Marvelous Marvin Hagler: An icon gone too soon at 66

Marvelous Marvin Hagler was a badass. That’s it, that’s the tweet.

I mean, who else could legally change their name to Marvelous without being made fun of at all. He was fearsome.

And gone too soon at age 66.

Forty years ago, the Brockton-raised Hagler claimed the middleweight crown, toppling Brit Alan Minter on Sept. 27, 1980, to claim a crown he would hold for seven years before losing his last fight in a highly contentious split decision against Sugar Ray Leonard.

Professional boxing was a huge deal still in 1980. Baseball was the greatest team sport, and boxing champions were exalted.

A lot has changed in 40 years. But for boxing fans, it was a golden era across several weight classes.

Among heavyweights, anyone who knows a damn thing about boxing knows the names Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes. Mike Tyson began his pro career in 1985.

Among middleweights, Hagler was one of four contemporaries late former Herald boxing writer George Kimball wrote a book about, “Four Kings.” Kimball’s work looked at Hagler, Leonard, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns.

Hagler was 62-3-2 in his career, and I think he got screwed against Leonard. He finished with 52 career knockouts.

Duran was the oldest of this group, and went 103-16 in his career, which ended in a title bout loss to Macho Camacho in 2001 … when Duran was 50. Fighting as a welterweight in Montreal in 1980, Duran moved to 72-1 with a unanimous decision that gave Sugar his first loss after starting 27-0. Sugar took it back a few months later in the “No mas” fight.

Leonard went 36-3-1. He was a boxer, not a fighter. I couldn’t stand the way he approached the sport. In and out of the ring, everything was calculated and programmed. Soulless.

Which is why my favorite of the bunch was the “Hitman,” Tommy Hearns. Like Hagler, he was a devastating puncher who recorded 48 KOs in piling up a 61-5-1 mark. Hearns was 32-0 before losing a TKO to Sugar in 1981. He TKO’d Duran a few years later and set up 8:01 minutes of pure fury in a 1985 battle with Hagler. This is how people used to fight: Like they hated each other from the opening bell.

 

Hearns was feared and ferocious, and Hagler just took him apart.

Last summer Celtics writer Mark Murphy pitched a story about the 40th anniversary of the beginning of Hagler’s middleweight reign. I was thrilled about the subject, but Murph said Hagler was a little media-shy in retirement. We settled on Sept. 27, the exact 40th anniversary, as the run date.

For months, Murph provided updates about talking to people in Hagler’s sphere. They kept politely declining the offer. Murph kept at it, like all great reporters do.

In August or thereabouts, the logjam broke, and an interview was set. For people like me, the chance to hear about an all-time champ was exciting. Hagler was great, Murph crushed it, and the Herald had a great story.

RIP Marvelous. You were something.

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