Alan Minter In 1980 (Part III)


Alan Minter was perhaps the most popular man in Britain heading into his fateful clash against Marvin Hagler on September 27, 1980.  After winning the world title in March in Las Vegas from Vito Antuofermo, the new champion turned in a star-making performance in handing the American brawler a decisive trouncing three months later on home soil.  Soon the affable pub owner from Crawley was modeling jeans, recording pop songs, and mapping out a glittering future.

Of his new-found star status, Minter explained that it was, “Different when you’re the champion.  People look at you different.  You feel different.  You have to be more noble.  Is that the right word?  Noble?  You feel like you have more of a responsibility to people because they are looking.”

Instead, the new champion lowered the bar, even for the standards of prizefighting, when he uttered a racial remark at the press conference to announce the signing of the bout.  Minter was quick to say that he hadn’t meant it, and those that knew him didn’t believe the comment represented his true character.  But the tone had been set, and the ugliness was compounded by the alcohol-fueled nationalistic fervor that marked the night of the contest.  In the end, what should have been, win or lose, a proud moment for Minter and boxing in the United Kingdom descended into shameful scenes.


The Arrangements:

“Alan Minter of Britain retained his undisputed world middleweight boxing title when former champion Vito Antuofermo of the United States retired on his stool at the end of the eighth round of a scheduled 15-round contest at Wembley Arena, Saturday night.” – Associated Press, June 29, 1980

“Alan Minter, the undisputed world middleweight champion, may defend his title against leading contender Marvin Hagler of Brockton, Mass., in September, promoter Bob Arum said Sunday. ” – Winsor Dobbin (Associated Press), June 29, 1980

Alan Minter

“I want to be an active champion.  I’ll fight the leading contenders.  If Hagler is the No. 1 contender, I sincerely want to meet him.” – Alan Minter (Associated Press), June 29, 1980

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“New York impresario Bob Arum, probably the most important boxing promoter in the world, has already secured Minter’s agreement to fight his No. 1 challenger Marvin Hagler in the autumn.  All that remains to be settled is the size of the pile of lovely money involved.” – Frank McGhee (Daily Mirror), June 30, 1980

“Britain’s Alan Minter has signed to defend his undisputed world middleweight boxing crown against American No. 1 contender Marvin Hagler at London’s Wembley Arena Sept 27.” – United Press International, August 22, 1980

“Promoters Harry Levene and Mickey Duff are anticipating a total sell-out at the venue. Attempts were made to secure a bigger venue but open air settings including some football grounds were unavailable for the date.” – Boxing News, August 22, 1980


Pre-Fight Banter Turns Ugly:

“When I was introduced to him in Las Vegas he wouldn’t look me in the face.  He hasn’t turned up here in London for the official fight announcement although co-promoter Mickey Duff offered him the trip by Concorde to cut down any loss of training time.  I only hope he turns up on the night.”  - Alan Minter (Daily Express), August 22

“I’m in jail.  I have no time for something like that.  I have no fun.  I’m at work at a 24-hour-a-day job.” – Marvin Hagler (Boston Globe), August 31, 1980

“It has taken me 17 years to become champion of the world.  I’m not going to let a black man take it away from me.” – Alan Minter (Daily Mirror), August 22

“Did I say that?  Well, I didn’t mean it the way it might sound.” – Alan Minter (Daily Mirror), August 22

“Minter’s  a world champion and he should learn to behave like one.  I’m sure he didn’t mean to say those words because in this game it doesn’t matter whether you are black, pink, yellow or green when you get into the ring.  He will pay for saying that when we meet at Wembley. ” – Marvin Hagler (Daily Mirror) September 10

Hagler vs Finnegan

“The trouble began when Minter met Hagler for the first time in Las Vegas and the latter refused to shake hands.” – Alan Hoby (Sunday Express), September 21

Image courtesy of Boxing News

“Minter… claimed Hagler had refused to shake his hand when they met informally in the U.S. and the American also was said to have told Minter’s stablemate Kevin Finnegan, ‘I don’t touch white flesh.’ – Boston Herald American, September 18

