Remembering Marvin Hagler.
"If they cut my bald head open, they will find one big boxing glove. That's all I am. I live it."
They say that boxing is ninety percent mental, few have ever proved this at the highest level better than Marvin Hagler. Throughout all the years and all the fights it was Hagler’s indomitable will that propelled him forward. Whether running in the freezing New England winters or burning bright under the lights of the ring, Marvin was fueled by something intangible inside of him. A fire that refused to let him loose, but a fire that on the 13th of March 2021 was sadly extinguished.
It was ignited some fifty years ago now in the slum of Central Ward, Newark, New Jersey. As the race riots of 1967 swirled all around the young Hagler took refuge on the floor as bullets crashed through the window above. Here began his lifelong quest to get out, to be a somebody, and to make sure neither him, nor his beloved mother Ida- Mae, would have to live through such events again.
He found his way to the top by the use of his fists. After a street fight he found himself at the door of the gym run by Pat and Goody Petronelli, friends and mentors who would stay with Hagler to the end. His professional career was rocky, as Joe Frazier so eloquently put it "You have three strikes against you, "You're black, you're a southpaw, and you're good." This meant opportunities were scarce and big paydays even scarcer.
Eventually though in 1979, after 6 years as a professional Hagler fought World Middleweight Champion Vito Antuofermo at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Although he dominated the fight, typical of his look the judges didn’t see it and scored a draw. This only seemed to motivate Hagler who took out his frustrations on Britain’s Alan Minter stopping him in just three rounds to become the unified middleweight champion of the world.
Emulating his hero and fellow Brockton native Rocky Marciano, Hagler’s championship reign was long and destructive. For the next three years he knocked out everyone who stepped in with him. Seven came, seven fell.
Then came his coronation as one of the four kings, the high lords of boxing. Between 1983 and 1987 he had three epic contests. Duran, Hearns and Leonard. First came the great lightweight and welterweight champion Roberto Duran. Hagler defeated Duran with an educated and cautious game plan, using his jab and footwork to outfox one of the vetran and retain his title.
Again against Leonard he engaged in an epic battle of wits and skills, with the eyes of the world on him. Although he didn’t get the decision that night many to this day believe he was the rightful victor. However you see the fight though one thing is abundantly clear, Hagler achieved something outside of the ring that night. He earned $12 million dollars from the fight becoming one of the richest athletes in the world, and it's safe to say Ida-Mae didn’t have to live in Central Ward any more.
He will be best remembered though for the war. Hagler v Hearns is one of the all time great fights, a bout that lives in the zeitgeist as an almost by word for excitement in the ring. For nine brutal minutes two of the most skilled professionals of the 20th century threw caution to the wind and engaged in a frantic battle of wills. At the end of the bout, wearing a mask of his own blood, Marvin Hagler was lifted aloft in victory. This enduring image was Haglers greatest in the ring and draws to mind the epic poem Invictus, as if William Ernest Henley had written it for him.
Marvin Hagler, “bloody, but unbowed”.
Rest in Peace Marvin.
Ewan for SimBoxx