Remembering Jersey-born boxing legend Marvelous Marvin Hagler
The man many people believe to be the greatest middleweight boxer of all time, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, died this weekend at age 66. Hagler was born in Newark in 1954 and spent his early years there, but his family moved to Massachusetts after the 1967 Newark riots.
He started boxing as a teenager at a gym in Boston owned by brothers Goody and Pat Petronelli; they would serve as his trainers and co-managers for the entirety of his career - he was nothing if not loyal. He ascended rapidly, compiling a 55-1 record as an amateur, fighting as a middleweight. After turning pro, it took him seven years to claim the middleweight title, eventually defeating Brit Alan Minter in London in 1980; Minter had reportedly said that “no black man was going to take his title,” a prophecy that was ruined by Hagler’s brutal third round TKO of the champ.
Marvelous Marvin fought during a golden era for middleweights; he was one of the “Four Kings”: Hagler, Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns, Roberto Duran, and Sugar Ray Leonard. Hagler’s fight with Hearns in 1985 is known as the “War” and, according to the Athletic, gave fight fans “a first round that stands as arguably the best in the sport’s long history.” Hagler won the fight by TKO in the third, successfully defending his title.
Marvelous Marvin’s final fight (and 13th defense of his title) is one of the most hotly debated fights, ever. Facing the younger Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin battled for 12 rounds, but wound up losing on a disputed split decision, losing his title. Marvin claimed that Leonard admitted in the ring moments after the fight ended that Hagler had beaten him. He had told people close to him that the Leonard fight would be his last no matter the outcome, and he promptly retired, spurning millions of dollars being offered for a rematch. He retired with a professional record of 62-3-2. He split his time in retirement between Italy and New Hampshire; he was in New Hampshire when he died. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.