“I refused to shake hands with Kevin Finnegan before both my winning fights against him.  But I was happy to do it afterwards.  Whoever said at the time that I would not touch white flesh had it all wrong.  I’m here today to nail that lie.  All this talk of me being a racist has hurt me bad.” – Hagler (Daily Mirror), September 19

“He never shakes hands before a fight because he likes to hate his opponents.  This is nothing racial.  Hagler doesn’t mind whom he fights or what color they are so long as he wins.” – Pat Petronelli, Hagler’s Manager (United Press International), September 18

“I knew I would be meeting him eventually – and I make a point of never shaking hands with future opponents.  There is no love in this game.  So why shake the hand of someone you intend to do damage to?  When the fight is over, it will be different.  I’ll be delighted to shake Minter’s hand, win, or lose.” – Marvin Hagler (Daily Mirror), September 19

“Marvin Hagler was one of the five toughest guys I ever met in the ring – and he’s also the only fighter I ever hated.  I really did hate him.  He’s a bully, he’s arrogant and I rate him one of the dirtiest boxers I ever met.” – Kevin Finnegan (Daily Mirror), September 24

“I’m disappointed that Finnegan should try and stir things up like this.  Maybe he’d had too much of that stout when he said it.  He’s certainly fond of the stuff.” – Marvin Hagler (Daily Mirror), September 24



“I see the way they’ve got Minter all hyped up.  I wouldn’t like that.” – Marvin Hagler

“We’ve seen him fight and train.  He’s a bit of a tough guy.  He’s got good moves, good balance.  He switches from southpaw to the orthodox style.  But I don’t think he is too strong in the heart department.  And that is what it is all about.” – Doug Bidwell

“The British oddsmakers have made Minter a 8 to 11 favorite, Hagler the 11 to 10 underdog.” - Boston Herald American

Marvin Hagler

“You can forget the odds.  Marvin is going to kill him.  Believe me, I know.  I’ve worked in the gym with a lot of the best of them.  Sugar Ray Leonard, Eddie Gregory, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Bennie Briscoe, Mike Rossman.  There’s nobody  – nobody – that hits has hard as Marvin.  He’s hit me harder this week than I’ve ever been hit in my life. “ – Danny Snyder, Hagler’s sparring partner

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“In this case, there is genuine dislike between these two guys.  Marvin doesn’t like Minter and Minter doesn’t like Marvin.  I think it’s gonna be a hell of a fight.” – Goody Petronelli

“Marvin is quicker, he’s stronger and he hits harder.  And Marvin doesn’t cut.  In over 100 fights, amateur and pro, he’s been cut twice.” – Pat Petronelli

“It’s been a long time since I was cut…  I used to fight like a bloody lunatic.  I’d lose my tempter and lose control.  I’m much more experienced now.” – Alan Minter

“Alan will just go out and do a cold-blooded job.  Of course, if he catches Hagler with his hands down then you might see a bit of hate.” – Doug Bidwell

“Alan has to hurt Hagler early.  Then he can climb all over him.” – Kevin Finnegan

“Everybody keeps saying that Minter’s gonna try to stay away and box, but he’s an aggressive fighter himself.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him try to take the fight to us.” – Pat Petronelli

“For me there exists a perilous possibility that Minter has listened to too many armchair experts who have done him no favors by assuring Britain’s most popular fighter that to beat Hagler all he has to do is force the fight and make his challenger retreat.  Although it is both traditional and tempting to forecast victory for a friend and fellow countryman in a fight as important as this I can’t help having my doubts.  Minter will have to start twice as fast as usual and manage to escape cuts if he is to win.  I sincerely hope I’m wrong in thinking he may not make it. “ – Frank McGhee (Daily Mirror)

“I am backing Minter, with his controlled aggression, to come through the fire to a famous victory.” – Alan Hoby (Sunday Express)

“It could see-saw, but in the end Minter’s greater all-round ability should prevail over Hagler’s cunning, ruthlessness and aggression.  Minter should in the end force Hagler on to that back foot and take control.” – Bob Mee (Boxing News)

“I’ve fought both of them.  And I simply think Hagler is the better fighter.  He’s a better style fighter – and style may mean a lot – and he’s not going to get cut the way Minter does.” – Vito Antuofermo

