous. Because Arum imposed his criteria. On November 10, 1983, Hagler returned to the ring to defeat Duran on points in a close and vibrant match. A while before, Roldán had knocked out and left Frank unconscious on the same ring at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Animal Fletcher, in a definition that froze the blood of many of the 14,600 present and ended up convincing the promoter to accept the Argentine as the next candidate.
So it came Hammer, with 52 victories (37 before the limit), 2 draws, 2 defeats and long days of waiting, to the night that he had always dreamed of. The night he heard the Argentine anthem sung by María Martha Serra Lima on the ensogado of the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The night he was closer than ever to a world crown. The night he ended up seeing only half of the things that were happening around him.
“It will take me a couple of rounds to figure it out.”Hagler had warned about his rival the day before. He was not without reason. The first two rounds were a nuisance to him. Even with only 10 seconds of fighting gone, he found himself in a place he had never visited in his 62 pro fights: the mat. The champion complained and maintained that it had been the result of a slip, but referee Tony Pérez considered it a fall due to a long and curved left.
The five and a half minutes that followed that action were the best from Cordoba, who, before an unfocused champion, connected good hands that made Carlos Monzón and Eduardo Lausse, two Argentine middleweight legends, who had been specially invited to the evening by Bob Arum. But after the third round, Hagler, who had not been defeated for more than eight years, began to decode Roldán’s attack and neutralize it with a step back against each effective lunge and counter-blows.
However, that was not what radically twisted the course of history. At the end of that episode, a left uppercut pushed back Hammer and led him to fall on the ropes. As the referee told him, his right eye flared until it was practically closed. According to the challenger, as a result of a malicious thumb from his opponent. According to Tony Pérez, due to a legal coup.
“He put his finger in his eye, look how he has it”Juan Carlos Lectoure, Roldán’s manager, vehemently pointed out to Pérez during the break between the third and fourth rounds. “I do not see,” complained the victim, in a claim that would be repeated at each pause until it became almost a plea for the combat to be stopped. “Don’t give yourself up, please don’t give yourself up”Lectoure asked him. And he repeated it three times, shouting, from the corner when the bell for the start of the assault was about to ring.
Roldán did not give up. But Hagler’s limited vision and growth in performance blew his chances. As his eye worsened, his stay in the ring lost its meaning and the messages that came from his corner were more and more implausible. “You’re fucking it up. Put everything you have, you are whole. (Víctor) Galíndez fought with the eggs 13 rounds and won by knockout in the last, ”Lectoure harangued him after the sixth, recalling the late middleweight champion’s triumph over Ritchie Kates in Johannesburg in 1976.
Far away was Hammer to accomplish a feat like Galíndez’s. The champion accumulated advantage in the cards and the challenger, blows in his humanity. “I do not follow. I can’t take it anymore, I don’t see “, he warned at the break after the eighth chapter. But his corner forced him to continue. “Don’t let us down, you’re fucking it up,” Lectoure crushed. Donald Romeo, ring doctor, also endorsed the extension of the fight.
In the ninth round, Hagler’s punishment was excessive and unnecessary. After those three infinite minutes, Roldán looked at the referee and shook his head, indicating that he did not want to continue. When he reached his corner, bent over and with blood gushing from a wound on his nasal bridge that he had dragged on since the fourth episode, Lectoure received him loudly. The dialogue was ruthless.
-They can’t hit you like that, you fucking asshole. You’re giving yourself like that through the eye, asshole. You have training for 20 rounds.