This Boxing Era Can Learn From Marvin Hagler

John W. McDonough/Icon Sportswire

The current era of boxing was not for Marvin Hagler. Fighters have a difficult time making weight. Hagler, the Hall of Famer, suddenly passed away Saturday and he always made weight at 160. He held the middleweight title for seven years and today, that is unheard of.

Then again, when Hagler fought, the money was sufficient. There were limited promoters that could offer the vast revenue that comes from streaming and cable networks, and there was little or no opportunity to jump back and forth and become a two or three division champion.

Hagler was a fighter, good for the sport. He had one manager, one trainer. Today, fighters go through managers and trainers as quickly as they spend the hard earned money they receive after taking numerous punches to the head and body.

He was an icon in and out of the ring and there can’t be any dispute about his accomplishments.

Marvin Hagler was “Marvelous” and that was appropriate. He decided and wanted to be known as “Marvelous.” Most fighters go before the cameras and enter the ring with a nickname. The Hagler nickname was fitting and not about the ego that fighters today are accustomed to using.

In the middle of his career, Hagler insisted on being introduced as “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. But before his 1982 title defense against William “Caveman” Lee, one of the ABC-TV directors snapped “if he wants to be announced as ‘Marvelous’ Marvin, let him change his name.”

After getting rid of Lee in 67 seconds, Hagler headed to the registrar’s office to officially change his name to “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. The nickname would become a part of his legal name.

So many years later, and as fighters go about their business, they look back and many have learned how Marvin Hagler became so marvelous. Yet, the fighters of today need to look more within and understand their era will never compare to the one of Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Roberto Duran.

Hagler, from my perspective, was the main fighter of that era and in my all-time top 10.

In a lobby at the New York Hilton, there was Marvin Hagler. It was many years after I covered his April, 1987 fight against Leonard at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Leonard edged Hagler on a 12-round split decision with his box and move strategy and coming after a three-year layoff.

Leonard was given a slim chance to win the fight and the scores were close enough that I believed Hagler won. That was the last fight for “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. He knew when to leave at the right time. Today, fighters retire and return and it never works the way it was.

“I knew it was time to go,” Hagler said to me. He had that resemblance of a retired fighter but still appeared to have the ability for one more fight in him.

I challenged Marvin Hagler to answer. One answer to get the scoop. He would not budge or talk about another fight. Marvin Hagler wanted to move on.

But it was his persona. I tested his knowledge of Italian culture and the language. But this Italian kid from the Bronx met his challenge. Hagler would relocate to Italy and take on an acting career. He knew the Italian language and culture. I was taken back.

“Pensionato, ritirato, a riposo,” Hagler said. I knew riposo and heard that many times in the old neighborhood as the old timers said when they were retired.

From Marvin Hagler, the Italian language was as perfect as his ability to dispose of opponents, a career that got him inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993 with a 62-3-2 record.

So why was Marvin Hagler always considered that icon? His ability to handle a transition away from boxing was one aspect that is difficult to find in this era of a sport that sees fighters confronting that difficulty of saying enough is enough.

Hagler against Tommy Hearns is a fight they talk about. Later, Hearns and Hagler became close friends. Fighters today will look at the old tapes and get to understand a bit why the Hall of Famer is an icon. He never played before the cameras in an era when social media did not exist.

Hagler had one manager, 12 successful middleweight title defenses. That third round in 1985 against Hearns, is considered by many as the best in boxing history, better than than that 10th round and epic comeback that the late Diego Corrales pulled off against Jose Luis Castillo in their 2005 lightweight title clash

“He was a professional all the time to me and to others at Top Rank,” said Lee Samuels, a former and longtime publicist for promoter Bob Arum. Samuels was inducted in the Hall of Fame up in Canastota, NY in June of 2019.

“Hagler said to me that day, ‘You are going to be with me all day today.’ It made my day more special,” Samuels said.

When Marvin Hagler stopped Hearns in that third round it was all about boxing. It is what fighters can look at today, and they should say this is boxing. But they have to hear what Hearns said after going back to his corner after the first round.

“The first round took everything out of me,” Hearns would say. Because he was “Marvelous” and it could be done.

Rest In Peace Champ

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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