“I am going to teach him some respect.” – Marvin Hagler


September 27, 1980 – Wembley Arena, London

Alan Minter vs Marvin Hagler Fight Poster

“The Wembley atmosphere was poisonous even before the action began.  Near-drunk fans – some of them carrying 24-can packs of lager into the arena – booed the National Anthem.” – Frank McGhee, Daily Mirror

“It was ridiculous the way this nationalism was built up before the fight.  We’re not at war, for Christ’s sake.” – Bob Arum

“…the crowd began to chant Minter’s name shortly after the start of the undercard.  The spectators were hyped up enough as it was without the chauvinistic rabble-rousing that Promoters Harry (The Hoarse) Levene and Mickey Duff seemed to consider necessary for the occasion: the five Royal Marines in full ceremonial dress playing fanfares on silver bugles; the dramatic blacking out of the hall; the bathing of Minter in spotlights as he came out of his dressing room; the hugely oversized Union Jack and Banner of St. George of England that accompanied Minter to the ring; his attendants in Union Jack-patterned outfits.  It has a maddening effect on the crowd, maybe even some on Minter, but clearly none at all on Hagler, who simply turned into his corner and loosened up.” – Clive Gammon, Sports Illustrated

“There is Alan Minter, if you get a chance to look closely, you’ll see scar tissue over the eyes.  But Hagler has his own scar tissue over the right eye.  Hagler was a ½ pound overweight.  Under the rules, he had two hours to get down to the weight, within a half hour he was down to the 160lb weight limitation.  The reach limit is about the same, Hagler 74 ½ inches, Minter 75, so, we are about ready to go…” – Howard Cossell, ABC

“Minter’s second defense of the undisputed world middleweight championship, the only title in the whole of professional boxing that is undisputed.  Hagler must face Minter and the crowd…” – Harry Carpenter, ITV


“The bout is underway, round one…” – Howard Cossell, ABC

“Minter has a cut underneath his left eye.  Within a minute of the start, Minter is cut.  The accuracy and the stinging effect of Hagler’s punching is already apparent on the champion’s face.” – Harry Carpenter, ITV

Action From Round One

“You’ll hear this British crowd roar with every exchange, particularly if one exchange favors Minter… Minter during the last half of this round has been boxing effectively.  There, a good left!  10 seconds to go in round one, a round that promises a good action fight.” – Howard Cossell, ABC

Image courtesy of Boxing News

“Good finish to the round by Minter, but he picked up damage in the first minute and it looks to me as though he might have a second injury, as well as the one underneath the left eye.  So, the champion after only three minutes needs somewhat urgent attention.” – Harry Carpenter, ITV

“Settle down, alright?” – Doug Bidwell, between rounds


“We’re back live, via satellite, from London England… the first round dominated in the early going by Hagler, in the late going, dominated by Minter, as Minter began to box more successfully, keep Hagler off and score with his own jab, this will clearly be the Minter pattern for the fight…” – Howard Cossell, ABC

“Good punch from Minter. What a right hand!  Pulled the man up in his tracks!  And this is certainly one of the most savage world championships we’ve seen here in this country for some time.  This is a fight to a finish, and that finish is never going to be fifteen rounds away at this rate.  Never…” – Harry Carpenter, ITV

“When I hit him with a left hook in the second round, he wobbled, and I went back to my bad old habits.  I went after him.” – Alan Minter

“I just couldn’t believe how Minter was trying to force the fight.  Coming after Marvin, the damn fool.” – Goody Petronelli

Minter Scores with a Left

“Although Hagler admits he was briefly shaken by that punch, a more significant truth is that he had already achieved ascendancy.  This man punches so correctly, so viciously, hitting through rather than merely at his target, that the only way to stand a reasonable chance over 15 round s against him is to play a cautious waiting game.  Minter did the opposite.” – Frank McGhee, Daily Mirror

Image courtesy of Boxing News

“Early in the second he landed a sharp right-left combination bringing a show of bravado from Minter, who beckoned his adversary in to fight some more.  Hagler obliged, punching.  Minter unwisely tried to punch back.” – Red Smith, New York Times

“Maybe Minter thought he could intimidate Hagler, in the hope that the American would freeze in the face of such a hostile crowd, but Hagler was the epitome of cold professionalism and he punished Minter relentlessly.” – Harry Mullan, Boxing News

