Marvin Hagler, one of boxing’s top sensations in the 80s, died last week at the age of 66. He will be fondly remembered by those in boxing, and boxing fans all over the world, for his brutal defense of his title against the equally-celebrated Tommy Hearns in 1985 in an iconic 3-round non-stop slugfest now billed as “The War.”
Fondly known as Marvelous Marv, he was one of 4 dominant figures aptly called the “Four Kings”. This group included: ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, Tommy ‘The Hitman’ Hearns and Roberto ‘Hands of Stone’ Duran. These 4 fought in the high-octane middleweight division during the golden years of boxing in the 80s. Their riveting matches would capture the imagination of millions of boxing aficionados around the world.
Marvelous Marv competed professionally for 14 years, abruptly ending his illustrious career in 1987. He was the middleweight champion from 1980 to 1987, making 12 successful defenses to the crown, 10 of which were by spectacular knockout. His six years and seven-month reign as undisputed middleweight champion is the second-longest of the last century. He ended what was a sensational career in controversial fashion after losing to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987. Hagler believed in his heart that he won the bout, but lost out on a split decision. He never fought again. He had amassed 62 wins (52 by knockout), 3 losses and 2 draws by the time he decided to hang up his gloves.
Hagler was inducted into Boxing’s Hall of Fame in 1993. He was named Fighter of the Decade (1980s) and twice named Fighter of the Year for the explosive title fights he regaled us with as a champion. Hagler’s bouts were always a treat for discerning fight fans. He was endowed with a “take-no-prisoners” style of boxing that endeared him to everyone who saw his fights, inspiring many to take up the sport of boxing.
Hagler took up boxing in 1969 after he was bullied by a local boxer in his hometown in Brockton, Massachusetts. Later getting the hang of it, he would compete and win the US amateur boxing middleweight crown in 1973. He amassed a 55-1 win-loss record in his amateur career.
Turning pro after that, he would be avoided by other big names because, as the popular ex-heavyweight champ Joe Frazier said then: he was good. But he was exciting to watch, hence people would slowly get to know him and his swashbuckling style of boxing.
Hagler, along with Leonard, Hearns and Duran, would form a Fab 4 rivalry that would produce some of the greatest and most memorable matches in boxing history. The Fab 4 were evenly matched top-of-their-weightclass fighters, and most of their bouts would end up into epic chess matches that needed strategy changes right in the middle of the game in order to gain the judges’ nod. Up to now, their fights are still considered as top boxing tactical teaching points for boxers ready for higher level competition. Many of today’s crop of stars will still point to the Fab 4 bouts as catalysts and inspiration to their eventual careers in boxing.
After his controversial loss to Leonard, Hagler asked for a rematch. When Leonard denied him the rematch, he decided to retire. Years later, Leonard would call him out for a rematch, but Hagler had moved on by then, having joined the film industry as an actor in Italy.
Marvelous Marvin died of natural causes, contrary to rumors that his death was caused by a COVID-19 vaccination. He will be remembered fondly by boxing purists as one of the bright stars who brought Boxing to its golden era in the 80s.
Cover photo courtesy of USA Today.