Sunday, December 5

Marvin Hagler Obituary | Boxing

Marvin Hagler, who died at age 66, is recognized as one of boxing’s greatest champions, holding the world middleweight title from 1980 to 1987, but his legendary status is assured due to an unforgettable night on the old outfield. . air arena at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, in 1985, when he fought and defeated his great rival Thomas Hearns in one of the most exciting contests the sport has ever produced.

Their reunion was simply touted by promoter Bob Arum as The Fight, although this astonishing contest became known as The War in later years. With both men throwing wariness to the wind, the normally slow Hagler chose to face the mighty “Hitman” Hearns head-on in an initial round of terrifying ferocity.

Both men were throwing huge punches, but when Hagler suffered a deep cut to his forehead in the third round, it was clear that the bout could not last the full 15 rounds. When blood spurted from Hagler’s eyes, referee Richard Steele was forced to call the ring doctor to examine the wound. When asked if he could see, Hagler replied, “I don’t miss it, do I?” and this has become one of the great quotes in boxing folklore.

Realizing he could lose his title due to injury, Hagler detonated a massive right-handed punch to Hearns’ chin just seconds later, leaving the Detroit man face down on the mat. Although Hearns somehow staggered to his feet, the referee ended the most dramatic three rounds of boxing that most fans had witnessed.

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Hagler was born in the poorest area of ​​Newark, New Jersey, where he lived with his brother, Robbie, who also became a professional boxer, and four sisters. His father, Robert Sims, abandoned the family, leaving his mother, Ida Mae Hagler, to raise the children. Caught in the terrible race riots that left 26 dead in Newark in 1967, and their tenement house nearly destroyed, the Haglers moved to Brockton, Massachusetts, where Marvin soon developed a love for boxing.

He recounted how he had entered a gym run by Pat and Goody Petronelli in 1969, after being abused on the street by a tough young man who was a local boxer. His mission was to learn how to fight, and his aptitude soon became clear when he won the US amateur national title in 1973, before turning professional at the end of the year.

Learning the hard way, fighting tough opponents for a small financial reward, Hagler became an avoided man. As a southpaw, leading with his right hand rather than his normal left, he had an awkward style and an almost monstrous ability to take hits without any noticeable effect. Two early losses, on points, hardened his resolve.

One was against Willie Monroe, a fighter trained by the great heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. Hagler maintained that he had been robbed and won a rematch and then knocked out Monroe in a third match. Hagler said Frazier had told him: “You have three strikes against you: you’re black, you’re left-handed and you’re good.”

Hagler kept winning, and two wins over the highly rated Englishman Kevin Finnegan, and another on Philadelphia favorite “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, earned him a contract with Arum, the top Las Vegas-based promoter.

Marvin Hagler (center) poses with Nelson Mandela and Lennox Lewis in 2001.
Marvin Hagler (center) poses with Nelson Mandela and Lennox Lewis in 2001. Photograph: Juda Ngwenya / Reuters

His first challenge for a world title was in 1979 against New York-based Italian Vito Antuofermo, who believed he had won, but was given a split decision draw. His next opportunity came the following year against Britain’s Alan Minter at Wembley. Minter, then a champion, had fanned a hostile atmosphere, saying that he would never lose his title to a black man.

Minter took a savage beating. Referee Carlos Berrocal stopped the bout in the third round with Minter horribly cut around his eyes. When fleeing the ring, Hagler had to protect himself from bottles and glasses as he was thrown with missiles on one of the most embarrassing nights in British boxing.

He went on to successfully defend the title 12 times through one of boxing’s great eras and, most especially, the middleweight division. Among the defenses were epic victories against Panamanian Roberto Duran, the feared Ugandan puncher John Mugabi and Leicester’s Tony Sibson. But his hit streak came to an end in 1987, against Sugar Ray Leonard. After 15 rounds, once again at Caesars Palace, Leonard received the verdict from the judges in a split decision.

Hagler never accepted that he lost the fight and never returned to the ring. Experts are still divided on whether Hagler should have won or not. Sure enough, the smaller and faster Leonard fought in flashy bursts, while Hagler landed the most forceful blows. He was the aggressor at all times and dominated the last stages of the contest.

His first marriage, with Bertha, with whom he had five children, Charelle, Celeste, James, Marvin Jr and Gentry, ended in 1990. He remarried in 2000, to an Italian woman, Kay Guarrera, and they maintained homes in Milan. where he had some success working in Italian films, and New Hampshire in the United States.

Hagler had been irritated that the ring announcers were not introducing him to the crowd using his nickname “Marvelous”, so he officially changed his name to Marvelous Marvin in 1982.

Although the Marvelous was asked to return, amid much speculation that there would be a rematch with Leonard, his retirement turned out to be permanent. Never the chosen one, and not given to the colorful pre-fight hyperbole, he preferred to speak through his performances.

Perhaps, to quote another of his famous observations about making millions of dollars after being born into poverty, life had become too comfortable. “It is difficult to get up to do the road works at five in the morning when you sleep in silk pajamas.”

Kay survives Hagler.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler (Marvin Nathaniel Hagler), boxer, born May 23, 1954; died on March 13, 2021

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