By Mark Elezaj
“If they cut my bald head open, they will find one big boxing glove,” Hagler once said. “That’s all I am. I live it.”
One of the great middleweights in boxing history, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, died Saturday at the age of 66 his wife Kay G Hearns announced via social media.
“I am sorry to make a very sad announcement, today unfortunately my beloved husband Marvelous Marvin passed away unexpectedly at his home here in New Hampshire. Our family requests that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
Hagler’s son James told TMZ that his father was taken to the hospital Saturday morning after experiencing breathing problems and chest pains.
Hagler was one of “The Four Kings” of the 1980’s, along with Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns. He fought 67 times as a pro, walking away with a record of 62-3-2 with 52 knockouts.
He is widely regarded as the greatest middleweight of all time.
Promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank later confirmed the news in a press release.
“Marvelous Marvin Hagler was among the greatest athletes that Top Rank ever promoted. He was a man of honor and a man of his word, and he performed in the ring with unparalleled determination. He was a true athlete and a true man. I will miss him greatly,” Arum said.
Hagler was a southpaw that was relentless in the ring. Hagler went 55-1 as an amateur, including winning the United States National Championship at middleweight in 1973.
He was 46-2-1 as a pro when he finally got a shot against the undisputed 160-pound champion Vito Antuofermo in Las Vegas on Nov. 30, 1979. After a disputed draw (that he later avenged), he would go on an eight year run, which included victories against Roberto Duran in 1983, Antuofermo in a rematch, Juan Domingo Roldan, Mustafa Hamsho two times and John “The Beast” Mugabi in title defenses. He also had his second title shot against Alan Minter, where he traveled to London and knocked him out in the third round to win the undisputed title, stopping opponent after opponent.
In 1985, Hagler faced Thomas “Hitman” Hearns in one of the era’s biggest middleweight fights at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. When the opening bell sounded, both men approached each other and traded punches for three minutes in an opening round that many consider the best round in boxing history.
Hagler, with blood pouring onto his forehead that nearly caused the referee to stop the fight earlier in the round, would go on to stop Hearns in the third round, dropping him to the canvas with a barrage of punches.
“When they stopped the fight to look at the cut, I realized they might be playing games and I wasn’t going to let them take the title away,” Hagler said. “It was a scary feeling. I thought, ‘Why are they stopping this fight?’ I didn’t realize I was bleeding. It wasn’t in my eyes. Then I knew I had to destroy this guy.”
“That was an unbelievable fight, probably the greatest fight ever” said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum.
Hagler held the title for the next seven years, successfully defending his championship 12 consecutive times before losing it to Sugar Ray Leonard by split decision on April 6, 1987 in one of the biggest fights and most controversial decisions in boxing history.
The scorecards were 118–110, 115–113, 113–115.
Hagler, upset by the decision in the fight, never fought again. Following the Leonard fight, he retired and became an actor in various films in Italy, where he lived.
“As far as I’m concerned the best middleweight of the 55 years I’ve been in boxing,” said Arum, after his retirement.
“I can’t compare him to (Harry) Greb and Sugar Ray Robinson. Those guys were before my time. The only one I would maybe hesitate would be (Carlos) Monzon. But Hagler’s the best middleweight and one of the best fighters I’ve ever promoted.”
In an interview a year after he retired, Hagler said “I feel fortunate to get out of the ring with my faculties and my health.”
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler earned Fighter of the Year honors in 1983 and 1985 by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He was also named the Fighter of the Decade in the 1980s by Boxing Illustrated.
In 1993, Hagler was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
~ The Fighting Voice ~