Marvelous Marvin Hagler – The Ultimate World Champion!
On May 23rd, 1954, Marvin Nathaniel Hagler was born in Newark, New Jersey. At the age of 13, and to escape the grinding poverty of Newark and the violence of the Newark riots, Marvin’s mother took the decision to move the family to Brockton, Massachusetts. Brockton happened to be the home town of another all time great of the sport, a certain Rocco Francis Marchegiano AKA Rocky Marciano. If the town of Brockton never saw another fighter rise from it’s streets again, then by being the launch pad of two such high echelon pugilists it will forever be known as a true boxing town!
Marvin Hagler first visited a boxing gym at the age of 15. He was guided from the outset by Pat and Goody Petronelli, two guardians who would remain by Marvin’s side throughout his career. In an amateur career of some 100 bouts, Hagler (after only 4 years) became the National AAU champion. This guy could really box. However, being in the amateur ranks never put food on the table. The decision to enter the professional ranks was an easy one for Marvin. A famous boxing anecdote is that of Marvin’s exasperation at the fact that he earned $40 for his first professional fight, yet his contemporary Sugar Ray Leonard earned $40000. This knowledge would provide Marvin with all of the motivation and drive that he needed to be a success at his chosen profession!
Marvin Hagler was a prolifically active fighter, in his first 2 years as a pro he took part in 24 fights. Well, the man had to eat! This workman-like attitude would be a key tenet throughout his career. Even up to the final few super fights of a career that saw 62 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses of which 2 were avenged, Marvin never had an entourage (except for the Petronellis that is, although I’m not sure that 2 people constitute an entourage) and he always carried his own kit bag to the venue. His training regime was fixed and rarely changed, hiding away at Cape Cod and thundering through beach runs, heavy bag routines and sparring partners alike! This was the epitome of a champion. Search for the definition of world boxing champion, and Marvin Hagler’s picture should be right there. A true great who had the sublime skills that caught the eye as much as that shaven head!
Which, in a round about way, brings us to the main point of this article, and that’s an analysis of the skills of Marvelous Marvin Hagler. We will base our analysis on a range of videos from throughout Marvin’s career, starting in 1977 (4 years after turning pro) and culminating in his controversial 1987 match against Sugar Ray Leonard. As with my analysis of Roberto Duran’s Boxing Style, this analysis of ‘The Marvelous One’ has been a true pleasure to undertake but is a major undertaking in terms of time and effort. Please let me know whether an article of this nature actually provides practical assistance so that I may come to a decision regarding future fighter analysis articles.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler – Dealing With Those Tall Guys!
The first Marvelous Marvin fight that we are going to take a look at is his 1977 match against the wonderfully nicknamed Willie ‘The Worm’ Monroe. Monroe was a fighter hailing from Philadelphia who had handed Marvin a defeat a little over a year earlier (having never seen the fight I couldn’t comment, but I have read reports that the decision raised more than an eyebrow or two!) Monroe was a big middleweight (6 foot) and he could fight and punch, having had more than his fair share of early knock outs. This was the third meeting of the pair (the rubber match) with the score at one a piece.
One of the conventional assumptions that is made when a boxer meets a taller foe is that the shorter of the two fighters must get up close to be effective. My own view is that a skilled boxer using appropriate tactics can quite adequately take apart a taller opponent at long range without the need to rush into a close-range battle. Hagler’s 3rd fight against Monroe illustrates this view perfectly. Check out the short video then read about the observations below. By the way, I watch all of these videos with the volume down, it’s particularly important to do so on this one!
You’ll notice from the outset that Hagler is in no rush to openly attack Willie ‘The Worm’ because Willie is big and dangerous. In the opening 30 to 40 seconds Marvin bides his time, constantly feinting and moving his head in order to draw the lead from Willie. Notice also that he moves to his right whilst throwing single and double jabs. This movement right renders Willie’s right hand redundant (if you’ve downloaded the Southpaw Versus Orthodox report you’ll know all about this.) When Marvin does move to his left, he does so passively and slightly on the retreat; he obviously has respect for Willie’s right cross!
Moving into Round 2 and at around 4.15, Marvin begins his implacable march forward. At 4.26, Hagler lands a killer left hook and the end is nigh for Willie. After a further 10 seconds, two more crunching shots end the fight. This pattern of allowing the opponent to be the aggressor only to turn the tables at a moment of his choosing is a tactic that Marvin used throughout the next 10 years. Surprisingly after a performance of this quality, it was another 4 years before Hagler would secure his undisputed world crown.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler – Taking His Birth Right!
