On the morning after the deluge, a mousy hump revealed itself under the right eye of Marvelous Marvin Hagler. The cut on his forehead, shaped like a fishhook, required four stitches and a Band-Aid. And the cap he was wearing -- the blood red one with WAR printed on the crown -- had been turned around, worn in the fashion of a baseball catcher. The message, stated over and over again the past week, now endured only in memory.
"Look at me good. I didn't get these bruises for nothing," he said the morning after successfully defending his undisputed middleweight title against Thomas Hearns, who was stopped a little more than two minutes into the third round. "I told Tommy afterwards, 'There's one thing different between you and me. I'm used to these bumps and bruises, but I don't think you are.' "
Shortly after the fight, Hearns had offered congratulations to the champion but winced in pain when they shook hands. Irving Rudd, the fight's press agent, said Hearns might have fractured his right hand during the fight and had returned to Detroit to have it X-rayed.
"This is the pinnacle of my career," Hagler said. "This is the feeling I wanted to have for a long time. I wanted the respect of the media and the people who followed the fight game. I wanted to have all the eyes of the world on me."
Both fighters will also get big payoffs for their night's work, far above their guarantees -- $5.6 million for Hagler and $5.4 for Hearns. Promoter Bob Arum said Hagler probably would earn about $8 million.
The fight, scheduled for 12 rounds, was like a raging human storm played out in a measly eight minutes. Most who saw the first two rounds were left wondering: what just happened? It was so quick, so furious, that even Hagler was at a loss to explain it.
"In the first," he said, "I wondered when this guy would stop punching me. Tommy fought the only way a challenger could: he came right at me. I had to go to work and establish my game plan right at the opening bell."
Asked why he came on so strongly in the early going, throwing virtually everything he could find in his arsenal, Hagler said, "I told you I'd cut Tommy Hearns down like a tree. See that tree fall. I knew that with a man of his size, I'd have to go inside and work him . . . Because of the magnitude of the fight, people wanted to see me go right at him."
That hard-charging strategy was largely responsible for the cut on the forehead, which Hagler later described as "scary. There was a lot of blood and I didn't want the fight to stop . . . I'm not scared of blood, though. It kinda turns me on. Then the monster in me really comes out."
In the third round, taking much punishment, Hearns finally retreated. After feeling a hard shot sting his jaw, Hearns turned his back to the champion and stumbled across the ring, in what resembled a silly, solo waltz. Hagler's next right hand was a slobby stab that grazed his target, but the third right hand found Hearns' chin and dropped him to the canvas.
Lying flat on his back, before more than 15,000 in the outdoor arena at Caesars Palace and about 1.7 million who watched on closed circuit and pay-per-view outlets, Hearns seemed profoundly alone. Who could make sense of the great human force that had dropped and defeated him -- the first time since losing to Sugar Ray Leonard in September 1981? In the end, only the memory of Tommy Hearns' terrific effort was left standing.
"After the fight," Hagler said, "he told me, he said, 'Marvin, you hit so hard. You should move up to light heavyweight.' I asked why should I do that. So he can move up and take my middleweight title?
"The thing is, Tommy's still a champion today. He's got nothing to cry about. He still has his title, he's the junior middleweight champ. But if I'd lost, I'd be standing here right now with nothing."
Hearns had hoped to win his third title against Hagler and move up in weight class, to the light heavyweight division. Now on a nine-year undefeated streak covering 36 fights, Hagler said challenging champion Michael Spinks and other light heavies was "not part of my vision. I don't think after working so hard for so long to gain control of the middleweight division and to be the king of the mountain that I should move on . . . If Michael Spinks wants to fight Marvin Hagler, let him come down. I'm not going up."
He talked about his daughter's reaction after the fight, seeing the cuts on her father's face and the skin stained with blood.
"I still love the boxing game like a little boy," he said . . . "I still like the art of it and the smell of it."