The great Marvin Hagler, who ruled boxing as the middleweight champion from 1980 to 1987 and defended his title twelve times before losing to Sugar Ray Leonard in a hotly contested decision, died on Saturday. He was 66 years old.
Hagler’s death was followed by his wife, Kay G. Hagler on verified facebook page of the Marvelous Marvin Hagler Fan Club. She said he died unexpectedly at his New Hampshire home.
Hagler was one of the most formidable fighters of his day, beating a number of challengers including Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns, whom he defeated in the third round of a 1985 fight that he was considering the high point of his career.
He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.
“I always wanted to be someone,” said Hagler told Sports Illustrated 1982. “Baseball, I played like I was Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays; Basketball, I would be Walt Frazier or Kareem; In boxing, I would pretend I was Floyd Patterson or Emile Griffith. “
Hagler was born Marvin Nathaniel Hagler on May 23, 1954. He said he later legally changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
He grew up in Newark, but his mother moved the family after 1967 riotsWhen fires and violent clashes between Newark police, National Guard forces and black residents consumed the city and killed 26 people.
He learned to box in Brockton, the hometown of another great prize contender, Rocky Marciano, where he was trained by the brothers Pat and Goody Petronelliwho ran a gym in the working class town. During the day he worked for the Petronellis construction company and was paid $ 3 an hour.
“He was in dire need of money,” recalled Pat Petronelli in 1987. “So he would only eat what he had to.” He’d borrow 50 cents for a submarine sandwich, 25 cents for a soda – we’d take it off on Fridays. He did not spend anything unless he deemed it necessary. “
At the age of 18, Hagler ended his amateur career by winning the national Amateur Athletic Union tournament in the 165-pound class. A week later he turned pro. For years he trained on the tip of Cape Cod, indulged in isolation, and ran the sand dunes in Provincetown, Massachusetts to build strength and fitness.
“You should withdraw,” he said told the New York Times 1981 from his room at the Provincetown Inn when a blizzard raged outside. “All the great champions have done the same thing. Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali on his mountain at Deer Lake. You are going to jail. I’ve put myself in jail. “
Hagler always considered himself a boxing outcast who was repeatedly disregarded, and he was gradually struggling his way up to take on Bobby Watts. Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart and Bennie Briscoe before finally getting a shot for the title in 1979, according to the Boxing Hall of Fame.
That year, however, the judges only gave Hagler a draw against Vito Antuofermowho remained the champion.
He had to wait until 1980 to receive the title from Alan Minter in London. Because the English spectators showered the ring with bottles when the one-sided fight was halted, Hagler’s hand was not raised to victory.
Many boxing enthusiasts consider Hagler’s fight against Hearns to be his best, and Hagler said that in that match he finally got to show his greatness.
In an outdoor arena next to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Hearns and Hagler traded fearsome punches in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 16,000 people until round three when Hagler threw a solid right that hit Hearns on the chin.
Hearns staggered against the ropes and fell on the canvas. Slowly he straightened up, held on to the ropes, and was on his feet eight. The referee met Hearns’ glassy eyes and waved that the fight was over.
“Tommy is a good fighter,” said Hagler afterwards, “but he’s cocky. I had something for him. “
Hagler’s professional career ended after Leonard, who had fought only once in the past five years. hit him in a 12-round split decision in 1987 at the Caesars Palace Outdoor Arena. Hagler, who had not lost a fight since 1976, had been the big favorite, and he had a particular dislike of Leonard, whom he called “Mr. Politician “and” Mr. Middle Class. “
“He’s a fraud,” said Hagler told the Times 1987. “He has been protected all his life. Besides, if he hadn’t become a boxer, he could have done other things. Me? I had nowhere else to go. “
But Leonard showed a stunning display of boxing art – painting with butts and overcuts – to create a surprise.
Hagler announced his resignation In 1988 he said he didn’t want to wait for a rematch with Leonard. In the course of his career he had contested 67 fights, won 62, lost three and fought two against a draw, said the Boxing Hall of Fame. He had 52 KOs.
“I still feel the champion in my heart,” Hagler said after losing his title. “I really hate that they took it from me and gave it to Sugar Ray Leonard of all people.”