Former Heavyweight Champion of the world Joe Frazier once said of Marvin Hagler “You have three strikes against you, you’re black, you’re a southpaw, and you’re good”. Frazier’s words were almost prophetic. For seven years Hagler struggled to secure top opponents because he was the definition of high risk and low reward. I think of Marvin Hagler in the same vein you would think of John Wick. “He is a man of focus, commitment, and sheer will”. His training camps which he affectionately referred to as jail are the stuff of legends. He would isolate himself at the Provincetown Inn in Cape Cod for 6 weeks in the dead of winter, in the harshest conditions. Hagler said of training camp “It’s like putting yourself in jail. It’s not a question of liking it. It’s a question of having to do it.” It was said that you could often hear chants of “War” coming from the beaches when Hagler trained. He put himself through hell so that he could inflict that upon you on fight night.
Hagler got his first shot at the middleweight title in November of 1979 against Vito Antuofermo. In a fight that many felt he won, he was instead left with a controversial draw. True to himself he did not waste time complaining, he went right back to fighting and winning. He got a second chance in September 1980 against Alan Minter. The fight and the events surrounding it turned ugly. Minter remarked that “No black man is going to take my title”. He tried to walk the statement back, but the damage was already done. Still bristling at the horrendous Antuofermo decision, Hagler told everyone he was bringing his judges this time and held up his fists, making it clear that no judges were going to play a role in the outcome on that evening. When Minter’s racist remark was brought to his attention by trainer Goody Petronelli, Hagler simply replied “Goody…I am going to hurt that man”. Making good on his promise, Hagler battered and bloodied Minter for 3 rounds, until the referee stopped the fight. His crowning moment was marred as fans pelted the ring with debris, cutting the celebration short. For a man that had to earn everything the hard way, he did not care. He fulfilled his dream and was not about to let anyone steal that from him.
Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champion for the next seven years where he made 12 defenses of his championship. None of his title defenses were as iconic as the one that occurred against Tommy Hearns on April 15, 1985. Simply dubbed “The Fight”, this all-action bout is one of the greatest fights in the history of the sport despite only lasting 8 minutes. The first round in itself is a classic and packs enough brutality and violence as some 12 round exchanges. The fight won the “Ring” Magazine fight of the year which is an amazing feat since the fight only went 3 rounds. Hagler’s middleweight supremacy would end in 1987 at the hands of “Sugar” Ray Leonard in one of the most hotly debated fights in boxing history. Hagler would announce his retirement 14 months later in 1988. He is one of the few to retire, and stay away from the ring for good.
When it was all said and done Hagler’s career was a laundry list of accomplishments. He boasts the highest KO percentage of all undisputed middleweight champions at 78%. He is also the third-longest reigning unified champion in the history of the sport. Boxing Illustrated named him the fighter of the decade for the 1980s. Ring Magazine and The BWAA both named him fighter of the year twice in 1983 and 1985 respectively. In 1993 the ultimate boxing honor was bestowed upon him when he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Today the boxing world mourns the loss of a legend, an icon, and a fighter that was simply….Marvelous.
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler Highlights via hanZAgod on Youtube: