August 22nd, 2012 By Pedro Fernandez
HOW WILL HISTORIANS RATE MARVIN HAGLER?
San Francisco, CA- Having spent some time around Marvin Hagler when he had so-called “private” training sessions at Johnny Tocco’s Ringside Gym in Las Vegas, NV, as well my covering Hagler from his early days to his final stand against Ray Leonard, I have both the acumen and experience to expand on the subject unlike most of today’s so-called writers. Born the Central Ward of Newark, NJ in what Marvin claims to be 1954, his date of birth has always been a matter of question. That being said, after the riots of 1969, Hagler’s family moved to Massachusetts and soon thereafter he met Goody and Pat Petronelli, the two men that would be with him from day one in boxing to his ring finale in 1987.
PETRONELLI BROS. DIDN’T KNOW MUCH!
While Hagler would win the National AAU Golden Glove title in 1973 and turn professional soon afterwards, he would rack up 17 straight wins before having a ten round draw with 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist “Sugar Ray” Seales in Seattle, WA, this after besting Seales a few fights earlier with a unanimous nod captured live on Massachusetts TV. In their third tango, Hagler stopped Seales in 1979 in one round, this when Seales was washed up and nearly blind. Prior to that, Hagler had lost two fights, both unanimous ten round decisions to Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts and Willie “The Worm” Monroe. Hagler would avenge both setbacks with identical TKO 2 endings.
HAGLER’S MARCH TO THE TITLE MARRED BY INEPT OR CROOKED SCORING!
In 1979, Hagler had not yet changed his first name to “Marvelous,” although having beaten both men who had wins over him, Hagler was certainly on a march towards the World middleweight (160 lb.) title. His first crack at the championship came in 1979, and I can recall the announcers referring to Marvin as the “29-year old challenger.” Had he been born in 1954, which he later claimed, Marvin would have only been 25, thus the controversy as to how old he really is came to life soon thereafter.
WHAT FIGHT WERE TWO JUDGES WATCHING IN VEGAS?
In a stunning decision after 15 rounds, Dalby Shirley, as inept or crooked, there are people that have opined both, had Vito Antuofermo winning 144-142, an incredible score seeing Hagler seemed to have handily won. Judge Duane Ford tabbed the match for Hagler 145-141, while the third jurist Hal Miller sat on the fence with a 143-143 score. Although he had never whined, bitched or moaned before, Hagler’s disappointment with the decision was not one he kept to himself. While there were some rumors abound that Antuofermo was controlled by the Mafia, I could never find anything to substantiate that, as I thought it was just some silly stereotype bantered about because Vito was Italian.
HAGLER GETS A SECOND SHOT AT GLORY!
Three wins later over Loucif Mahini (20-1), his aforementioned TKO 2 over Bobby Watts, and a UD 10 over rugged Marcos Geraldo (48-15), the man whom I believe first injured “Sugar Ray” Leonard’s eye in 1979, Marvin traveled to London to face then champion Alan Minter (38-6) who wrested the title from Antuofermo in that same year. Figuratively, with Hagler kicking the spit of Minter, the English fans, hooligans on that evening in particular, rioted after Marvin stopped Minter in less than three rounds with a one-side beat down that brought about a serious cut eye for the tissue thin skinned Englishman.
RIOT FORCED HAGLER INTO HIS DRESSING ROOM
Forced to flee the ring because of an incoming barrage of bottles and the like, Hagler if I remember right wasn’t given the title belt in the ring, nor was he interviewed on American TV who was airing the bout. Brushing that aside, Hagler began to set forth on a pattern of destruction that resulted in 12 straight defenses against the likes of Antuofermo, Mustafa Hamsho (twice), Fulgencio Obelmejias (twice), Wilford Sypion, Caveman Lee, Juan Roldan, the 1985 thriller with Tommy Hearns, and the 1986 grueling battle with John Mugabi. These were all wins by way of knockout, the lone exception being a UD 15 over Roberto Duran.