“Soon his nose was gushing as Hagler leapt in with another sneaking right lead.  Now Minter struck out, sensing his time was ebbing with the blood.  And in doing so he further exposed himself.” – David Miller, Express

“Blood pouring out of Minter’s nose.  Pouring out!  Minter fighting feverishly now.  Trying to get to Hagler and hurt him!” – Howard Cossell, ABC

“And this pair really are launching the most savage attacks at each other and we’re only six minutes into the fight… That really was a very fierce round indeed.  And Minter’s face bares testimony to the savagery of this fight.  He’s cut underneath left eye.  He’s got marks above the left eye.  His nose is bleeding.  And really, he’s taken more punishment in the first two rounds of his fight than in several recent fights put together.” – Harry Carpenter, ITV

“The damage, by the end of the second round, was almost more than Minter’s corner could handle in the one-minute break.” – Clive Gammon, Sports Illustrated


“Virtually the first punches of the third split Minter’s right eyebrow, and now Hagler was scoring as he pleased, driving hooks and uppercuts through the champion’s guard and sending blood spraying unedifyingly across the ring.” – Harry Mullan, Boxing News

“And Minter’s picking up hard punches as he’s tries to fight back.  He’s being forced into a real war.  And he’s in desperate trouble, he can’t keep the man away…” – Harry Carpenter, ITV

“There’s blood all over the left eye.  Hagler is fighting his fight.  Making it work.  The mouth piece is out.  Minter’s mouch-piece is out.  Minter’s hurt.  Minter’s ready to go.  It’s only the third round, and Hagler is all over him…” – Howard Cossell, ABC

Moments Before the End

Image courtesy of Boxing News

“As soon as another ripping punch, this time a left hook from Hagler widened and deepend the gash over Minter’s right eye, the ref waved the Sussex man to his corner, wiped away the blood for a closer look.  Minter’s manager, Doug Bidwell, gave a resigned shrug and it was all over.” – Frank McGhee, Daily Mirror

“The fight’s stopped.  It’s stopped. That quickly… the middleweight champion of the world, Marvin Hagler…” - Howard Cossell


The Riot

“Marvin Hagler, realizing the championship of the world was his and his alone, slipped to his knees in a silent gesture of thanks.  Before he could begin to get up, he was bombarded by flying missiles, most of which contained varying amounts of beer.” – George Kimball, Boston Herald American

“People are throwing beer cans.  Ones landed on me.  Beer cans are being hurled in all over the ring…” – Harry Carpenter

“The crowd went mad because they’d just seen their hero thrashed.  That’s all there was to it.” - Alan Minter

Boxing News, October 3, 1980

“I went down low and my guys protected me.” – Marvin Hagler

“Sparring partner Robbie Sims leaped on the champion first and the training Petronelli brothers came second.” – Boston Globe

“Marvin took the punches in the ring for us. We took the punches for him outside the ring.” – Goody Petronelli

“Fur-coated women buried their heads in their laps to protect themselves from the missiles hurled at the ring… as they ducked, bottles, cans and other objects rained all around them.” – Alan Hoby, Sunday Express

“And the rage has broken out all around Wembley.  And these scenes are a shame and a disgrace to British boxing.  But there it is, that’s what’s happening.” – Harry Carpenter, ITV

“I got hit with something, I think it was a can of beer, right on my back.  I turned around, and there was a guy who was about to punch me.  Luckily, I turned around in time and I hit him.  The bottles were flying from everywhere.  I saw George Kimball from the Boston press.  I said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ That’s when he got hit.” – Vito Antuofermo, KO Magazine

“When I looked around and noticed that the fellow occupants of the ringside seats – mostly British boxing writers – were holding their own chairs over their own heads, I realized that I might be in trouble.” – George Kimball, Boston Herald American

“Britain’s world light-middleweight champion Maurice Hope, setting next to his wife Pat two rows behind me, was missed by inches with a full bottle of beer.  And empty one landed just far away from judge Jose Guerra, just in front of me – he just beat ref Berrocal and myself to a place of safety under the ring” – Frank McGhee, Daily Mirror

