Marvelous Marvin Hagler was a former undisputed Middleweight world champion and Hall Of Famer who successfully defended his titles 12 times. On March 13th, the boxing world was saddened to hear of his passing at the age of 66. Hagler who retired from boxing at only 33 years old, had an acting career after the sport and spent time a lot of his post fighting career involved with charitable ventures. He will truly be missed.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Marvin Hagler 3 times through “On The Ropes” boxing radio and in this never before released transcript article I talked to Hagler about his early career and his first world title shot. I also get Marvin’s thoughts on his biggest fights, including his bout with Sugar Ray Leonard. Here is Part 1 of my interview with Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Jenna J: It’s great to have you back Marvin, today is actually a little bit of an anniversary of sorts for you. It’s actually 33 years to the day that you got your rubber match win against Willie Monroe. It’s been a bit of a long time, what do you remember of that trilogy?
Marvin Hagler: Don’t make me feel old. (laughs) 33, I’m only 29. No, no, but the Willie Monroe fight, I think that was a big stepping stone for me. At the time fighting those Philadelphia fighters, they were all tough contenders so I had the opportunity of fighting them and just moved on from there. They taught me a lot and I believe that either one of those guys in Philly could have been champion of the world if I didn’t destroy them.
Jenna J: Something you’ve been known for in your career is doing great in rematches. You lost to Bobby Watts, but when fought him again you took him out in two rounds. You had a draw with a guy by the name of Sugar Ray Seales, you knocked him out in one round in the rematch and of course Willie Monroe, in the final fight you took him out in only two. Why do you think you were so impressive in those rematches?
Marvin Hagler: Well I believe that I probably got madder and things happened in between the ropes there which I didn’t like, because there was a draw and whatever and I think we should do it again. That I think is the mark of a great champion, when either way, you give the guy another opportunity at you. So my thing was that if you didn’t believe that I beat you the first time, then we’ll do it again.
Jenna J: You never had it the easy way in your career, as It took you six and a half years to get a title shot. What was it like to have to go through that long wait and then to finally get your shot at the belt?
Marvin Hagler: Well it was a sweet thing in a sense, because it showed that all of my hard work and everything really paid off. I believe what you’re talking about was the Antuofermo fight back in ’79 which I felt as though I won. That was a draw. I understood now that you can’t leave a champion standing. You got to beat him decisively or knock him out in order to take the title away from him. At least that’s the way it was back then in those days. Other than that, my other highlights I would have to say would be when I won the title from Alan Minter, and then I would have to say that the biggest highlight of my career would have to be Thomas Hearns.
Jenna J: That certainly would be, but let’s go back to that fight with Vito Antuofermo. You were very dominant for the first 10 rounds, but then it seemed a little bit later in the fight that you stepped off the gas. Do you have any regrets about the way you fought that match?
Marvin Hagler: No, I don’t believe so. I think when a guy’s fighting Antuofermo, he was a bull in a sense. Not to say that he was a dirty fighter, but he used his head a lot and you really had to be cautious about his head. In that fight, like I said, I felt as though that I won that fight and they denied me of that so I went on a rampage. I was mad and anybody that stood in my way, now that I learned that part of the boxing game, is that you can’t leave them standing and that’s what I was intending on doing—not let another one stand in front of me again. So I would say the second fight with Antuofermo, when I gave him the opportunity now that I was champion, and to say to Antuofermo, ‘Okay’. I just remember me jumping up in the air with my legs and my arms because I was so glad when this guy couldn’t continue the second time and he returned my belts to me. So that was a great feeling.
Jenna J: Yeah, you literally did go on a rampage there. In your next sixteen fights you won fourteen by KO so I think people learned there not to job Marvelous Marvin Hagler on the cards. It certainly upsets him.
Marvin Hagler: (laughs) You don’t want to get me upset.
Jenna J: No, you don’t. Speaking of that, when boxing fans look back at your career, the fight they always talk about the most is your 3 round war with Tommy ‘The Hitman’ Hearns. What are your thoughts on the fan reaction to it even to this day?
Marvin Hagler: Well you know it surprises me, because if I go to the shopping store or whatever when I’m walking around or whatever, everybody is looking at me and everybody is talking to me about that fight just like it happened yesterday. I can’t get away from it myself. I mean the people are saying, ‘Oh! That right hand shot!’ and people bring me back into that fight again. I thought it was a great fight. I’m glad with the outcome because I finally gained the recognition that I won it. Like I said, it was the highlight of my career but it’s not only those fights. I mean a lot of people walk around talking about the Leonard fight and whatever. I mean how long, 22 years or whatever I’ve been outside the ring and people bring you back just like it was yesterday. It’s a funny thing.
