The 1980s were a magnificent time to be a boxing fan. Big names, marquee matchups, and great rivalries. And the best action with the brightest stars wasn’t in the heavyweight division either.
An upcoming documentary series from Showtime titled The Kings will highlight four of the best boxers from that era. Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, and Thomas Hearns were known as “The Four Kings” and headlined a showcase era of boxing that included nine championship fights among them.
The sport was experiencing a downturn in interest following the retirement of Muhammad Ali, but these four stars — particularly Leonard, coming off a gold medal victory at the 1976 Olympics — helped revitalize boxing’s place in mainstream culture.
As the series will chronicle, this golden age for boxing also took place against the backdrop of a tumultuous time in the country with the economy going into recession at the end of the Jimmy Carter presidency, then rebounding to the heights of capitalism while Ronald Reagan was president.
— SHOWTIME SPORTS (@SHOsports) April 12, 2021
“These four men defined an era in boxing,” said Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza in the official announcement of the documentary.
“Their individual stories, forever linked by the spectacular battles they waged, reflect a tumultuous period in American culture and history. The Kings takes the viewer beyond the glorious action of some of history’s most memorable prizefights to illuminate each man’s dramatic journey and the societal context that made them stars of sports and popular culture.”
Of course, the “Four Kings” era might be best defined by the three fights between Leonard and Duran, the second of which is among boxing’s most memorable because of Duran’s “No más” surrender in the eighth round. (That fight was the subject of an ESPN 3o for 30 film.).
This series should carry added poignance with the recent death of Hagler, who passed away last month at the age of 66. Hagler’s 1985 bout with Hearns is considered one of the best of the era despite lasting only three rounds, due to the ferocious exchanges between the fighters. Hagler suffered a deep cut on his forehead that put his chances in jeopardy, but he knocked out Hearns in the third round.
Two years later, Hagler fought Leonard in what was viewed as one of the biggest fights of the decade. Leonard was making his second comeback after retirement and Hagler was coming off a tough match against John Mugabi. The fight ended with a controversial split decision in Leonard’s favor, an outcome that reportedly disgusted Hagler so much that he never fought again.
The four-part docuseries will premiere Sunday, June 6 at 8 p.m. ET on Showtime and also be available across the premium cable channel’s streaming platforms and on-demand. Subsequent episodes will air in each of the following three weeks.