Marvelous Marvin Hagler obituary: One of boxing’s ‘Four Kings’


arvelous Marvin Hagler ruled over the middleweight division with an iron fist for much of the 1980s before his reign was ended by Sugar Ray Leonard in one of the most controversial judging decisions of all time.

Hagler, who has died suddenly aged 66, made 12 successful defences of the crown he had long coveted, the high point of which was indisputably getting the better of Thomas Hearns in an eight-minute firefight known as ‘The War’.

It was the penultimate win of a 67-fight professional career that ended after his defeat to Leonard, who came out of retirement in April 1987 to upset the odds at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in a bout that still divides opinion.

Many favoured Hagler’s aggression but he was ultimately outfoxed by a slippery Leonard, who flicked out the jab and landed flurries towards the end of most rounds that, while not particularly harmful, would catch the judges’ eyes.

A split-decision loss disgusted Hagler, who retired 14 months later at the age of 34 with a record of 62 wins – 52 by knockout – three defeats and two draws after becoming “tired of waiting” for Leonard to decide on a rematch.

By that stage, though, Hagler had already cemented his status as one of the all-time greats and the tangles he, Leonard, Hearns and Roberto Duran had with each other in the ’80s would see them chronicled as the ‘Four Kings’.

However, he arguably had the toughest road to prominence. He was born on May 23, 1954, in Newark, New Jersey, as the oldest of six children to Ida Mae Hagler and Robert Sims, who abandoned the family when Marvin was a child.

Ida Mae therefore raised Hagler, his brother and their four sisters, eventually uprooting the family following the 1967 Newark riots to Brockton, Massachusetts, where the eldest child would discover a penchant for boxing.

He was discovered as an amateur by the Petronelli brothers, Goody and Pat, who operated a gym in the city and went on to train Hagler for the entirety of his career in the paid ranks.

Hagler often considered himself something of a loner – he once remarked that wounded birds in his mother’s backyard were “the only friends I could relate to, maybe the only friends I really liked. I was always by myself”.

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