Marvelous Marvin Hagler—a man who was so marvelous in his sport that he had his name legally changed to reflect it—died Saturday at age 66, according to his wife, Kay Hagler, who announced his death via Facebook.
“I am sorry to make a very sad announcement,” she wrote. “Today unfortunately my beloved husband Marvelous Marvin passed away unexpectedly at his home here in New Hampshire. Our family requests that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
Along with greats like Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, Hagler pretty much was professional middleweight boxing in the 1980s. When he announced his retirement in June 1988, he left the sport with an astonishing record of 62-3-2 with 52 knockouts after fighting 67 times over 14 years.
Arguably his most famous fight was one that lasted for less than eight minutes—the April 15, 1985 bout against Hearns.
From the Associated Press:
Any doubts Hagler wasn’t indeed Marvelous were erased on a spring night in 1985. He and Hearns met in one of the era’s big middleweight clashes outdoors at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and when the opening bell rang, they traded punches for three minutes in an opening round many consider the best in boxing history.
Hagler would go on to stop Hearns in the third round, crumpling him to the canvas with a barrage of punches even as blood poured out of a large gash on his forehead that nearly caused the referee to stop the fight earlier in the round.
“When they stopped the fight to look at the cut, I realized they might be playing games and I wasn’t going to let them take the title away,” Hagler said later. “It was a scary feeling. I thought, ‘Why are they stopping this fight?’ I didn’t realize I was bleeding. It wasn’t in my eyes. Then I knew I had to destroy this guy.’’
Boxing promoter Bob Arum called it “probably the greatest fight ever,’’ and one where Hagler “simply willed himself to victory,” AP reports.
“I can’t take anything away from him,’’ Hearns told AP. “His awkwardness messed me up, but I can’t take anything away from him. He fought his heart out, and we put on a great show for all time.’’
Hagler—who was born in Newark, N.J., on May 23, 1954, before his family moved to Brockton, Mass., according to the Washington Post—only fought two more bouts after his victory against Hearns. A year after the win, he went on to defeat John Mugabi, but it was his controversial match against Leonard in 1987 that would effectively mark the end of his boxing career.
From the Post:
Hagler was the aggressor throughout, switching from southpaw to orthodox, but Leonard deployed a strategy of attacking in the closing stages of rounds in an effort to sway the judges’ scorecards.
One judge scored the fight in favor of Hagler, 115-113, and another had it the same score for Leonard. JoJo Guerra, however, scored it for Leonard, 118-110.
Hagler announced his retirement in June 1988, saying he had given up on waiting for Leonard to grant a rematch. He moved to Italy to pursue an acting career, leaving boxing behind for good and never suggesting he would reenter the ring.
“I feel fortunate to get out the ring with my faculties and my health,” said Hagler, who was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.
The fight went all 12 rounds and in the end, many thought Hagler won—including Hagler himself.
According to AP, he “left the ring in disgust and never fought again.”
Regardless of how his career ended, there is no doubt that Hagler earned the name Marvelous, nor is there any doubt that he loved the sport of boxing and lived for it throughout his career.
“If they cut my bald head open, they will find one big boxing glove,” he once said. “That’s all I am. I live it.’’