'Marvellous' Marvin Hagler Has Passed Away, But Will Never Be Forgotten
As a professional, he stunned opponents and crowds a like with his pugilistic nous. However, Marvellous Marvin Hagler’s sudden passing yesterday stunned the boxing world the likes of which we have not seen, perhaps since the passing of Ali.
Hagler’s wife took to social media to announce the sad and sudden passing of her husband who died unexpectedly yesterday aged just 66. "Today, unfortunately my beloved husband Marvellous Marvin passed away unexpectedly at his home here in New Hampshire," wife Kay said.
Hagler ruled the middleweight division during the 1980’s. Alongside Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns and Roberto Duran. Hagler was one of ‘The Four Kings’ the saviours of boxing in the ‘Post-Ali era’.
Now Hagler last graced a ring back in 1987 .. 23 days in fact before I entered the world! So for all of you who are new to the sport, and for those who just want to reminisce sit back and allow me to wax lyrical about the man that was simply Marvellous.
Born on May 23rd 1954 in Newark, New Jersey. Marvin Nathaniel Hagler first took up boxing after being beaten up in the street by a local boxer, with his friends as spectators. Hagler walked into the gym of Pat and Goody Petronelli who became his trainers and managers. Now here is a funny one ladies and gents. Hagler lied about his age! Putting his year of birth down as 1952, as you had to be 16 to enter some amateur tournaments!! Hagler’s career lacked the glitz and glamour of Sugar Ray, or even Tommy Hearns. Winning the AAU middleweight in 1973 was the pinnacle for Marvin. This would set the tone for most of his career as he would have to do things the hard way.
Hagler would remain a contender for six years before he received his first world title shot. ‘Smokin’ Joe Fraizer famously told him You have three strikes against you, You’re black, you’re a southpaw and your good’. After a lull in his career in 1976 where he dropped two decisions, in August 1978 Top Rank’s Bob Arum signed Hagler to his Top Rank promotion and a world title shot came along 14 months later.
Hagler was a victim of his own circumstances against Vito Antuofermo. He had the skills and the killer instinct. But his decision to play it safe saw the champion retain his title and sent Hagler from Vegas empty handed with the judges scoring the fight a draw. It wouldn’t be long before Hagler would feel the gold in between his hands however … just ten months to be exact.
In a fight that saw much bad blood. Hagler would become a world champion in his 50th fight. Travelling to London in September 1980 Hagler would take on Alan Minter, who also sadly lost his life six months ago. The bad blood between the two was there from the get go after Minter said "No black man is going to take my title" a claim he later denied as he states he said ‘that black man’. But the words were weapons that Hagler was only to happy to retaliate to. In just three rounds, Hagler turned Minter’s face into a bloody mess and the fight was stopped. Hagler and his team had to be escorted from the ring by police as a less than happy London crowd launched bottles into the air.
Three years and five title defences would pass before Hagler would face the toughest test of his career to date. Winning an incredibly close decision against Roberto Duran who was coming up from 154 pounds to take a shot at Hagler. Duran was ahead going into the 14th, Before Marvellous rallied in the final two to take the decision.
Hagler would fight just five more times after that victory. But these five fights punctuated the greatness of the man.
April 15th 1985, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas would bear witness into what many former fighters, pundits and fans alike call the greatest round of boxing of all time. This time Marvin Hagler would take on fellow king Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns.
It was billed, simply, as The Fight. Marvellous Marvin Hagler, the undisputed middleweight champion of the world and unbeaten since 1976, against the world's best light-middleweight, Tommy 'The Hitman' Hearns.
Hagler could box, brawl, switch-hit, punch – and his shaven skull seemed impervious to pain. Few disputed his claim never to have been hurt in the ring. Even so, many smart analysts believed Hearns possessed the tools to trouble him: he was four inches taller, a smart boxer and his outstanding record – 40-1 with 35 knockouts – advertised his punching power. Hearns was briefly a betting favourite in the week leading up to the fight. The big question was, could he use his physical advantages to outbox Hagler?
The Caesars Palace crowd never got a chance to find out. In the ring beforehand, Tommy's brother Billy taunted Hagler as he shadowboxed. "I saw him," Hagler said later. "I was thinking right then: 'All you're gonna do is get your brother's ass kicked.'"
Hagler was as good as his word. He leapt off his stool and threw a hard right, which missed, followed by a left to the body that sent Hearns towards the ropes. As Hugh McIllvaney wrote in the Observer: "The fighter who had come off the stool at him when the first bell sounded was not a Marvin Hagler anyone had ever seen before. He was a man possessed, the very incarnation of furious hostility, an enemy who shrank the ring with the heat of his malevolent intent."
Hearns, who believed that a pre-fight massage had weakened his legs, decided he had no choice but to pour hot oil on Hagler's raging fire.
He threw four hard right hands in a row, including a brutal uppercut that forced Hagler to clinch. In a matter of seconds the pattern had been set, the rules of combat laid down: Hagler the hunter, Hearns firing back at every opportunity. The gasps from the crowd whenever a punch landed told their own story.
With just over a minute left of the round, Hagler was cut on the top of his forehead. Unbeknown to anyone, Hearns had also broken his right hand on Hagler's skull. But they continued to unload bombs, with Hagler wobbling Hearns just before the bell, before glaring at him as he walked back to his corner.
Two rounds later, Hagler got his man, chopping him down to the canvas.
But Hearns played his part too. As his trainer Emanuel Steward later revealed: "After the first round his hand was broke and his legs were gone. But that night Tommy told me not to mention anything about the hand. He said he didn't want to take anything away from Hagler's victory. That's the kind of guy Tommy was."
A fight against the #1 ranked contender, Uganda’s John Mugabe would follow 11 months later. By this point age and wear and tear were evident as the once slick boxer puncher that was Hagler had morphed into a flat footed out and out slugger. Clearly compensating for the speed and reflexes that were once prevalent, but had now abandoned him. Hagler would claim an 11th round victory. That night showed how easy Hagler had become to hit, and it certainly didn’t go unnoticed by a man sat commentating at Ringside. A certain Sugar Ray Leonard was a keen and eager spectator.
A war weary Hagler would take the lion’s share of the purse for fighting Leonard, who had only fought once in the previous five years. But in doing so, Hagler had to concede to Leonard’s demand’s. A 22ft x 22ft would be used, 10 ounce rather than 8 ounce gloves too. And, the fight would be contested over 12 rounds rather than 15.
In what is possibly one of the most highly disputed fights in boxing history, Leonard was announced as the winner and new middleweight champion of the world by split decision (118–110, 115–113, 113–115). After the final bell had sounded Leonard said to him, "You beat me man." Hagler said after the fight, "He said I beat him and I was so happy." Leonard denied making the statement and said he only told Hagler, "You're a great champion." HBO cameras and microphones supported Hagler's version of events.
Feel free to do a little digging into the scoring of this fight. Or even better, watch it and score it for yourself.
Hagler would chase a rematch, but Leonard would retire for a third time. And, thus, so would Hagler.
Hagler would move to Italy and find a new life as an actor. Leonard would offer Hagler a rematch .. 2 years after Hagler had grown tired of waiting.
Rest In Peace Champ .. Thank you for being Marvellous.