I had trouble sleeping last night. I had just returned from shopping yesterday when I heard. Marvelous Marvin Hagler, one of my ultimate heroes, had passed. The news numbed me. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of this great man being taken from us at only 66-years-old. I seldom cry but I welled up as the reality began to settle in. This all-time great boxer was gone. This all-time great sportsman, was gone. This all-time great man, was gone.
Marvelous was a complicated man. Terrifying in the ring, Marvin was the quintessential gentleman, out. While he was intensely private, Mr. Hagler was also kind, funny, generous, and highly sophisticated. He was able to avoid all the usual pitfalls famous athletes are so famous for falling into. He didn’t squander his money, develop substance abuse problems (rumors about this being an issue after his 1987 “loss” to Ray Leonard were never confirmed, so I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt), or get into trouble with the law.
He had old-school values in the ring as well. Never one to take a short cut, Mr. Hagler trained harder than just about any fighter in history. His muscles and strength were honed the old-fashioned way; calisthenics, roadwork, chopping wood, diet, and not through a needle from a syringe filled with some new-fangled “wonder drug” to get him that physical edge. He abstained from sex before fights “to keep his legs strong.” He jumped rope. He stayed away from weightlifting. He wore simple track suits and often ran in old boots – sometimes in soft sand. Marvelous took no shortcuts.
In the ring, Mr. Hagler was as formidable an opponent as ever laced up a pair of gloves. He gave no quarter – and asked none. His record of 63-3-2 (52 KO’s) speaks for itself. Even with that, 2 of his losses, to “Sugar” Ray Leonard in his last fight in 1987 and to Bobby Watts in 1976, remain hotly disputed. Both “draws” were travesties; Vito Antuofermo in 1979 and “Sugar” Ray Seales in 1974. In my heart, I have Marvelous at 67-1, but the record books say differently. We must all live with that, I guess.
I have always thought that one of the greatest measures of the respect that all had for Mr. Hagler was that he was one of the very, very few boxers that even the fans of Rocky Marciano, didn’t mind having grouped in with the “Rock”. If you know any Marciano fans, that speaks volumes. I often criticize today’s young fans for not appreciating, or even really knowing, their boxing history. But Mr. Hagler is the exception. Even the greenest of boxing neophytes knows who Marvin was and what he did. In fact, my own wife, who is admittedly anything but a sports fan, knew who I was talking about when I made reference to “The Marvelous One.”
And now, he is gone. I am left to reflect on how this one man influenced my life and left an indelible impression on me, and so many others. So, Mr. Hagler, I thank you for teaching us all how to honor what it is we do; be it boxing, engineering, street sweeping, whatever – the profession doesn’t matter; the effort you make at it, does. I thank you for showing me that it’s okay to not be perfect; but it isn’t okay not to try to address your shortcomings. I thank you for being a ferocious warrior, but a gentle and merciful man outside the ring. I thank you for your sense of humor. I thank you for your humility. I thank you for the respect you showed others. I thank you for being a pillar of the sport so many of us love, and for showing us all how to “do boxing right.” But more than anything else, Mr. Hagler, I thank you for having given us ‘all of you’ in that squared circle, for always trying your best, for never making excuses. Yes, Marvin Hagler, you really were “Marvelous.” There is no way to tell you how much you will be missed. Go with all our love. Take it easy on the angels if they ask to spar with you. Rest in Peace, you wonderful, wonderful man!
Video courtesy of Hanzagod