Wed | Dec 1, 2021

Leroy Brown | Hagler’s determination is a lesson for all

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2021 | 12:08 AM

The world boxing fraternity is in mourning following the sudden death of one of boxing’s legendary figures, former middleweight champion of the world Marvelous Marvin Hagler, at age 66.

His wife of 20 years, Kay, made the shocking announcement on Saturday, March 13, and the reaction was quick and sorrowful, and spoke volumes of the effect this great human being and sportsman had on the world of boxing.

Hagler’s career, started as a brash amateur at a gym run by the Petronelli brothers, Goody and Pat, in Brockton, Massachusetts, his trainers for his entire career, when he was 16. His record of 55 victories and one loss as an amateur and 62 wins as a professional, 52 inside the distance, with only three losses and two draws, speaks volumes about the man who was the undisputed world middleweight champion from 1980 to 1987, a phenomenal achievement.

Hagler had to work hard to achieve what he did, and his dogged determination, confidence in himself and willingness to work hard for what he wanted to achieve, has been a lesson to other boxers. He encountered many barriers, but he never gave up, and eventually achieved much of what he wanted to.

KEYS TO SUCCESS

On a visit to Jamaica in 1983, he told young boxers here that hard work and sacrifice were some of the keys to success, and he used his own uphill climb to the top as a good example. He said that among those from whom he had received good advice was former world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who himself had to work hard to get to the top, and he had paid attention to that advice.

When I met him again in 2003, when he was a celebrity guest at the International Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Jamaica’s Michael McCallum and others, his messages again were positive. Hard work, he maintained, was a key ingredient to a successful career, and could overcome many obstacles.

Despite his talent, Hagler had to engage in more than 50 fights before winning the world title, and that was clearly a testament to his hard work and determination.

In his 50th fight, his first for the world title against the champion Vito Antuofermo at the famous Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 30, 1979, he did more than enough to win, and many thought that he did, but the result was given as a draw and the champion retained his title.

Hagler did not get another shot at the title until September 27, 1980, in fight No. 54 for him, against the new champion Alan Minter, and this time he did not falter.

He also made sure on that occasion that the judges had no say in the matter, as the fight was stopped in the third round.

EXCITING PERFORMANCE

He was a busy champion, took on all comers, with the most exciting fight of his career, being against Tommy ‘The Hitman’ Hearns on April 15, 1985. That fight received a lot of attention before fight night, because of the punching power of both men. Hearns was highly favoured to win by his supporters, because of his own devastating punching power, but Hagler gave one of the most exciting performances of his life, to win by technical knockout in round three.

The first round of that fight is still regarded as one of the best in boxing history, and the contest itself has been labelled as ‘The Fight’ and ‘ The War’, because of all the excitement that it evoked. Three fights later, on April 6, 1997, Hagler entered the ring for his last fight, a memorable battle against the formidable Sugar Ray Leonard, in one of boxing’s epic battles. The fight went the distance; Leonard won by split decision, and the decision is still a talking point today.

I first saw the fight as it happened on closed-circuit television and came away feeling that Leonard had won by a narrow margin. Two days later, however, I watched it on tape at home, locked away by myself, without any sound, and scored it like a judge. At the end, I had Hagler the winner 115-113, just like one of the judges, Lou Fillipo.

To this day, I blame Hagler for giving away the first two rounds, when he fought from an orthodox stance instead of as a southpaw, which he was. In the end, those two rounds did make a difference, a big difference, because they were scored for Leonard by all three judges.

Hagler has left a legacy that will live forever.

He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993 and had numerous other accolades heaped upon him.

He was a confident man who believed in himself, a notable attribute in boxing, and in life, and he even changed his name legally and officially, from Marvin Nathaniel Hagler to Marvelous Marvin Hagler, in 1982.

There are many who will always believe that Marvelous Marvin Hagler was marvellous. He will be missed.

Leroy Brown is an experienced sporting administrator, having served in several capacities at the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control and the Jamaica Tennis Association.