THE WAR by Don Stradley

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Sports  |  House: Booksie Classic







This past weekend there was one hell of a great heavyweight title fight. An oddity for these sports and entertainment saturated days. Rarely do fights, especially in the heavyweight division, live up to the hype or the insane fucking price of the Pay For View that shows up a month later on your cable bill. That bill you most likely forgot all about due to the condition you were in by the end of the night?


You know, that extra $79.95 on your already maxed out cable bill that says ESPN+ and that your long gone drunken asshole buddies — the ones who barfed in your kitchen sink…burned a hole in the living room carpet…spilled beer all over your wife’s new couch…and plugged up the goddamn toilet with a combination of Taco Bell and beer shits and then pissed in the shower — said they’d chip in for.


“Hit me up on Monday, Dude!”


“You mean this wasn’t free on Fox Sports?”


“I’m not giving you jackshit, asshole! I brought the Natty Light!”



But by Monday the fight had already taken on mythic qualities. Some sports TV and Internet talking heads said it was the greatest heavyweight fight (Stephen A. Smith on ESPN for example) that they’ve ever seen!


When the fact of the matter is other than the two knockdowns where Fury was floored in the fourth — it was a total beatdown of Wilder. The kind of beatdown where a fighter is never the same again. It ages them. A fighter leaves a big piece of himself in the ring when he gets his ass kicked like that. Deontay Wilder has just enough dangerous power to keep him in fights and too much heart to to call it a day when things go to shit for him!



Other than sadistic pricks who enjoy throwing cats off of highway overpasses and watching farm livestock get slaughtered, no one is calling for a re-match to see another attempted slow murder of Wilder…unless a shitpile of cash is involved. To be blunt, the fucking thing wasn’t even competitive...but money talks.


I guess those boxing pundits and experts never had the chance to see George Foreman and Ron Lyle stand toe to toe and beat ever living shit out of each other back in the glory days of heavyweight boxing. That was two major highly ranked heavyweights flooring each other multiple times in five rounds of non-stop action. FREE ON ABC!



Even Dan Rafael, the high respected boxing journalist, Tweeted out that he ranked it right up there with Corrales-Castillo I, and touted Fury-Wilder as one of the greatest fights of all time. That he’s seen anyway. I read Dan’s articles all the time. He’s a great boxing writer. But I think he might have had too many gin and tonics the night he watched the fight.





Even former heavyweight champ Iron Mike Tyson got all pumped up over Saturday’s fight. And he’s an avid student of boxing and a old fight film buff! Probably one of the biggest and best in the field. I can forgive Iron Mike though. The dude does own a marijuana ranch so it may have been hard to watch the fight through the clouds of ganja smoke! Especially if Snoop Dogg was invited.



Now I can understand why the casual fan who watched Fury-Wilder got all jizzed in the pants over Saturday night’s action because it was a great action packed fight. But not the so called boxing experts. Calling it one of the greatest fights of all time, in my humble opinion, is total bullshit.


My personal feeling is that anyone who thought Fury-Wilder III ranks up there with Foreman-Lyle, Corrales-Castillo, Ali-Frazier I, or even Pryor Arguello I needs to read THE WAR BY DON STRADLEY and then re-watch the bout before they make any further judgement.




Synopsis: The battle between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns is remembered as one of the greatest fights of all time. But in the months before the two finally collided on April 15, 1985, there was a feeling in the air that boxing was in trouble. The biggest name in the business, Sugar Ray Leonard, was retired with no logical replacement in sight, while the American Medical Association was calling for a ban on the sport. With Hagler-Hearns looking like boxing’s last hurrah, promoter Bob Arum embarked on one the most audacious publicity campaigns in history, hyping the bout until the entire country was captivated. Arum’s task was difficult. He’d spent years trying and failing to make Hagler a star, while Hearns was a gifted but inconsistent performer. Could Arum possibly get a memorable fight out of these two moody, unpredictable warriors? The Hagler-Hearns fight is now part of history, but The War by Don Stradley explores the many factors behind the event, and how it helped establish what many feel was boxing’s greatest era. No book, not even George Kimball’s classic, Four Kings, has focused solely on this legendary fight involving two of those “Four Kings” that boxing fans have revered for their skills and willingness to take on challenges that many fighters do not take in today’s boxing landscape. With additional commentary from many who were there, Stradley shows the unlikely path taken by two fighters searching for greatness. They didn’t care how many punches they endured, as long as it led to stardom. When the fight was over, however, each learned that fame inflicted its own kind of damage.
Publisher: Hamilcar Publications - AMAZON


I had this book on pre-order with Amazon for months after I started to see reviews about it and I waited anxiously those months for the book to arrive. Because to me, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and “The Hitman” Tommy Hearns fought the greatest fight that I have ever seen to this date. It was burned into my brain.


