Marvin Hagler

Professional Boxing Athlete

“There are a lot of things and in order to be at the top and maintain your focus you have to have something that motivates you. For me, it was what I perceived as a lack of respect from the boxing world as well as the media, which made me want to work so hard and be great.”

Marvin Hagler was one of the greatest boxers of the 1970s and ‘80s, holding the middleweight title for seven years.

Early Years

Marvin Nathaniel Hagler was born on May 23, 1954, in Newark, New Jersey. He was raised without his father in a tenement section of Newark until his mother moved the family to Brockton, Massachusetts, following widespread riots in Newark in the summer of 1967. In Brockton, coincidentally the hometown of boxing great Rocky Marciano, Hagler dropped out of school in the 9th grade and worked construction jobs, spending his spare time “running a lot, stealing a little.”

Marvin Hagler

Hagler began boxing under the tutelage of Goody and Pat Petronelli, winning 57 amateur fights before taking the 165-pound division at the 1973 Amateur Athletic Union nationals. The 19-year-old southpaw was voted the tournament's outstanding boxer and took his 75-inch reach and strong chin into the professional ring that same year.

The Professional

Marvin Hagler was soon intimidated opponents locally with his fierce approach and brute strength, and was eager to fight outside the area. He broke out of the “B” ranks in 1976 with three fights in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, two of which he lost (his first defeats ever).

The losses only seemed to toughen Hagler and his resolve, and perhaps make him fight even more aggressively, as he sent several ensuing fighters to the hospital, breaking the jaw of Mike Colbert and pounding Kevin Finnegan so badly that Finnegan needed 40 stitches in his face following the bout.

After the Philadelphia losses, Hagler won 20 consecutive fights before his 1979 title bout with Vito Antuofermo, which ended in a (questionable) draw. Hagler wouldn't let his next shot at the title get away, though: He took the world middleweight crown on September 27, 1980, with a third round TKO against Alan Minter. Over the next seven years, Hagler would defend his title successfully 12 times.

Marvin Hagler

‘The Super Fight’

The biggest fight of Hagler's career would come in April 1987, when Sugar Ray Leonard came out of retirement for a shot at the middleweight champ. Hagler had a 37-fight unbeaten streak going at the time, but in his intense back-and-forth bout against Leonard, he couldn't find a way to put Leonard away. The fight went the distance, and the judges turned in a split decision in favor of Leonard.

The decision was controversial then, and discussion over who really won that fight has never died down. Hagler was stunned by the loss, feeling that Leonard was unfairly handed his crown. In the aftermath, Hagler began drinking, and his longtime marriage (from which he and his wife, Bertha, had five children) began to fall apart. To make matters worse, Leonard refused to entertain any notion of a rematch and retired almost immediately after the fight, denying Hagler a chance at retaking the crown.

Hagler's camp tried for years to set up a rematch, but when it became clear that Leonard was in retirement for good, Hagler also retired, in June 1988. (Leonard finally came around two years later, but Hagler turned down the fight and the $15 million payday.)

After his boxing career came to an end, Hagler appeared in several films, moved to Italy and remarried. Named The Ring magazine's 35th “Greatest Puncher of All Time” and The Associated Press's “Third-Greatest Middleweight of the 20th Century,” Hagler was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993. On March 13, 2021, Hagler's wife, Kay, announced that Hagler had died unexpectedly at his home in New Hampshire. He was 66.

Quick Facts

Birth Date:
May 23, 1954

Death Date:
March 13, 2021

  • His home was destroyed during the Newark Riots, which prompted his move to Massachusetts.
  • He legally changed his first name to Marvelous after becoming upset that the announcers never referred to him as Marvelous like he had asked.
  • After retiring from boxing, Marvellous Marvin Hagler took on acting starring in some actions films. He played a role of a US Marine in Indio & Indio 2. His next movie was in Virtual Weapon, starring alongside Giselle Blondet. He also did some boxing commentaries for the British television.
  • Marvin Hagler
  • Marvin Hagler
  • Marvin Hagler


BIO: +
PHOTO: SportsIllustrated + BirminghamMail + BadLeftHook + Nola + ThisIsOpus

Last Updated

December 2020

Original Published Date

April 2019

Similar Entries

Muhammad Ali Sports

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. Nicknamed “The Greatest,” he is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Read More
George Foreman Sports

George Foreman

George Foreman is an American former professional boxer. Nicknamed “Big George”, he is a two-time world heavyweight champion and an Olympic gold medalist. Outside the sport he is an ordained minister, author, and entrepreneur.

Read More
Jack Johnson Sports

Jack Johnson

John Johnson, nicknamed the Galveston Giant, was an American boxer who, at the height of the Jim Crow era, became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. Among the period's most dominant champions, he remains a boxing legend.

Read More
Joe Louis Sports

Joe Louis

Joseph Louis Barrow, best known as Joe Louis was an American professional boxer who competed from 1934 to 1951. He reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949, and is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time.

Read More
'Sugar' Ray Robinson Sports

‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson

Sugar Ray Robinson was an American professional boxer who competed from 1940 to 1965. Robinson's performances in the welterweight and middleweight divisions prompted sportswriters to create “pound for pound” rankings, where they compared fighters regardless of weight.

Read More
Mike Tyson Sports

Mike Tyson

Michael Tyson is a former professional boxer who competed from 1985 to 2005. He reigned as the undisputed world heavyweight champion and holds the record as the youngest boxer to win a heavyweight title at 20 years, four months and 22 days old.

Read More