Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Long Lost Hero 'Marvelous Marvin Hagler'

Marvelous Marvin Hagler (born Marvin Nathaniel Hagler, in Newark, New Jersey, May 23, 1954), is a former Undisputed Middlweight boxing champion of the world. Hagler's record is 62-3-2 with 52 knockouts.

Early life and amateur career

Hagler was raised in Newark, New Jersey's Central Ward in a single mother household. During the summer of 1967 when Marvin was 13, the Newark Riots occurred July 12-17, with the disturbance epicenter being the Central Ward. Twenty-six people were killed and $10 million worth of property damage was caused by the disorder, which included the destruction of the Hagler family tenement. Following the riots, the Haglers moved to Brockton, Massachusetts where young Marvin soon began boxing training at the Petronelli brothers' gym in 1969. In 1973, Hagler became the National AAU 165-pound champion after defeating Terry Dobbs of Atlanta. Hagler was named the outstanding boxer of the tournament, winning four fights, two of them by knockout.

Professional career

Hagler was a # 1 ranked Middleweight boxer for many years before he could fight for the title. He often had to travel to his opponents' hometowns to get fights, and he even boxed against the best that the city of Philadelphia had to offer. He lost decisions to Willie Monroe and Bobby 'Boogaloo' Watts, and had to suffer while watching less deserving challengers receive title shots against Carlos Monzon and Hugo Corro.

This served for Hagler to build upon a strong character. Hagler avenged his 2 defeats by knocking out Monroe and Watts in rematches, and won a 10-round decision over Bennie Briscoe in a classic Philadelphia confrontation, and by this time he had made fans in both Massachusetts and Philadelphia. By then, promoter Bob Arum, a lawyer who had helped in the White House during President Kennedy's tenure, took notice and signed him.

Hagler needed some gubernatorial help, but Arum pulled the strings, and finally, in November 1979, Hagler was in the ring with a world Middleweight champion. Vito Antuofermo gave Hagler a shot, and the fight turned into a Middleweight classic. One of the greatest championship bouts in Middleweight history was unfortunately marred by controversy, and Hagler had to settle for a draw. This only added to Hagler's frustrations.

Antuofermo lost his title later to Alan Minter, who gave Hagler his second title shot. Hagler went to London and beat Minter, who had stated that "No black man is going to take my title," in 3 rounds at the Wembley Arena. At the conclusion of this bout a riot broke out, and Hagler and his trainers had to be carried away to their locker rooms by the police, in the middle of a rain of beer bottles and glasses.

Hagler proved a busy world champion, and he defeated future world champion Fulgencio Obelmejias of Venezuela by a knockout in 8 rounds, and then former world champ Antuofermo in a rematch by knockout in 5 rounds. Both matches were fought at the Boston Garden near Hagler's hometown, endearing him to Boston fight fans. Mustafa Hamsho, who would later defeat future world champion Bobby Czyz, followed, and the Syrian fighter was beaten in 11 rounds. Michigan fighter William "Caveman" Lee lasted only 1 round, and in a rematch in Italy, Obelmejias lasted 5 rounds. British champion Tony Sibson followed in Hagler's list of unsuccessful challengers, falling in 6 rounds, and Wilford Scypion went in 4. By then, Hagler was a staple on HBO, the Pay Per View of its time.

Fight against Roberto Duran

A fight against Roberto Duran followed and Duran was the first challenger to last the distance with Hagler in a world championship bout. Duran was the WBA light middleweight champion and went up in weight to challenge for Hagler's middleweight crown. Hagler won a unanimous 15-round decision, although after 12 rounds two of the judges had Duran ahead in a tough contest. Hagler fought tenaciously over the final three rounds to earn a unanimous decision.

Subsequent Defenses

Then came Juan Roldan of Argentina, who became the only man to drop Hagler, scoring a questionable knockdown seconds into the fight, but Hagler got angrier and proceeded to beat Roldan, stopping him in 10 rounds. Hamsho was given a rematch, but the Syrian was again TKO'd, in 3 rounds.

Thomas Hearns

On April 15, 1985, Hagler and Thomas Hearns met in what was billed as The Fight; later it would become known as The War. This fight is widely regarded as one of the most brutal and thrilling boxing matches of all time. Hearns, who was expected to box and take advantage of his superior reach, stood toe to toe with Hagler from early in the first round. The pair fought at a ferocious pace with the crowd giving a standing ovation as the bell sounded to end the 1st round, in which Hearns broke his devastating right hand. Hagler who was pressing for such an exchange was happy to fight on the inside, both fighters landed hurtful punches but Hagler appeared to have the advantage with his more solid chin. Hagler, despite a cut to the head, managed to overpower Hearns in the third round, scoring a decisive knockout.

Marvelous vs The Beast

Next was John Mugabi of Uganda, who was 26-0 with 26 knockouts and an Olympic silver medalist. Hagler took Mugabi's best shots and came back handily, stopping Mugabi in the 11th in what would turn out to be his last successful defense. Due to the vicious body shots sustained, both men would later urinate blood. However there were signs of deterioration in Hagler's performance that perhaps encouraged Sugar Ray Leonard to subsequently challenge him .

Sugar Ray Leonard

Hagler's next challenger was Sugar Ray Leonard, who won a controversial split decision in Las Vegas on April 6, 1987. The decision remains a subject of debate to this day among sports fans, some of whom felt Hagler landed the harder shots and controlled the pace of the fight from the fourth round on. The opinion of those fans believing Hagler deserved more from the judges was summed up by veteran British boxing journalist, Hugh McIlvanney, who reported in the British Sunday Times that Leonard's plan was to "steal rounds with a few flashy and carefully timed flurries....he was happy to exaggerate hand speed at the expense of power, and neither he nor two of the scorers seemed bothered by the fact that many of the punches landed on the champion's gloves and arms." The actual fight statistics show Leonard landing 306 punches to Hagler's 291 which attests to the closeness of the contest. .

Because he felt that he did not receive enough credit for his accomplishments, Hagler legally changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler so newspapers and reporters would be forced to refer to him as being "marvelous", he did this many years prior to his superfights with Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns or Sugar Ray Leonard. Many years later he made some commercials, most notably a commercial for Pizza Hut and, later, Gillette. He thought his decision loss to Leonard was undeserved, and quit boxing, saying he was tired of the backroom politics of the sport. The loss, however, was hardly bad for Hagler, as he walked away with an estimated $37 million from his purse and revenues from pay-per-view .

Hagler had a unique training regimen in which he would often hole up on Cape Cod in motels that had closed for the winter. For his "road work" he would take to the pavement in army boots, declaring running shoes, "sissy shoes." He would run much of his route backwards to prepare for the movements in the boxing ring.

Awards and Recognition
Named Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year for 1983 and 1985.
Inducted into both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

Career after Boxing

After the loss to Leonard, he moved to Italy, where he became a well-known star of action films. His roles include a US Marine in the films Indio and Indio 2. Other notable films starring Hagler include Brutal Bonanza, Geno's Plan and Lethal Lunch Date. In 1995, he starred alongside Giselle Blondet in the low-budget thriller Black Market Wedding. Hagler also does regular boxing commentary for British Television. Other forays into the entertainment field include work in the videogame Fight Night: Round 3 and the American film Diggstown.

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