Produced in New Jersey in 1954 and debuting as a professional fighter in 1973, Marvin Hagler became among the best fighters of the 1970s and ’80s. Creating himself early on as an intimidating adversary, Hagler acquired the reputation of having among the roughest chins in the sport. Eventually becoming the middleweight champ in 1980, after 50 fights, Hagler held the title for another six years, until he was conquered by Sugar Ray Leonard in a split decision which is still disputed to this very day.
Hagler started boxing below the tutelage of Goody and Pat Petronelli, winning 57 recreational fights before taking the 165-pound division in the 1973 Amateur Athletic Union nationals. The 19-year old southpaw was voted the tournament’s excellent fighter and got his 75-inch reach and powerful chin to the professional ring that same year.
Marvin Hagler was shortly intimidated competitions locally with his ferocious strategy and brute strength, and was ready to fight outside the region. The losses just appeared to toughen Hagler and his resolution, and maybe make him fight even more sharply, as he sent several ensuing combatants to the hospital, breaking the jaw of Mike Colbert and thumping Kevin Finnegan so badly that Finnegan needed 40 stitches in his face after the bout.
Following the Philadelphia losses, Hagler won 20 consecutive fights before his 1979 title fight with Vito Antuofermo, which finished in a (questionable) draw. During the following seven years, Hagler would defend his title successfully 12 times.
The largest fight of Hagler’s career would come in April 1987, when Sugar Ray Leonard came out of retirement to get a shot in the middleweight champion. Hagler had a 37-fight unbeaten run going in the time, but in his extreme back and forth bout against Leonard, he could not find a means to put Leonard away. The fight went the distance, as well as the judges turned in a split decision in favor of Leonard.
The decision was controversial then, and talk over who actually won that fight never died down. Hagler was stunned by the loss, believing that Leonard was unfairly given his crown. In the wake, Hagler started drinking, and his longtime union (from which he along with his wife, Bertha, had five kids) started to fall apart. To create things worse, Leonard refused to hold any notion of a rematch and retired nearly right following the fight, refusing Hagler an opportunity at retaking the crown. (Leonard eventually came around two years after, but Hagler turned down the fight as well as the $15 million payday.)
After his boxing career came to a conclusion, Hagler appeared in a number of movies, went to Italy and remarried. Identified Ring magazine’s 35th “Best Puncher Of Time” and The Associated Press’s “Third-Best Middleweight of the 20th Century,” Hagler was inducted to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992 as well as the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.