In 1981, Marvin stepped in the ring with the reigning world champion Alan Minter. Having waited a very long time for his first shot at the undisputed Middleweight crown, Marvin had been denied by a very questionable draw against reigning champion Vito Antuofermo. On this occasion he was to leave nothing to chance, especially given that he was attempting to wrest the crown from Minter in the Champion’s home town. Marvin’s experiences in Philadelphia (against Monroe and Watts) and his draw against Antuofermo had given him a single-minded determination to walk away as champion. So, how was he to achieve this? Watch the video, then read the observations below.
A key point to understand about Hagler is that he is a right-handed person who has been coached as a southpaw (unlike Minter who is a true left-handed southpaw.) Being a right-handed southpaw means that Marvin’s jab is very heavy when it lands. To maximize the chances of his jab landing, Marvin uses feints to great effect; check out the feint/jab combinations at 1.06, 1.16 and 1.45. Marvin allows Minter to take the centre of the ring and hammers home the jabs; check out the jab/lay back/jab at 1.45. The first round was a fairly torrid affair for Minter with Marvin using his surgeon-like hands to cut the champion to pieces. Surely Round 2 couldn’t get any worse, could it?
At about 3.43, Minter’s frustration boils over and he becomes a little too aggressive for his own good. What does Marvin do in response? He keeps on keepin’ on by hammering home, you guessed it, sledgehammer jabs. When we do see infighting, Marvin controls it at all points not once seeking to hold. Look at the left uppercut/right hook combination at 4.44; Minter literally has nowhere to go.
Into Round 3, notice the leading right hook at 5.19 (Floyd Patterson style ‘gazelle punch’) as Marvin really gets into his stride. Minter’s bravery now becomes a key handicap as he marches towards Marvin, his defensive carelessness punished mercilessly with perfectly timed mid-range hooks such as is demonstrated at 5.40. In the end, it’s cuts that officially halt the slaughter but even without the cuts it’s unlikely that Minter would have continued much further. He is hurt really badly with another lead right hook at 5.46 and this pretty much ends the fight.
This victory tells us that Marvelous Marvin Hagler is no slugger, he’s is a precision fighter who is willing to allow opponents to attack and he uses diversionary skills (feints) to create openings for his sledgehammer jab. When his jab begins to land, then it is only a matter of time until his mid and short range array of weaponry is unleashed.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler – Just Another Day at The Office
I’m sure that Marvin viewed the majority of his title defences as ‘Just another day at the office.’ His 1984 match against the tough (and it has to be said high quality) southpaw Mustafa Hamsho perfectly illustrates Marvin’s workman-like approach. Hamsho was tough and experienced and Marvin needed to be in top form to see off the challenger. The deciding factor, as it was in many of his other battles, was Marvin’s immaculate lead right hand work. There are a number of notable points in this fight, so I’ll bullet them below after which you can watch the short video:
- At about 0.50, Hamsho blatantly uses the head against Hagler. Marvin’s response? He didn’t lose his temper, he simply pounded in a couple of jaw-breaking jabs!
- Check out the triple jab at 1.18. Marvin’s jab is like a metronome. It just keeps smashing away creating opening after opening. In order to overcome Hagler at this stage of his career his opponents simply had to find a way to nullify his jab. Unfortunately for all this was Mission Impossible!
- At 1.22, Marvin executes a text book slip/right uppercut and left cross. His slip is super efficient and a double take is required to spot it! This is in effect the beginning of the end for Hamsho.
- 2.00 – Three mid range hooks slam into the target and floor Hamsho. Mustafa is really struggling by this point.
- Back to the right hand jab, at about 2.32 the jab lands with such force that it almost drops the opponent!
- At 2.52 the final ‘Gazelle-style’ right hook finishes the night’s work…Just another day at the office!
Marvelous Marvin Hagler Versus the Hit Man – The Fight of the Century!
On April 15th 1985, two of the greatest fighters of the modern era met on a cool desert night in the car park of Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas. Whilst the fight had fans salivating with anticipation, few could have envisaged the savagery and ferocity of the encounter. Our main man Marvin Hagler was stepping into the ring with Thomas ‘Hit Man’ Hearns for the undisputed middleweight championship of the world. Tommy’s right hand was potentially the hardest single punch in the history of boxing as Roberto Duran would testify to following his two round destruction during the previous year. Marvin was as tough as teak. Something had to give.
Without exaggeration, I must have watched this fight literally hundreds of times and I consider it to be certainly the greatest middleweight fight of all time and definitely one of the greatest fights of all time. The style of analysis I’ve carried out on Marvin’s previous contests within this article I don’t believe is too effective when looking at this fight. I feel that whilst there are key (timed) points within the bout to point out, the lessons to learn are more strategic than tactical. The bullet points below draw out what I believe to be the key considerations of the fight. After reading the key points, enjoy the fight that the great boxing commentator Reg Gutteridge described simply as “3 rounds of absolute mayhem!”
