The world of combat sports lost one of its true legends on Saturday, March 13, 2021, as ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler passed away at the age of 66. Born in one of boxing’s mecca states, New Jersey, Hagler moved away from his birth town of Newark at the age of 13, Hagler moved to another special boxing town, Brockton, Massachusetts. Brockton is the hometown of hall of fame heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano and hall of fame referee Arthur Mercante Sr. It was almost meant since childhood for Hagler to follow in the footsteps of all the boxing foreshadowing around him. Known fondly as one of “The Four Kings of Boxing,” Hagler fought during a time of arguably the greatest collection of middleweights ever in history.
The year was 1969 and Hagler was just 15 years old (a point we will touch on in a second.) He walked into the gym of Goody and Pat Petronelli, to pick up the sport of boxing. These men would be by his side to the end. In order to compete in many of his amateur tournaments, Hagler needed to be at least 16-years old, so he lied stating he was born in 1952 instead of 1954. After just three years of training, in 1973, Hagler won the National AAU 165-lbs at the age of 19. In March of the same year, Hagler lost his only amateur bout in the finals of the National Golden Gloves to Dale Grant.
Hagler would finish his amateur career with a 55-1 record and gold in the United States National Championships in May 1973. It would be almost 10 years before it came to light that Hager was actually born in 1954 as needed to provide his true date of birth to change his name legally from “Marvin Nathaniel Hagler” to “Marvelous Marvin Hagler.”
The Beginning of a Memorable Dynasty
Hagler’s professional career began with a knockout victory in May 1973. Continuing to dominate over the next six years, Hager would get his first world championship shot in November 1979. The bout was contested against Vito Antuofermo inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. After going to the judges for their decision, the bout was ruled a draw with Antuofermo keeping his WBC, WBA, and The Ring middleweight titles. 10 months and three victories later, Hager found himself in another title fight, this time cashing in.
On September 27, 1980, Hagler would get another chance at gold. This time facing the current WBA, WBC, and The Ring champion, Alan Minter, in Minter’s native England. Though Minter was the favorite, Hagler walked out the champion with a third-round TKO victory. The bout was stopped after Minter sustained several devastating cuts around his eye. In front of a sellout crowd of 12,000 in Wembley Arena, Hagler began his championship reign.
Continuing his march to greatness, Hagler would defend his titles six times before meeting Wilford Scypion for the inaugural IBF middleweight title. The 13,000-plus inside the Providence Civic Center and the fans watching around the world on HBO witnessed Hagler defeat Scypion by fourth-round TKO.
“The Four Kings of Boxing”
Hagler would have his first meeting with a fellow “king” on November 10, 1983, when he met Roberto Duran in Caesars Palace. The battle would mark Hagler’s seventh defense of the WBC and WBA titles along with the second defense of his IBF title. 14,600 fans packed the outdoor stadium along with millions watching around the world on closed-circuit television. Hagler was down on the scorecards heading into the last two rounds and needed both to pull out the victory. He earned the decision victory, marking the first time in his title defense reign he would go the distance.
Thomas Hearns: “The Fight”
Two more title defenses after the Duran victory, Hagler would meet the second leg of his “Four Kings” battle, this time in arguably one of boxing’s most memorable bouts with Thomas Hearns. The memorable bout would take place on April 15, 1985, in Caesars Palace. 15,088 fans witnessed The Ring Magazine’s 1985 Fight of the Year. Round one was awarded Round of the Year. The April 22, 1985, edition of Sports Illustrated referred to the bout as “Eight minutes of fury.” If you check any top-1o greatest boxing bouts of all-time lists, this one is near the top of every expert and fans’ list.
Sugar Ray Leonard
Completing the third leg of the “Four Kings” tour, Hagler would meet Sugar Ray Leonard. The bout took place on April 06, 1986, in Caesars Palace. This would mark Hagler’s 12th title defense of the WBC title as well as the end of his career. Leonard was only eligible for the WBC crown. In back-to-back years, Hagler would earn The Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year award for this performance. Though he was defeated, the bout would, later on, be named Upset of the Decade. The bout was extremely close with several media members scoring the bout for Hagler.
Hagler showed a deep desire for a rematch but Leonard would retire for the third time in his career. About a year later, Hagler announced his retirement stating he was tired of waiting on Leonard. Just one month later, Leonard announced his return to action. Retiring with a record of 62-3-2, Hagler was only knocked down once in his career.
Quotes and Messages Around the Boxing World On Hagler
“Marvin Hagler was one of the best warriors in the sport. Condolences to his family. He will be missed.”
-Mike Tyson per his Twitter account
“This is a powerful quote that applies to everyone, not just boxers. Hagler displayed all of these things and that’s why he was so special #motivationalmonday.” This quote is based on the Hagler quote, “Every fighter has got to be dedicated, learn how to sacrifice, know what the devotion is all about, make sure you’re paying attention and studying the art.”
-Sugar Ray Leonard per his Instagram account
These are just some of the heartfelt effects of the passing of a true boxing legend. Texas and Gulf Coast area ring announcer and commentator, Christian Schmidt, also had some words on the career of Hagler. “He was very much responsible for bringing excitement and attention to the sport of boxing and especially the middleweight division in the 80s,” Schmidt told MyMMANews. “Always conducted himself with dignity and class outside the ring as well. The sport of boxing lost a true gem in Marvin Hagler.”
Though “The Fight” occurred in April 1985 (when I was just one month old), it is the fight that made me a combat sports fan. There may have been better boxers than Hagler and Hearns, but on that night, no two boxers could have put on a better showing. Hagler fought during a time when the middleweight division was at its absolute peak in the sport’s history. In my “Fantasy Boxing Matchups” series where I pit boxers of yesterday with today’s top stars, I placed Marvin Hagler in the ring with Canelo Alvarez in which I picked Hagler to come out on top. If I would ever get the question, “What is boxing?” Hagler would absolutely be in the highlight reel. The sport lost a true legend.
I am a life-long MMA fan who has been a fan since UFC 1. I was born in Illinois but raised in South Louisiana, home of many great mixed martial artists. I started martial arts at the age of 4 and continued into my adult years where I served nearly 10 years in law enforcement. I feel my job is to convey the stories of the MMA fighters we enjoy to watch and share their stories with the world.
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