Yesterday, Boxing Hall of Famer and middleweight icon Marvin Hagler died at his New Hampshire home at the age of 66. Leaving a legacy forged in the ring, the champ’s image eternally hovers above the sport. For a certain demographic of fans, Hagler embodied the grit and toughness, emblematic of his upbringing. Stepping into the ring with Marvin Hagler meant rounds of life=altering pain.
“Every fighter has got be dedicated, learn how to sacrifice, know what the devotion is all about, make sure you’re paying attention and studying your art.”
Similarly, Hagler found his way into the gym like Muhammad Ali. The victim of a public embarrassment, he decided to start boxing. Through hours of dedication, Hagler took to the sport. More importantly, he found the fixer that beat him down in public, avenging that unofficial loss. This sense of vengeance would serve as a lifelong boxing trait for the pride of Brockton, Massachusetts.
Despite holding the middleweight title, unified in 1983, Hagler earned the universal respect of his peers and fans. However, he boxed in the shadow of Sugar Ray Leonard, and the start of the Tyson Era. Hagler never fought with flash or theatrics. He stepped between the ropes, attempting to dislodge your soul from your skeleton. With an aggressive style, he pushed the pace of the fight, forcing his will upon the opponent.
Thirty-six years ago, next month, the middleweight champ stepped into the ring with Tommy Hearns. Many predicted that Hearns’ combination of power and speed would overwhelm the slower Hagler. The first round of this fight ranks as one of, if not the most exciting three minutes. Eschewing technique, Hearns decided to stand and trade with the champ. To his credit, Hearns wobbled Hagler on a couple of occasions. Yet, the bell helped Hagler clear his head and focus. Hearns poured his heart and soul into the first two rounds. Subsequently, his gas tank, legs, and the body fell empty, as Hagler stopped him in three.
Slays the Beast
For the hardcore fans in their 40s, John “The Beast” Mugabi looked like the man to dethrone Hagler. Five years younger, Mugabi tore through his competition with reckless abandon, compiling a 25-0 record with 25 knockouts. For eleven rounds, the ring weary Hagler and the fresher opponent traded heavy punches. Despite years of ring work, Hagler ended the unbeaten streak in the eleventh round. While Hagler celebrated, no one knew this would be his last victory.
Before the fight against Sugar Ray Leonard, the champ, desperate for this fight, allowed Leonard’s camp to dictate terms. Ultimately, these concessions favored Leonard. First, a larger ring helped the quicker Leonard keep his distance. Next, the fight, cut from fifteen to twelve rounds, altered Hagler’s plan to drag Leonard in proverbial deep water. Lastly, using bigger gloves negated some of Hagler’s power. Overall, Hagler placed himself at a profound disadvantage. Despite the obstacles he placed in his own way, this fight ranks as one of the most controversial bouts. Leonard earned a split decision victory. In contrast, many believe that the champ’s aggression paced the fight. Yet, Hagler walked away with twenty million dollars, leaving his championship behind.
After that fight, tghe Marvelous One walked away from the fight game. He never looked back or returned. Unlike many fighters, Hagler stayed gone, hanging up the gloves and jumping into acting. Boxing and one of its most underrated legends parted ways, never to reunite. The champ, true to his Brockton roots and hardscrabble upbringing, left the sport as he fought, on his own terms.
As I creep up on another birthday, each year, memories of my sports fandom feel slightly farther away. Never possessing the panache of Mayweather, the brutality of Tyson, or the grace of Ali, Hagler fought. He started off as a bouncy fighter that transformed into a puncher. The grind, ability to withstand pressure, and the drive to end fights remain the cornerstone of Marvelous Marvin Hagler’s career. The staff at FPC extends their condolences to the family and friends.