Growing up as a kid I loved the sport of boxing and it was something that was instilled into me by my late father. He loved the sport and use to tell me stories and he showed me the pictures of his favorite boxers from a bygone era. He’d talk of Willie Pep, Joe Louis, Sandy Saddler, Archie Moore, Floyd Patterson and of course Muhammaad Ali, who my father would still refer to as, Cassius Clay. Not that he minded the fact ,that Clay changed his name for religious beliefs. As far as he was concerned the name you’re born with, remains your name ’til the day that you die.
As a teenager during the seventies there were several stars of the ring. Some of whom I liked and others I disliked, for one reason or another. The heavyweight division was replete with stars and it may well have been the richest era of boxing in terms of that particular division. Especially when measured against the banality of today’s era of heavyweights. Not one of which I’d favor over any of the heavyweights of the seventies or for that matter the eighties and the early part of the nineties. The likes of the Klitschko brothers couldn’t box their way out of a wet paper bag , much less take on the likes of an Earnie Shavers, George Foreman, Ali , Joe Frazier or Larry Holmes. But yet the likes of Bob Arum would have us believe that there’s untapped rich vein of untapped talent within today’s heavyweight division. He’s kidding himself and the fervent fans of the sport.
Hagler seen here fighting one of his ardent foes during his career, multiple world champion, Tommy Hearns . The two would participate what many have called the greatest ‘three rounds’ of boxing ever to have taken place professionally in a boxing ring.
Of all the boxers throughout the years that I’ve come to admire , in this place love. Perhaps none other than, Marvin Hagler epitomized what I loved about the sport and the way he carried himself in and out of the ring. He was always the consummate gentleman outside of it, had respect for his peers and opponents alike. But above all he had respect for the sport that he graced so effortlessly. And even when he made it official by anointing himself ‘ Marvelous’ and then made it official by inking it as his name professionally. Well, it just didn’t matter to me, at all, gimmick ,or not ! He became an assassin in the ring and someone whom his respected outside of it.Hagler, in some ways reminded me of myself, quiet on the outside at first , unafraid to speak his mind when asked. But when it came to his art and craft he was extremely professional. So much so, that one couldn’t question his pursuit to make it out of from the humble beginnings of his childhood of Newark, New Jersey. For myself, it was getting out of the inner area of the ‘East End’ of London. Where during the seventies it wasn’t so much about what side of the racial divide you were on. But whether or not you wanted better things in life for yourself ,as to an immediate future. Luckily the path I followed proved to be prudent.
Hagler’s career started off from humble beginnings but over time its fruition was there for all to see. A keen student ,he proved that using his hands in the ring as a pugilist was a far better option than that of a life of crime. And from a promising amateur career he advanced up the professional ranks with the usual process of hard work , the usual machination of having to labor through the ranks to get noticed. With his growing reputation as not only fighter but also a pure technical boxer and being able ‘to hit with power’ from either fist’. Most promoters and their fighters would rather not have anything to do with the budding young fighter on the rise. Especially, given the fact that Hagler was marching through the middleweight division, the way that Alexander The Great marched through Asia.
Carlos Monzon seen here fighting the great Italian fighter, Nino Benvenuti. The Italian fighter was challenging Monzon for his WBA and WBC world titles at the Stade Louis II, Monte Carlo , Monaco , on 5th May, 1971. The fight would be stopped in the third round with Monzon being declared the winner , with a TKO.
As with any professional career, you make good of the opportunities that are afforded you. Be it through luck, or sheer grit and determination. And for Marvin Hagler , it was no different as a professional boxer. While he toiled in somewhat relative obscurity. While his career progressed , he watched as lesser fighters were given the opportunity to challenge for the middleweight title. And at the time, the respective title holders within the division were the legendary, Carlos Monzon and Hugo Corro. It wasn’t so much that there was disdain for Hagler, inasmuch, that the promoters out there knowing the dangers he posed. Well, they’d rather see their fighters go up against the likes of Monzon and Corro and be handsomely paid for their efforts -even if they did end up losing in the end.
Hagler seen here challenging Vito Antuofermo for the WBA and WBC World middleweight champion. (rounds 1 & 2) Venue for the bout was a ‘Mecca’ of the ‘fight game’, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas , Nevada,. The fight itself took place on 30th November,1979. The venerable, Howard Cosell provides commentary.
Rounds 12,13 and 14 of Hagler vs. Antuofermo .
Rounds 1 and 15 of Hagler vs. Antuofermo
While these two undeniably great champions in Corro and Monzon would go on to have distinguished careers. Hagler was never given the chance to face either fighter and challenge for the middleweight title. However, his rise to prominence would not go unnoticed, as he was given the chance to challenge Vito Antuofermo (*)for the then, WBA and WBC world middleweight titles. And this may well have come about because many felt that while Hagler still posed a threat, having lost two preceding bouts to lesser opponents in Bobbie Watts and Willie Monroe. Antuofermo’s people may well felt the bout would be nothing more than a workout, of sorts. What they did however, was to underestimate the grit and determination of the challenger, Marvin Hagler. The fight itself , was one terrific ferocity and brutality, in every sense of the word. And for the entire twelve rounds of this epic title fight , it was hard to predict the outcome. The fight would end up being a hard fought draw. The two would later meet with Antuofermo being the challenger, however , he could not prevail in his attempt to dethrone Hagler, as the then champion.
Hagler challenges Minter the undisputed middleweight championship of the world. The venue was Wembley Arena , London, England on 27th September, 1980.
