The world was yet to get over the death of Leon Spinks in February when another devastating news rolled in. It was a very short but heavy announcement. “I am sorry to make a very sad announcement,”. “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.” His wife, Kay, announced his death on the Facebook page for Hagler’s fans.
Born Marvin Nathaniel Hagler in Newark, New Jersey in 1953, the boxer reputed to have had one of the best chin in boxing history, was so upset that he wasn’t introduced before a 1982 fight by his nickname of Marvelous that he went to court to legally change his name.
“If they cut my bald head open, they will find one big boxing glove,” Hagler once said. “That’s all I am. I live it.” The South paw boxer indeed lived the life of boxing for all the 67 years he spent on earth and left us with great and everlasting memories.
Any doubts Hagler wasn’t indeed Marvelous were erased on a spring night in 1985. He and Tommy 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 considered 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”
The opening three minutes, easily one of the most exciting first rounds ever, has been described and celebrated over and over again. First Hearns hurt Hagler and cut him. Then Hagler came back and hurt Hearns. Non-stop punching, three minutes of incredible, frenzied warfare and the crowd in Las Vegas and the millions watching around the world could scarcely believe what they were witnessing.
Maybe the most famous boxing match in middleweight history. Billed as simply “The Fight,” what is there to say about the thrilling brawl that came to be known as “The Eight Minutes of Fury” which hasn’t already been said?
Marvelous Marvin Hagler won and since then the fight has been known as “The war”.
Hagler would fight only two more times, stopping John Mugabi a year later and then meeting Sugar Ray Leonard, who was coming off a three-year layoff from a detached retina, in his final fight in 1987. Hagler was favored going into the fight and many thought he would destroy Leonard — but Leonard had other plans.
While Hagler pursued him around the ring, Leonard fought backing up, flicking out his left jab and throwing combinations that didn’t hurt Hagler but won him points on the ringside scorecards. Still, when the bell rang at the end of the 12th round, many thought Hagler had pulled out the fight — only to lose a controversial split decision.
Hagler, who was paid $19 million, left the ring in disgust and never fought again. He moved to Italy to act, and never really looked back.
“I feel fortunate to get out of the ring with my faculties and my health,” he said a year later.
Well, like the first posthumous single by Tupac, “I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto” I am wondering if Marvelous Marvin Hagler is having a happy re-union with other boxing greats who have departed for the great beyond. In the next edition, I will be doing a special on Leon Spinks. The boxer who defeated Muhammed Alli, took his belt and then lost it.