Marvelous Marvin Hagler was the greatest middleweight boxer, ever. That’s not hyperbole. I’m not just saying that to spark a debate, because this is a fact and can’t be disputed.
People can try to besmirch the good name of the Marvelous One, but they’re all wrong. Hagler’s record sits at an ever impressive 62-3-2. With 52 wins coming by way of knockout. Holding onto the undisputed middleweight title for damn near all of the 1980s, Hagler was able to finish his career with 12 straight title defenses and was never knocked out.
Hagler’s most famous lost was in his last fight, against a younger, quicker Sugar Ray Leonard. Even though Leonard was the superior boxer Hagler punishing blows and remarkable conditioning enabled him to last the whole 12 rounds (One of the stipulations from the Leonard camp was that, in addition to the ring being a little bigger and the fighters wearing 12 oz gloves, the fight would be 12 rounds, instead of 15. At the time Leonard was coming off of a 3 year retirement and his camp wasn’t too happy about what might happen in the latter rounds. This seemed like an odd request considering that Hagler had never gone past the 12 round in his career and had only gone past the 10th 7 times in his career.)
After 12 rounds of punishment being inflicted on both fighters, Leonard was declared the winner even though many people thought that Hagler had won because he was the aggressor and didn’t hit and run. In the 80s no one wanted to see a fighter run for 12 rounds and this was one of the few times a fighter was rewarded for this.
Hagler’s lost to Leonard didn’t do much to tarnish his image as the hardest hitting, hardest working man in the middleweights. At that point in his career he had already beaten Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Seales, John Mugabi, and of course Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns.
The battle with Hearns, aka “The War”, which ended with Hagler knocking Hearns out in the third round, may be one of the top fights of all time. It easily won The Ring magazine’s “Fight of the Year.” A bloodied Hagler was able to knockout the taller Hearns, despite Hearns having never been KO’d to that point and only having suffered a single loss. That loss was to none other than Sugar Ray Leonard.
If you’ve never seen Hagler vs. Hearns and you call yourself a boxing fan, then you’re cheating yourself. It’s eight minutes of pure mayhem. From the opening bell, when Hearns cracks Hagler with a vicious right, until the final bell in the third when The Hitman is unable to continue, the entire fight is nonstop action.
Marvin Hagler, and for that matter all of the big names who fought in the 80s, were a different breed of fighter. Far removed from today’s main events that look more like cardio boxing than wars (again, looking at you Floyd), these were men who weren’t interested in looking good while winning. They were interetsted in inflicting the most damage possible upon their opponent. And Marvin Hagler was the best at it.