“Along with most of my colleagues I sheltered under the wooden press benches as the bottles, can, and glasses flew.  Some, including Reg Gutteridge and Harry Carptenter, weren’t so fortunate and were struck through fortunately without injury.” – Harry Mullan, Boxing News

“I was terrified.  I couldn’t even cheer at the end.  My friend said to me, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here.’ And that’s what we did.  I was look down at the ring for Marvin, and everyone was just pushing him out of there and things were landing everywhere.  I was worried about him.” – Bertha Hagler

“As the barrage of missiles ended, the verbal onslaughts began.  Racist scum gathered at ringside to should obscenities at referee Berrocal and, in his absence, at Hagler.  It was a shameful degrading spectacle.” – Harry Mullan


The Reaction

“It was beyond any words I can conjure to describe the dangerous moments when a British crowd let themselves, their country, and above all, their hero down in an utterly shameful manner.” – Alan Hoby, Sunday Express

“Marvin Hagler, the new champion, the sort of man who normally needs bodyguards about as much as a tiger needs false teeth, had to be smuggled away like a criminal from the scene of his triumph… It cannot be stressed too strongly that Hagler had been Minter’s master throughout the seven minutes and 45 seconds it lasted and deserved the right to take a bow.” – Frank McGhee, Daily Mirror

“Marvin never got the chance to have the world championship belt strapped on him in the ring.  He never got the interviewed for American TV in the ring.  He was robbed of his golden moment. – Bob Arum

“I want to apologize for everybody in boxing in this country.” – Micky Duff to Hagler

“The violence didn’t really bother me.  Your cops looked after me well.” – Marvin Hagler

“It was me that stopped the fight.  The cut over his left eye was flapping open – one more punch on it and he could have been permanently disfigured.  Alan’s face let him down last night – apart from that the fight proved nothing.” – Doug Bidwell, Daily Mirror

“If he didn’t get cut, it would’ve been real bad.  He would’ve gotten knocked out.  I don’t think he wanted to keep going.  Not only was he cut, but just before the referee stepped in, he was hurt with a shot.  He was almost going.” – Vito Antuofermo, KO Magazine

“I made him look better than he is.  I’d planned not to get involved for six rounds, but when I was cut so early, I panicked a little bit.” – Alan Minter, Sunday Express

“All the needle built up beforehand must have had a reverse effect.  It seemed to have got to Minter – but not my man.” – Goody Petronelli, Boston Herald

“I done it all wrong.  But it’s all I can do.  Maybe if I never had been cut in my life, I wouldn’t have started attacking, but I know what happens with cuts.  I had to get going.” – Alan Minter, Boston Globe

“That’s Alan.  When he gets hurt, he reverts to what he is, a fight-it-out-guy.” – Doug Bidwell, Boston Globe

“I’ll fight him again.” – Minter, Daily Mirror

“Even though there are no return clauses in the contracts, to deny Alan a chance to win back the title would be wrong.” – Bob Arum, Daily Mirror

“He can have a return – if he really wants it.” – Marvin Hagler, Sunday Express

“…it would be the same the next time – if there is a next time, which I doubt.” – David Miller, Express, Sep 29


In Closing…

“We all know that in that moment of shattering humiliation in the third round at Wembley on Saturday night, Minter lost his world middleweight title.  What may not have sunk in yet is the realisation that British Boxing lost something even more precious and far more permanent than a championship.  The sport sacrificed its proudest claim built up over 100 years for decency, dignity and sportsmanship in defeat.” – Frank McGhee, Daily Mirror

“It was just beautiful.  It is the end of a dream. All of the roadwork, all of the boxing, all of the tough time . . . they all have paid off. I had a dream and this was it.” – Marvin Hagler

“It seems quite likely that Minter’s days of trumpets and banners are over.” – Clive Gammon, Sports Illustrated

Looking Back…

“I was cut in the first round, the second and the third.  I couldn’t avoid the man.  I don’t think that at any time in my life, or in my career, no matter what I decided my tactics would be, there was no way that Alan Minter would ever have beaten Marvin Hagler, and that’s a fact.” - Alan Minter, Sweet Fighting Man (2002)







The Year Of Living Dangerously: Alan Minter In 1980 (Part I)


The Year Of Living Dangerously: Alan Minter In 1980 (Part II)

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