- It is apparent from the outset that Hagler’s strategy is quite simply a full frontal assault. He attacks Tommy with reckless abandon and his ram-rod jab is conspicuous by it’s absence (the first jab hits home at 1.23.) Hagler intends to hook his way to victory on this night!
- Hagler’s desire to draw Tommy into a pitch battle succeeds after only 20 seconds or so. Tommy responds to Hagler’s attacks with a series of hooks that would drop a horse! Marvin is visibly shaken, but he’s taken Tommy’s best shot and is still standing. Even better, Tommy is now in a real fight just as Marvin wanted!
- At about 2.03, Hagler backs Hearns into a corner and keeps him there for a full 40 seconds. This is the first round for pete’s sake and Hagler’s smashing his opponent to pieces in the corner for a over 40 seconds!
- Marvin remains in the southpaw stance throughout the fight and nullifies Tommy’s height and reach advantage by constantly applying pressure, never letting Hearns settle. This is a key point; Marvin has set the pace of the fight and Tommy is attempting to respond to this pace. Tommy has neither the physique nor the strength to match Marvin in this type of battle, but as much as he tries he cannot alter the course and pace of the fight.
- Check out 6.35. Hearns holds Hagler’s right hand real tight. Marvin doesn’t complain to the referee, he simply smashes Hearns with his unfettered left hand. Marvin wants nothing to slow the pace of this fight.
- The end game is a slip outside Hearns’ jab and hammers home a lead (southpaw) right hand. The coup de grace issued by Marvin is a devastating orthodox right hand. So the final insult to Tommy is a wonderful piece of sub-conscious switch-hitting by Marvin.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler – Controversy with the Sugar Man!
This final section of the article is not strictly an analysis in the style previously presented. Actually, it’s more a ‘venting of my opinions’ with regards to Hagler’s Final fight against a certain Mr Ray Charles Leonard AKA Sugar Ray.
Sugar Ray Leonard made many opponents look like they were having an ‘off-night’; it was his stock-in-trade. On ‘that night’ in 1987 he managed to edge a decision over Hagler in Las Vegas. Now, I’m going to lay my cards on the table here. I was 14 when Hagler and Leonard met for the WBC Middleweight title, and on the night and without viewing the fight objectively by scoring round by round, my opinion was that Sugar Ray Leonard won. My sense was was that I was slightly in awe of the man, not something I’m at all ashamed of, I mean he was a simply brilliant boxer and a brilliant man. I was in awe of him because he had come back after a considerable lay off, stepped up in weight to meet arguably the greatest middleweight of all time and not only lasted the distance but pushed Marvin all of the way.
Now, here’s the thing. Having on the night felt that Leonard won the decision, in the cold light of day and having gone through round by round and formally scored the fight probably a dozen times since that night, it is clear to me that Marvin won. He didn’t hammer Ray, but I felt (and feel now) that there was a 2-point gap in Marvin’s favour and any argument to the contrary seems quite hollow. Why? Because Marvin was the champion and Ray did not do enough on his back-foot to warrant the win; this was in the US of A, land of victory for aggressive fighters! Hagler maintained the regularity of a metronome with his work rate and constantly advanced, whilst Ray fought in short spurts that were largely ineffectual. By the way, one of the ‘judges’ was Jose Juan Guerra and Senor Guerra scored the bout 118-110 in favour of Ray Leonard. By anyone’s standards, this scoring has to be considered confusing at best!
So, having come clean about my feelings as to the decision on that night the question remains could Marvin have done more to secure his victory? Well, he was a noticeably older fighter than when he met Hearns. Even in the intervening fight against John Mugabi, Marvin’s mobility and hand speed were noticeably lessened than in previous defences of his crown. The thing about the Leonard fight that confused me more than anything was Marvin’s insistence on remaining in the orthodox stance for large periods in the fight when it is without question true to state that he was a far more effective fighter from the southpaw stance than the orthodox stance. That’s just my view.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler – A Final Word
Marvelous Marvin Hagler mesmerised the boxing world by ‘owning’ the middleweight division for almost 7 years. When he did lose his crown, it was in controversial circumstances and against a man who would have been very unlikely to have survived the full distance if the two had met even 2 years earlier. Hagler demonstrated humility, integrity and a pathological desire to keep his world title. This desire took the form of an outstanding work ethic and grounded view of life that many top sports stars lose sight of all too soon after reaching the pinnacle of the profession.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler; the Man, the Legend!