Jenna J: One of the fights of your career that’s not talked about as much is your grueling fight with John Mugabi. He was 26-0 with 26 knockouts. It was certainly a tough fight. I just wanted to get your reflections on that bout and your feelings after having to go through an eleven round war with John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi.
Marvin Hagler: I give John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi a lot of credit, I give Roberto Duran a lot of credit, and I give Thomas Hearns a lot of credit because these guys came out there and tried to take my title. Mugabi tried to knock my head off. I mean this guy here was kind of awkward. I mean he was a big puncher, 20 fights, 20 knockouts, but I said, ‘You know what? You’ve never been in the ring with the Marvelous One, and I’ll tell you what. I will feast on ‘The Beast’.’
Jenna J: You fought some of the best fighters out there from any era. You fought Roberto Duran, you fought Thomas Hearns, you fought Sugar Ray Leonard. What was it like to be in that era with all those great fighters and how do you think today’s fighters compare?
Marvin Hagler: Well you know, that was a tough time in a great era in a sense because I believe that all these guys could fight. You weren’t going to have a field day like with what they’re doing today. I mean all these guys had like over forty fights or whatever, where these guys now today have only like twenty fights and they’re world champions? I mean, come on! It took me fifty fights to get a shot at the title, which was probably the best thing so I was able to hold onto it a lot longer. Most of the fighters today, I think they hold the title from about six months to one year and then all of a sudden they lost it. So I still feel as though for the throwbacks in the old days that that was the best lesson for me, to go through the hard way, which I did, and then when you retire it’s knowing that you have fought the best in the world. You got nothing else to prove.
Jenna J: Back to your career, after the John Mugabi fight you finally got Sugar Ray Leonard to agree to fight you. Looking back at those negotiations, do you at all regret giving him concessions to him to make that fight happen?
Marvin Hagler: Well the thing is, when you want to retire you want to go out knowing you fought the best in the world and this was the only fight that was left for me that meant anything. So normally, you would say ‘I’ll give you anything that you want. I’ll tell you what I’ll do—I’ll even fight you in your living room. I’ll come to your house’.
Jenna J: You certainly did make that fight happen. When people look at it today, though, they watch the fight, everyone scores it differently. Yourself there, the last time we had you on you said you broke all of your TVs when you watch it. When you look at it now, do you have any regrets about the way you fought that fight? You fought orthodox for the first few rounds. Do you at all regret doing that?
Marvin Hagler: No. If I look at it again, I’ll probably break another television. But anyway, I feel as though I did the best that I could do, whether I was fighting orthodox or whatever like that. The main thing is not trying to go out there and try to knock the guy out. The main thing is just to win that fight and that’s what I felt as though I did, and still do inside my heart, I don’t feel any differently. I still feel like a champion like I told you before and nothing has changed.
Jenna J: After your fight with Sugar Ray Leonard you wanted a rematch. He wouldn’t give it to you. It was something I asked the last time you were on the show. I actually had the pleasure of talking to Leonard about three weeks after I spoke to you the first time and I told him what you said about the fight and how you felt he didn’t want the rematch. I want to play you a clip from that interview so you can hear what he said.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Why wouldn’t I have given him a rematch? I mean that would have been a perfect fight again. That first fight was relatively close, but that would have generated so much interest for a second fight. I mean I would have done that in a heartbeat. Hagler, I think he forgets that he went away. He moved away to Milan, Italy. So he was the one who threw his hands up and said no more. I’m not going to do this any longer and he retired. So you need to call Hagler back.
Jenna J: Well Marvin, I got you back on here. What do you think about Ray’s comments?
Marvin Hagler: Well you know, that is Leonard. Everybody knows Leonard and they can imagine what he was going to say, but that was not true. I was still here in America. If the fight was to happen, I would have took that fight right away because I hung around the game for one year until I realized one thing. This guy is waiting for you to get old. He’s waiting for me to maybe come back and fight somebody else and then they beat you. He had all kinds of excuses. There’s no way. He was also afraid probably that you see every time I fought a person the second time what I did to them. He was nervous and I know. He didn’t want to fight. So I realized that, so you know what I had to do. I had to start putting my head together and started putting my life together and started thinking about my future and it was time for me to move on, not sit here and wait for this guy to dictate to me again if he’s going to do it or not. Hello! If you wanted to fight, that’s all you had to say right then. Just give me the rematch just like any other champion would have done.