Marvin Hagler, the undisputed middleweight champion who is unbeaten in his last 33 fights, said today, "I'm anxious to get it over with," suggesting he would have no great problem with challenger Wilford Scypion Friday night.
Scypion is of another mind, and has been displaying indifference to the muscular, fierce-looking, shaven-headed Hagler. Scypion gave only a limited compliment to the champion, saying, "He's all right; not great, just all right. He's never been tested to the body."
In his meanderings about the hotel lobby at fight headquarters here, Scypion has been the model of a relaxed, untroubled challenger. With the biggest fight of his life just a short time away, he was swaying to music brought to his earphones from a hand-held cassette, when he wasn't assaulting the hotel's Pac-Man machines with glee.
The challenger's confidence has had no visible effect on the odds, still favoring Hagler at 6 to 1.
The fight, in Providence's 15,000-seat civic auditorium, has virtually snuck up on the city, where it has been ignored by the city's two jointly owned newspapers whose publisher doesn't like boxing and who has editorialized against it. Not until today was there much mention of the bout in the local press. Also, the city is somewhat preoccupied with the troubles of its mayor, who was indicted Tuesday on six charges of assault, kidnapping and extortion.
The fight has raised the hackles of the World Boxing Council and the World Boxing Association, which dislike the fact that it is being held under the aegis of the U.S. Boxing Association, International. The WBC is sore because it is scheduled for 15 rounds, not its new 12-round limit for title fights.
Hagler, with his leverage as an undisputed champion, has told both the WBC and WBA that, in effect, he doesn't need their sanctions. He's getting a $1.25 million guarantee from Home Box Office and promoter Bob Arum, and is content with USBA sponsorship.
Also, the Rhode Island State Commission is standing on its dignity and saying it won't accept officials appointed by the WBC, but as a sovereign state will appoint its own referees and judges, thank you.
Hagler's credentials are well-documented. In his last 33 fights, he has beaten everybody except Vito Antuofermo, who held him to a draw in 1979 and whom he later knocked out in 1981. He brawls, he can punch and, when necessary, he can box. His 160 pounds spell muscle. He wanted badly to fight Sugar Ray Leonard, whose retirement cost Hagler maybe as much as a $10 million payday.
Scypion, perhaps because his name is a bit difficult to the tongue, is not widely known despite his 26-3 record (20 knockouts). Like Hagler, he can be a brawler.
Hagler said of Scypion today, "He's very aggressive, not too scientific, throws a lot of punches. His style will be no problem after two or three rounds. I've been in there with some of the best in the world."
This was a fight that was supposed to have Frank (The Animal) Fletcher in with Hagler. But Fletcher fell afoul of Scypion last February. As the underdog in that one, Scypion gave Fletcher a complete beating in 12 rounds, using, he said, the same brawling tactics he'll show against Hagler Friday.
Scypion will be getting a $250,000 guarantee, one-fifth of Hagler's purse. Scypion said that doesn't bother him. "The money will come later," he said, "after I get the title." Scypion indicated he would not change his style against Hagler, claiming, "I'm stronger than he is. He'll have to take my body shots."
Nobody had previously suspected that the way to beat Hagler was by beating on his barrel-like body.
The challenger is slightly taller than the 5-9 Hagler, with both fighters expecting to weigh in at the 160-pound limit. Hagler has never fought as anything but a middleweight. Scypion grew up from the welterweights. He was superbly conditioned the night he beat Fletcher. Promoter Arum said he is discounting reports that the WBC and WBA may strip the title from Hagler or Scypion if they proceed without their official sponsorship. "They won't go that far," Arum said. "Hagler's title is too legitimate."
Arum speculated that the WBC or WBA would extend sanction to the fight before ring time, pointing out either group would miss a $40,000 sponsorship fee by remaining stubborn.