Veteran fight enthusiast and Vice-President of his local ex-boxers association Mervyn Gee recalls the eventful and ultimately shameful night when Britain’s Alan Minter defended the undisputed middleweight championship against future great Marvin Hagler at London’s Wembley Arena…

Official poster 

On the night of Saturday 27th September 1980 some friends and I attended the Alan Minter vs Marvin Hagler middleweight title fight at Wembley Arena. Since at the time I lived in Hendon (North London ) it was just a hop, skip and jump to the arena.

We had wonderful seats. Vito Antuofermo – the previous champ Hagler drew with and Minter had beaten – was there commentating for Italian TV. The American actor Telly Savalas was ringside, as was British heavyweight legend Henry Cooper.

Boxing News predicted a Minter victory

Somehow you could smell there was going to be trouble. Fans carried crates of bottled beer into the arena and anyone with anything which seemed linked to Hagler – a flag for example – was hassled.

As the shaven-skulled challenger made his entrance, he was screamed at and racist remarks hurled towards him. Minter’s entry was like the regal entrance of a king.

The build up to the fight had been awful, where it was alleged Hagler refused to shake hands with the champion and it was acknowledged – but later denied – that Minter had said: “It’s taken me 17 years to get here [become champion] and I do not intend to lose it [the title] to a black man.”

The American anthem was drowned out by racist chants and when the action finally started, it was obvious from the beginning Minter was up against it: within a minute his eye was cut and the notorious ‘bleeder’ was taking a battering.

Photo: The Ring/ Getty 

In the second round Minter tried to mix it with the man regarding himself as the uncrowned champ, but by this time both eyes were cut and it looked as though the champs nose was broken and bleeding profusely.

At the start of the third, within seconds the British man’s face was covered in blood, the referee [Panamanian Carlos Berrocal] stopped the contest, walked Minter to his corner and within seconds signalled the fight was over.

As the crowd realised Minter had been stopped all Hell broke loose! Savalas, Cooper and legendary broadcaster Harry Carpenter dived under the ring.

One idiotic, angry fan picked on the wrong man in trying to strike Antofuermo and was knocked out by the Italian ex-champ with one punch!

Hagler was surrounded by minders who were pelted with bottles and cans. Eventually the new champ was led out with the assistance of the “boys in blue” although had to leave the championship belts in the ring.

Boxing News cover (Friday October 3, 1980)

My friends and I were showered with beer, but luckily not really hurt, although my “whistle and flute” was torn and splattered with booze! We lay on the floor for what seemed like hours but was in fact about five minutes.

Mickey Duff said afterwards the fans “behaved like wild animals.” Hagler also suffered the indignity of finding the car to take him from the arena had been wrecked by moronic fans. Hagler vowed he would never come to the UK to fight again , and of course he kept this promise..

We had reserved a cab to us back to Hendon but when it arrived the driver initially refused to take us as he thought we were all “pissed” [perhaps due to the state of our beer soaked clothes] although we eventually convinced him otherwise.

On my arrival home my wife jumped to the same conclusion as the cab driver, but I suppose in those far off days it was quite likely that I would have been….