MARVIN EITHER FEARED OR GOT OLD VS. ROBERTO DURAN
As I sat ringside in Las Vegas in November 1983 as Duran, having rebuilt his career after the “No Mas” debacle against Ray Leonard in 1980 and his sloppy 1981 decision loss to Kirkland Laing on ESPN, Duran accomplished this by stopping both Pipino Cuevas in January 1983 and WBA 154 lb. guy Davey Moore in June of that same year, was thought pre-fight to be lunchmeat for Duran. But Roberto prepared himself well and was ahead, albeit controversially after 12 heats, was popping Hagler with straight right hands. Incredibly, some people call it over respect, others labeled it fear, but Duran would go 15 rounds and lose 144-142, 146, 145 and 144-143.
I THOUGHT FEAR MADE MARVIN BLINK!
Instead of trying to run roughshod over the smaller and former lightweight (135) champ, Hagler tried to box Duran, a slick practitioner who brought his A-game to the outside arena at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Marvin did much the same thing three years later with Ray Leonard, only this time he had sold all but his soul to Leonard in pre-fight negotiations. The size of the ring, the gloves used, the 12-round distance instead of the then traditional 15 rounds, Hagler sold each of these conditions making his purse in excess of $23 million.
DURAN FIGHT GAVE LEONARD NOTION HE COULD BEST MARVIN
Ray told me in 1989 that it was the Duran fight that convinced him that he could at the very least compete, if not beat Hagler, especially after watching Marvin extend himself and take a lot of punishment in his 1986 fight with “John “The Beast” Mugabi.
CALLING HAGLER LEGACY INTO QUESTION!
First of all, I’m of the opinion that if Marvin had other trainers, not the Petronelli bros., Marvin would have probably steamrolled Duran and Leonard. But there is another intangible that nobody wants to air on the subject, that being Marvin was scared to an extent of both Leonard and Duran. As for the Petronelli’s, they kept telling Marvin during the Leonard fight, “Keep doin’ what you’re doing Marv.” What fight were these guys looking at? With few, if any real dominant rounds Hagler was not only ill advised, but he was also under performing.
BIGGEST WINS WERE AGAINST SMALLER GUYS
When you look at the resume of Marvin Hagler, the egotist that legally changed his first name to “Marvelous,” you see that the only real Hall of Fame fighters he faced were Leonard, Duran and Hearns, three men who had peaked at lower weights. Granted Obelmejias was unbeaten, Hamsho was tough as was Sypion, Minter wasn’t much and Antuofermo isn’t a guy historians will rave about, Hagler, while he did beat the best middleweights of his time, there really weren’t of Hall of Fame ilk.LEONARD FIGHT SCORING NOT SO CONTROVERSIAL!
Longtime Boston newspaper writer George Kimball, who passed away last year, scored the 1987 fight between Hagler and Ray Leonard for Leonard. I had it 7-5 for Leonard sitting ringside. The lone official judge that Marvin in front after 12 was the late Lou Fillipo who tabbed ot 7-5 (115-113) for Hagler. Marvin said he was so disgusted with the decision that he would never box again and didn’t. When I saw him in Mexico City a decade or so ago, Marvin was still of the opinion he had won the bout with ease.
THE LAST WORD ON MARVIN HAGLER
When I saw Hagler walking a few hours before the Leonard fight with Goody Petronelli on Paradise Rd., which is adjacent to the Las Vegas strip, Marvin looked as if were in a daze, not a man beaming with confidence. In closing, while he was the best for six years of the 1980s, I don’t think Marvin should be rated over Carlos Monzon or “Sugar Ray” Robinson as middleweight champion, I do feel he would have beaten Bernard Hopkins, had trouble with both Michael Nunn and James Toney, but as far as being the greatest middleweight ever, Marvin (62-3-2, 52 KOs) isn’t there especially seeing he lost to Leonard.