Marvelous Marvin Hagler!
Marvelous Marvin Hagler (born Marvin Nathaniel Hagler; May 23, 1954) is an American former professional boxer and film actor who competed in boxing from 1973 to 1987. He reigned as undisputed middleweight champion from 1980 to 1987, making twelve successful defenses of that title, and holds the highest knockout percentage of all undisputed middleweight champions, at 78%, while also holding the Third-longest unified championship reign in boxing history at twelve consecutive defenses. At six years and seven months, his reign as undisputed middleweight champion is the second-longest of the last century, behind only Tony Zale, whose reign included several years of inactivity during his service in World War II. In 1982, annoyed that network announcers often did not refer to him by his nickname “Marvelous”, Hagler legally changed his name to “Marvelous Marvin Hagler”.
Hagler is an inductee of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. He was named Fighter of the Decade (1980s) by Boxing Illustrated magazine, and twice named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America. In 2001 and 2004, The Ring named him the fourth greatest middleweight of all time and in 2002 named him the 17th greatest fighter of the past 80 years. The International Boxing Research Organization rates Hagler as the 6th greatest middleweight of all time, while BoxRec rates him the 29th greatest boxer of all time, pound for pound. Many analysts and boxing writers consider Hagler to have one of the most durable chins in boxing history, having been knocked down only once during the entire professional career, and the scored knockdown is still being disputed.
In 1969, Hagler took up boxing after being roughed up on the street by a local boxer—whom he later defeated—with his friends watching. The very next day after being roughed up, Hagler, determined to become a boxer himself, walked into a gym owned by brothers Pat and Goody Petronelli, who became his trainers and managers. As Hagler needed to be 16 in order to enter some amateur tournaments, he lied about his age, saying that he was born in 1952 instead of 1954. Hagler’s real birth year publicly came to light in 1982 when he had to state his date of birth in order to change his legal name from Marvin Nathaniel Hagler to Marvelous Marvin Hagler. In 1973, Hagler won the National AAU 165-pound title after defeating a U.S. Marine from Atlanta, GA, Terry Dobbs:
Hagler was a top-ranked middleweight boxer for many years before he fought for the title. He struggled to find high-profile opponents willing to face him in his early years. Joe Frazier told Hagler, “You have three strikes against you, “You’re black, you’re a southpaw, and you’re good.” He often had to travel to his opponents’ hometowns to get fights. His first break came when he was offered on—two weeks’ notice—a chance against Willie ‘the Worm’ Monroe, who was being trained by Frazier. Hagler lost the decision but the fight was close, so Monroe gave him a rematch. This time Hagler knocked out Monroe in 12 rounds. In a third fight, he defeated Monroe in two rounds.
Boston promoter Rip Valenti took an interest in Hagler and began bringing in top ranked opponents for Hagler to face. He fought 1972 Olympics gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales; Hagler won the first time, the second was a draw and Hagler knocked out Seales in the third fight. Number 1 ranked Mike Colbert was knocked out in the twelfth and also had his jaw broken by Hagler. Briton Kevin Finnegan was stopped in eight. Afterwards Finnegan required 40 stitches in his face. He dropped a controversial decision to Bobby ‘Boogaloo’ Watts, but knocked out Watts in two rounds in a rematch. Hagler won a ten-round decision over ‘Bad’ Bennie Briscoe. By then, promoter Bob Arum took notice and signed him.
Hagler’s next challenger was Sugar Ray Leonard, who was returning to the ring after a three-year retirement (having fought just once in the previous five years). During the pre-fight negotiations, in return for granting Hagler a larger share of the purse, Leonard obtained several conditions which would be crucial to his strategy: a 22 × 22 ft ring instead of a smaller ring, 10 ounce gloves instead of 8 ounce gloves, and the fight was to be over 12 rounds instead of the 15 rounds favoured by Hagler. Leonard was two years younger, had half as many fights, and unbeknownst to Hagler, had engaged in several ‘real’ (i.e. gloves, rounds, a referee, judges and no head gear) fights behind closed doors in order to shake off his ring rust. The fight took place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on April 6, 1987. Hagler was the clear betting favorite after a dominant six and a half years as the reigning undisputed middleweight champion of the world, having knocked out all opponents as champion except in winning a very close unanimous decision over 15 rounds against Roberto Durán. It was Leonard’s first fight at middleweight (160 lbs weight limit). The fight was to be for Hagler’s WBC, lineal and Ring middleweight titles only, as the WBA stripped Hagler of their belt for choosing to face Leonard instead of WBA mandatory challengerHerol Graham. The IBF, while keeping Hagler as their champion, refused to sanction his fight against Leonard, and said that the IBF middleweight title would be declared vacant if Hagler lost to Leonard.
Hagler, a natural southpaw, opened the fight boxing out of an orthodox stance. After the quick and slick Leonard won the first two rounds on all three scorecards, Hagler started the third round as a southpaw. Hagler then did much better, though Leonard’s superior speed and quick flurries kept him in the fight. But by the fifth, Leonard, who was moving a lot, began to tire and Hagler started to get closer. As Leonard tired he began to clinch with more frequency (in total referee Richard Steele gave him over 30 warnings for holding, although never deducted a point). Hagler buckled Leonard’s knees with a right uppercut near the end of the round, which finished with Leonard on the ropes. Hagler continued to score effectively in round six. Leonard, having slowed down, was obliged to fight more and run less.
In rounds seven and eight, Hagler’s southpaw jab was landing solidly and Leonard’s counter flurries were less frequent. Round nine was the most exciting round of the fight. Hagler hurt Leonard with a left cross and pinned him in a corner. Leonard was in trouble, then furiously tried to fight his way out of the corner. The action see-sawed for the rest of the round, with each man having his moments. Round ten was calmer even as Hagler continued to press forward and Leonard slowly got a second wind, as the pace slowed after the furious action of the previous round. Clearly tiring, Leonard boxed well in the eleventh. Every time Hagler scored, Leonard came back with something flashier, if not as effective. In the final round, Hagler continued to chase Leonard. He hit Leonard with a big left hand and backed him into a corner. Leonard responded with a flurry and danced away with Hagler in pursuit. The fight ended with Hagler and Leonard exchanging along the ropes. Hagler began dancing in celebration of his performance while Leonard collapsed to the canvas and raised both his arms in triumph. Leonard threw 629 punches and landed 306, while Hagler threw 792 and landed 291.
Hagler requested a rematch but Leonard chose to retire again (the third of five high-profile retirements announced by Leonard during his professional boxing career), having said he would do so beforehand. Fourteen months after their fight, Hagler retired from boxing in June 1988, declaring that he was “tired of waiting” for Leonard to grant him a rematch. Just a month after Hagler’s retirement, Leonard announced another boxing comeback to fight against WBC light-heavyweight champion Donny Lalonde at the 168lbs super-middleweight limit. In 1990, Leonard finally offered Hagler a rematch which reportedly would have earned him $15m, but he declined. By then, Hagler had settled down into a new life as an actor in Italy and was now uninterested in his past boxing life. Hagler said “A while ago, yeah, I wanted him so bad, but I’m over that.” At the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show Hagler and Leonard had a mock rematch by playing against each other in the video game Boxing Legends of the Ring, and claimed that an actual rematch was being planned.
After the loss to Leonard, Hagler moved to Italy, where he became a well-known star of action films. His roles include a US Marine in the films Indio and Indio 2. In 1996, he starred alongside Giselle Blondet in Virtual Weapon. Hagler has provided boxing commentary for British television. Another foray into the entertainment field includes work in the video game Fight Night: Round 3.