Forget any boxing upset we witnessed this year; when it comes to the biggest shock, the event that left boxing fans most upset, there was one event that stands alone. Back in March, we woke up to the news (here in the UK at least, the news breaking in the early hours here) that the great, the Marvelous, Marvin Hagler had suddenly passed away. At just 66, the man many experts and fans, and fellow fighters say was the greatest middleweight ever was gone.
From March 13th, 2021 on, we would have to get used to the fact that of the celebrated “Four Kings,” only three were left living: Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran; the three men Hagler went to war with, in so doing giving the sport one of its most shockingly violent and action-packed fights (the War with Hearns) and one of the most controversial/debated fights of all-time (the 12 rounder with Leonard).
From time to time, these “Three Kings” pop up, often delighting fight fans with public appearances and the like, but we will never see Hagler again aside from on video. Over nine months on from his untimely death, it’s still hard to get used to the idea that Hagler is gone. But he is.
Hagler fought in an era that is all but unrecognizable today, where the superstars of the sport fought three times, maybe even four times a year. And there was far less cherry-picking going on, if any at all.
It was less a business to fighters back then compared to today, with mega-stars like Hagler, Leonard, Mike Tyson, and others routinely looking to fight the best and not get too overly concerned about the monetary rewards that would go with the fight. Winning and proving you were the best was what really counted, not the counting of the money.
Former two-weight champ Tony Lopez recently told this writer how, when he was fighting his biggest fights, he wasn’t worrying about the money – “I knew the money would be there,” Lopez said.
And Hagler was the same. Sure, he picked up a gargantuan payday for the Leonard fight, yet by that time in his career – after some 66 pro fights, many of them tough affairs – he was more than entitled to a massive retirement fund. Did Hagler know, perhaps deep down, that the Leonard fight of 1987 would be his swansong? Probably. There was no ill-fated comeback in the career of Hagler, although he was for a while tempted to fight Sugar Ray a second time, so badly did that split decision against him hurt.
But Hagler proved he was one of the smart ones. He stayed retired, his legacy as secure as can be imagined for a fighter who exited on the back of a defeat (to this day, of course, fans everywhere argue, quite fiercely, over who really won the “Super-Fight”).
It’s a crying shame Hagler is not still here enjoying a long, long, retirement; one that was more than earned. Hagler gave his all in the ring every single time he fought. There are not many fighters you can say that about, but it’s true of Hagler; there were no out-of-shape, less than motivated ring appearances from Hagler. Instead, Hagler fought at 160 rock-solid pounds every single time, and he never, ever disrespected the sport itself or his own skills.
We fight fans who were lucky enough to have seen Hagler fight live, either from ringside or sat at home watching on TV, will never forget him. Marvelous was more than a nickname, of course. Marvelous was Hagler’s real name. In every sense of the word.