Not long after the bout Antuofermo would go on to lose his undisputed middleweight titles to British boxer, Alan Minter. A fight with which, the challenger, Minter, won on a split decision over fifteen rounds at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. The stage was set for Hagler to challenge Minter, but instead the newly crowned champion saw fit offer a rematch to the formerly deposed champion , in , Antuoefermo. A fight in which Minter soundly defeated his challenger with an eighth technical knockout in his native, Britain. Acrimony would follow in the lead up to the bout between Minter and Hagler. As Minter publicly made the statement that verbatim …….I’m not gonna lose my title to a black man, no way , how ‘ ! Racially motivated or not , it would lead to a great deal acrimony between the two camps, prior to and at the proposed venue for the title fight, Wembley Arena, London .
The fight between Hagler , the challenger and Minter , the newly minted champion lived up to all of the hype and intensity that one would come to expect of such a high profiled bout. And with the champion fighting in front of his hometown crowd and fans. The vast majority of the support was behind the champion and hometown hero. That would not however perturb Hagler from putting on a thoroughly convincing and polished display , as he savagely beat Minter to an almost bloody pulp in a little less than over three barbaric rounds of boxing. The events that took place after the bout was stopped and the verdict announced, led to the worse scenes of rioting ever, at a boxing event in the U.K. The referee declared Hagler the winner , with Minter being able to go on due to his injuries. The fans in attendance showed their anger by rioting, uprooting the seats and any other object they could find, by throwing them into the ring in the direction of Hagler, his trainers and members of his entourage.
At the aftermath of the announcement of the verdict, sheer bedlam took place. As the fans turned and showed their disdain by directing their anger in the direction Hagler and his entourage.
Hagler defends his title against Tony Sibson. The defense would be Hagler’s 6th defense of the undisputed middleweight crown that he’d won against Sibson’s fellow countryman, Alan Minter. The venue for the bout was at the DCU Center, Worcester, Massachusetts ,on 11th February ,1983 .
With the win , Hagler could now really begin to cement his legacy and he would do so, making twelve successful defenses of the middleweight crown. He defended the title against Tommy Hearns, John Mugabi , Kevin Finnegan, Mustafa Hamsho, Juan Domingo Roldan and Tony Sibson. But it would be his defense against the then ‘Golden Boy’ of boxing, ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard and the controversial decision that would see Hagler depart from boxing with some acrimony. Many felt that Leonard simply did not do enough to win the fight outright. But to this day, Leonard simply maintains the fact that he won the fight with his superior boxing skills. Well, if that includes backpedaling for the entire three minutes of the twelfth and final round, barely landing a punch and not showing anything in terms of aggression. Then one could surmise that’s to an extent a superior form of boxing ? But Leonard was always known to have been the consummate showman , rather than being a prodigious boxer.
With the controversial decision that was adjudicated by the judges and the overt favoritism shown towards the challenger , Ray Leonard. There was little left for Hagler to do , but to walk away in disgust, after being so blatantly cheated out of his title. To this day the decision is still viewed as being one the biggest and one the more heinous decisions in the sport of boxing. But then again , the sport was always corrupt to begin with and it remains so, to this very day ! Hagler, immediately retired after that fight on 6th April, 1987, vowing never to step into the ring ever again. Numerous ‘big money’ attempts were made to lure him to return the ring and they were to no avail. Hagler uprooted himself and moved to Italy , where he carved out something of a niche for himself , as an actor, appearing in several European action low budget ‘action movies’. He was content to wile away his days in his new found vocation.
Hagler and Leonard in their WBA middleweight title bout. What at the time was viewed as one of the great middleweight title fights of alltime ended in controversy and pandemonium. The controversy of the decision to this day still irks a great many people in and outside the sport of boxing.
For myself as an ardent fan of the sport. I’ve got to say that I was completely astonished at the decision. And even though I admire the accomplishments of Sugar Ray Leonard’s career over the years. On that night , in no way was he deserving of the decision afforded to him. Quite simply, he did nowhere enough to be deserving of the decision. And that’s not through any bias on my part. I view it as such, when you go into a title bout you win by aggression , not by retreating and continually backpedaling, just showing flashes of brilliance, merely to impress the judges. Style over substance , essentially was Leonard’s modus-operandi. Much like some of his many successors, who followed thereafter, Namely, Oscar De La Hoya !
Hagler was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canosta , New York, knowing that his is legacy is cemented with his body of work. And the fact that to this day, he’s still respected by his peers and fans alike, shows the esteem with which he’s held. Today, there are so few boxers of the modern era to which such acclaim is shown. Hagler was amongst the very best of his generation and one of the top five middleweights of alltime, without a doubt !
Name: Marvin Nathaniel Hagler DOB :05/23/54 Newark, N.J.
Record: 62-3-2 (52KOs’)
First pro bout:05/18/73 Terry Ryan W KO 2nd rd 4 round bout
Last pro bout:04/06/87 ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard L SD 12 WBC middleweight title
Alan Minter WBA Middleweight Champion
September 27, 1980 – March 10, 1987
Title next held by
WBC Middleweight Champion
The Ring Magazine Middleweight Champion
September 27, 1980 – April 6, 1987 Succeeded by
Sugar Ray Leonard
Inaugural Champion IBF Middleweight Champion
May 27, 1983 – April 6, 1987
Title next held by
Title last held by
Carlos Monzon World Middleweight Champion
May 27, 1983 – April 6, 1987
Titles fractured Vacant
Title next held by
Larry Holmes Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year
1983 Succeeded by
Thomas Hearns Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year
Shared award with Donald Curry
1985 Succeeded by
NB * Antuofermo preceded both Corro and Monzon as the middleweight champion