By the time I saw the actual WAR I had been to dozens of fights in person. You could have classified me then as a boxing fanatic. I was a regular at The Olympic in Los Angeles…where I saw so many great Hispanic fighters(shook hands with Mando Ramos & Danny “Little Red” Lopez)…when I was stationed in Long Beach. I had been to the L.A. Forum to see Bobby Chacon brawl with Bazooka Limon. I had seen hundreds and hundreds of fights on TV. I read every monthly boxing magazine on the news stand and every book on boxing I could get my hands on…no matter how shitty it was written. I even at one time studied to be the third man in the ring but was transferred before I could take the California exam.


But over the years my interest has waned slightly. Now boxing is second to MMA and the quality of fights has drastically gone down. Who would have ever thought that people would shell out millions to see Floyd Mayweather fight some dipshit off of YouTube? Or to see poor Evander Holyfield embarrass himself in one round against a steroid pumped retired UFC fighter?


But when you read THE WAR by Don Stradley it literally builds you up to the fight again even though you know the results. It takes each fighter from their amateur days right up to that night in Vegas while at the same time detailing the wild and crazy events and the hoops that Bob Arum had to jump through to get the fight eventually nailed down. Fighters like Duran, Leonard, and Benitez take a back seat…they’re just bit players in this unfolding drama. It’s the Hagler and Hearns show and by the time the book gets to the actual fight it gives you the feeling that you’re actually witnessing the great event.


I wanted to read it slow to truly enjoy the experience…like drinking a fine India Pale Ale or smoking a joint of Thai stick…but failed horribly. I couldn’t put the damn thing down. It’s the best book on boxing that I’ve ever read.




I was home on leave and the night before I had to head back to my ship I was pissed beyond belief that I was going to miss this fight! I was home in small town southern Minnesota and and Pay For View on TV was merely a dream in my hometown. A foreign of a concept as the existence of mermaids and unicorns. The closest town that was showing the fight was Rochester which was about 60 miles away where the fight was being shown on a big screen at the Mayo Civic Auditorium and I had no transportation.


I had made a $20 bet on Hagler with a shipmate who thought that Tommy was not only going to win but he would knock out Hagler. Not that I didn’t think Hearns was a great fighter or that he couldn’t beat Hagler. But Hearns had recently iced Roberto Duran…a fight I still wish Duran had never signed the contract for…who was and still is, my favorite fighter of all time.


I wanted Hagler to put Hearns down! Avenge the defeat of my hero! And I was going to fucking miss it! I never missed Super-Fights! I had been in Cleveland when Duran and Leonard fought their first fight. The local Pay For View auditorium was sold out but a Navy buddy who lived in Cleveland had a friend in the Irish Mafia who scored us tickets. I didn’t ask questions…I didn’t care if the guy wanted me to help him bury a body afterwards as long as he could get me a ticket!



The majority of my hometown friends were either working or off to college so I couldn’t find a soul who wanted to drive to Rochester to see a fight on a Monday night. I couldn’t believe what a bunch of fucking pussies I had grown up with. It wasn’t uncommon in those non-politically correct days for me and my sailor buddies to stagger down the pier to the ship at 4 in the morning on a goddamn workday! It boggled my mind that I couldn’t convince anyone to go along with me and it left me only one choice.


My father. Who 90% of the time could be classified as a world class prick!


There wasn’t an occasion (wedding, funeral, birthday party, Super Bowl, whatever)that he attended that he didn’t ruin if he put his mind to it.


Before my old man died he had slowly morphed over his 90+ years into one of the biggest misers that had ever lived in Albert Lea, Minnesota. You would never read in his obituary that he had enjoyed playing at expensive golf courses in California, smoked Cuban cigars, drank fine Champagne, and enjoyed the company of high dollar call girls.


Years previously he had caved to shell out the dough to take my brother and I to see The Fight of the Century — Smokin’ Joe Frazier & Ali. The only reason he did this was because of his far right leanings that naturally led him to despise Ali (because of his stance on the draft) and he wanted to see Frazier humiliate him if not worse.


Pay For View in those days at theaters and auditoriums was like playing Russian roulette. The picture could be blurry, filled with static, have no sound, no picture, OR (the worst case scenario) have no sound and picture. Major cities had previously had riots when major fights couldn’t be shown because of technical difficulties. It’s damn hard to announce to thousands of drunken boxing fans that the fight they had long waited for had crapped the bed without the enraged crowd going totally apeshit and tearing the place down.


