“If they cut my bald head open, they will find one big boxing glove. That's all I am. I live it.” - Marvin Hagler
There was beauty in Hagler’s brutality. Watching the clean-shaven middleweight go in for the kill was akin to seeing a lion pounce on some poor, unsuspecting deer - you knew the outcome would be violent but you just couldn’t take your eyes away from it.
Hagler is one of the most beloved champions in boxing history, a fighter’s fighter, and that’s why it was no surprise that fans from all over the world, across different generations, found themselves in mourning this weekend when news arrived that Hagler, unified middleweight champion from 1980 to 1987, had sadly passed away at the age of 66.
From Hearns to Duran, Minter to Ray Leonard, Hagler fought the best of the best across his glittering career and to celebrate the life of the man they called ‘Marvellous’, we’ve taken a look back at five of his greatest nights in the ring…
Vs Hearns, 1985
A fight that really needs no introduction. Hearns vs Hagler is quite simply one of the greatest nights boxing has ever witnessed and is a mainstay in the ‘greatest fight of all-time’ debate. It only lasted three rounds but that was still exactly eight minutes and one second of unadulterated mayhem which Hagler won by KO.
Promoter Bob Arum described the fight as “a referendum for boxing.”
Vs Duran, 1983
In 1983, Hagler was widely considered the pound-for-pound best pugilist in the world but, despite his obvious talents, he was having trouble tying down any lucrative fights with Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard both falling through due to injuries. Fortunately, Roberto Duran, a member of boxing royalty himself, stepped in to take the challenge.
The legendary Panamanian was given virtually no chance in the run-up to this one but was actually leading on the scorecards up until the thirteenth in a tight affair. Hagler eventually ground out a 15-round unanimous decision against one of the greatest boxers ever.
Vs Minter, 1980
A fight that will sadly be remembered for all the wrong reasons could have been Hagler’s best night at the office. In 1980, Hagler travelled to Wembley Arena to square-off with middleweight champion Alan Minter and took command from the opening bell, and with a barrage of slashing punches opened up a cut on the Bromley-fighter’s head. The referee, Carlos Berrocal, halted the fight during the third round to have the four glaring cuts on Minter's face checked and his manager, Doug Bidwell, immediately conceded defeat.
As soon as the fight was waved off, a riot broke out and Hagler had to be escorted by police to his dressing room. It is probably the ugliest night in British boxing history but, in the ring, it was also vintage Hagler.
Vs Mugabi, 1986
Hagler’s boxing CV is littered with tough-as-nails opponents, a testament to his incredible career, but few were as tough as Uganda’s John Mugabi, aptly named ‘The Beast.’ Though not as celebrated as the famous ‘Four Kings’ of the 1980s; Hagler, Hearns, Duran and Ray Leonard, Mugabi was certainly a key player in that golden era of boxing and gave Hagler one of his toughest fights.
Hagler was on the downward slope of his career, while Mugabi, who was at the time 26-0 with a 100% KO rate, was seemingly on the way up. Despite signs that Hagler was losing his race with Father Time, the American managed to stop Mugabi in the eleventh round of an ultimately brutal fight.
Vs Sibson, 1983
If you could summarise Hagler’s performance on February 11 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, it would simply be one word: ‘flawless’. Britain’s Sibson, relinquished his European and Commonwealth titles to ensure he had the preparation for a crack at the world middleweight champion - it proved to be futile. Hagler blitzed poor Sibson for six rounds when the referee came to the contender’s rescue and called off the fight.
The fact that this was Hagler’s number one contender at the time, further emphasised just how big the gulf between ‘Marvellous’ and the rest of the pack really was.