By Scoop Malinowski
In almost 30 years of covering professional boxing, I never had the fortune to meet Marvin Hagler, to interview Marvin Hagler or to be in the presence of Marvin Hagler. And it will always be a career regret.
Marvin Hagler was a beloved champion and one of the all time icons of the golden era of boxing in the 70s and 80s.
Every story I heard about Marvin Hagler was a positive good one. My friend Philip H. Anselmo, the lead vocalist of Pantera and Down, is a gigantic boxing enthusiast and he said once while touring in Italy with Pantera, he happened to discover Marvin Hagler was staying at the same hotel. Phil Anselmo is such a boxing lover that he watched the Hasim Rahman vs. Lennox Lewis upset every day for a month. He adored Marvin Hagler, like every real boxing fan, and found his way to the ex-Middleweight champion’s suite, knocked on the door and introduced himself. The two legends ended up talking together for an hour.
I loved Marvin Hagler as a kid, the whole underdog, patient/paying his dues story, then finally the long awaited title shot vs champ Vito Antuofermo in Las Vegas. It was on November 30, 1979, televised on ABC, prime time boxing. I watched it with my best friend Mike Pinto at his house in Wayne, NJ. I wanted Marvin Hagler to win so bad, not because of any dislike for Vito, but because Marvin Hagler emanated the likable factor that connected to you from the TV set.
Though he failed to win the title that night (scored a draw), Marvin Hagler must have learned from that experience and bounced back a better fighter, he knocked out Loucif Hamani in the first round of his next fight, and then beat Bobby Watts and Marcos Geraldo to earn his second world title shot vs Alan Minter at Wembley Arena on September 27, 1980. Minter had beaten Antuofermo.
Marvin Hagler boxed a masterpiece and bloodied the poor Brit so badly they had to stop the fight in the third round. Sadly, horribly, the fans in attendance ruined Marvin Hagler’s defining career moment with a terrible, ugly reaction of throwing debris at him in the ring. Marvin Hagler had to abort his celebration and escape the ring to safety in the locker room.
It was one of the worst conclusions in ring history to such a brilliant, masterful technical performance by southpaw Marvin Hagler but poetic justice would compensate for the unfortunate episode.
Marvin Hagler evolved and developed into possibly the greatest Middlweight king of all time. He would dominate and decimate the division so thoroughly that some of the top contenders dared to take second chances with Marvin Hagler, of course, Fulgencios Obelmejias and Mustapha Hamsho would lose twice each to the mighty champion.
The rest of his challengers didn’t want a second shot – Caveman Lee, Juan Roldan, Tony Sibson, Wilford Scypion, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, John “The Beast” Mugabi. Marvin Hagler also beat Antuofermo in a bloody rematch that lasted four rounds in 1981 at Boston Garden.
Every one of Marvin Hagler’s fights were on network television. He was so popular he even became a TV commercial spokesman for Right Guard deodorant (he beat out another middlweight boxer Michael Olajide for the gig).
The defining moment of Marvin Hagler’s career was on April 15, 1985 in Las Vegas. He annihilated Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns in one of the most electrifying moments in ring history, three rounds of jaw-dropping, non stop bombs exploding fistic action, on the level of Foreman vs Lyle or Dempsey vs Willard. There was more action in eight minutes of Hagler-Hearns than in two decades of Floyd Mayweather’s career.
Marvin Hagler, in my eyes, completely dominated and overwhelmed Hearns in one of the most exciting, inspiring champion performances in the history of sport that is still talked about in awe today. And forever it will be.
The less said about the Sugar Ray Leonard fight, the better.
Marvin Hagler was an impossible puzzle to figure out, nobody could hurt him or put him in trouble. He was flawless, as close to perfection as any sportsman can come. And Marvin Hagler did it in the most dangerous sport of all.
Marvin Hagler was in perfect physical shape every fight, he always looked like a marble Roman statue, perfectly cut and muscled, every fight, every performance. Did you know Marvin Hagler did ballet training to help with his agility, fluidity and flexibility?
Did you know Marvin Hagler was invited by President Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1986?
Did you know Marvin Hagler was on the cover of Sports Illustrated three times?
Did you know Marvin Hagler loved The Three Stooges and had every one of there skits on videotape?
After his career in boxing, Marvin Hagler relocated to Italy and became a successful actor. He would later return to the US to live in New Hampshire, where he passed away this week at age 66.
Marvin Hagler was beloved by the media, fans and many other fighters and champions like Andrew Golota, Lennox Lewis, Bernard Hopkins, Michael Moorer, Gennady Golovkin, Wladimir Klitschko, so many, even three tennis champions loved Marvin Hagler – John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Boris Becker. Marvin Hagler was witty and clever, speaking a famous quote that is still remembered decades later: “It’s hard to wake up and do roadwork at 5 am when you’re sleeping in silk pajamas.”
There was never any racial grandstanding or complaining about injustice. Marvin Hagler was the ultimate professional. dedicated and committed to achieving excellence and greatness. He is the American Dream. And one of the most impressive, honorable, admirable champions any sport has ever produced.
Marvin Hagler was born in Newark, NJ on May 23, 1954. As a teen in Brockton, MA he was bested in a street fight by a local boxer and the next day decided to become a boxer himself at a gym owned by Pat and Goody Petronelli. He turned pro in 1973. His professional ring record was 62-3-2 (52 KOs).
Marvelous Marvin Nathaniel Hagler. Nobody in boxing ever did it better.