Luckily for us, Ali-Frazier I could be seen that night…once your eyes adjusted to watching a fight in black and white through the bottom of a Coke bottle with the fight announcers sounding like they were coming through speakers the promoters picked up at Sears. Just good enough to see Smoking’ Joe knock Ali on his ass!




The afternoon of The War. “Hey Dad! Since I’m leaving tomorrow let’s drive over to Rochester and go see the Hagler-Hearns fight.”


“I’m not wasting gas to drive over to Rochester and shell out 25 bucks to see a couple of thugs in a fist fight in a Vegas parking lot!”


“It’s gonna be a great fight, goddamn it. I’ll spring for gas. Come on! I really want to see this fight.”


“No means no. I can stay home and watch the Twins game for free. And watch your language. You’re not on your ship, Buster!”


“I’ll buy your ticket, gas,…(pause) and refreshments.” The magic words had been spoken and we were on our way to Rochester. I knew he’d go if I sprung for the entire night.


One previous fight (back in 1980) we’d driven over to see Larry Holmes lay a beating on Ali (the old man knew Ali was shot and sadistically wanted to see Holmes end his career with a severe pounding). The tickets were about $30 and the old man had balked at the price once we got to the ticket window. He had spent less for a ticket for Ali-Frazier for Christ’s sake! I had to pull him away from the window to convince his ass that Ali-Frazier had fought years ago and prices did go up at sporting events as time passed. He was actually willing to drive home and miss the fight than pay $5 more than he did for a fight that took place in 1971.


I couldn’t believe the quality of the picture when the screen lit up. It was like watching a TV as big as a small billboard and the quality and sound were incredible. This place had done a major fucking makeover in audio visual department over the years.


There was adrenaline and electricity in the air when you walked into the auditorium, the crowd was psyched for this fight!


The undercard, which no one gave a hot shit about, passed quickly. The only fighter on the undercard I remember was Canadian Willie DeWitt, a promising heavyweight who would later have his title dreams dashed by Smoking Burt Cooper.


You could feel the anticipation growing as the cigarette smoke grew thicker and the crowd getting rowdier and drunker.


As Hearns and Hagler made their way to the ring, my Dad occupied himself yelling at Bernie Lusk, a local legend in sports TV and radio broadcasting, along with being a well known boozer of Kennedy like proportions. Bernie was boiled as an owl and was telling everyone who would listen how Sugar Ray Robinson could have whipped both Hagler’s and Hearns’ collective asses on the same night.


“Bernie Lusk! Sit down and shut up!” The old man kept screeching. “Drunken stumblebum!” I never asked the old man about his hatred of Bernie Lusk (but it was most likely due to Bernie’s love of pulling a cork and then going on the air to do the news)…or Howard Cosell. With Howard, I think he believed the total bullshit Minnesota urban legend that Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant had himself physically removed Cosell from his office. My Dad thought more highly of Bud Grant than he did of good old Jesus Christ.


But by then the crowd in Vegas and the crowd in the auditorium was so damn loud you could barely hear yourself think. The intensity was incredible!


The bell rang and the crowd immediately stood up as one…both in Vegas and in Rochester…with a huge roar and stayed on their feet for the rest of the fight! I could feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck! Hagler rushed out and missed with a huge right and The War was on! Almost nine minutes of pure non-stop action between two of the greatest fighters who were walking the planet!


The noise level was insane. I’d never been to a sporting event where the crowd were so swept up in the event. For the next two and a half rounds the only things I heard the ringside announcer scream out was:


“Hagler is hurt!”


“Hagler is cut!”


“Hearns is hurt!”


“Hearns is down and I don’t think he’s going to beat the count!”


(When I re-watched the fight on HBO, Ray Leonard was one of the announcers, and during the first round action he hysterically shrieked,“They need to pace themselves!"


Well, no shit, Sparky!


Of course, Hearns didn’t beat the count.



Afterwards, the crowd mingled around for about twenty minutes after it was over, seemingly trying to process the battle they had just witnessed. I had a feeling that I just had seen the greatest fight I would ever see. The lights flashed in the building…a polite sign to get the hell out of the building…and everybody started to stream out quietly, coming down from the adrenaline rush they had just experienced.


I turned to my Dad. “Holy shit! That was incredible! What a fucking fight!”


He glanced over at me and muttered. “25 bucks was a lotta cash for only 3 rounds…and watch your language.”


Submitted: October 14, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Scott.Anderson. All rights reserved.

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