Remembering the Marvelous Marvin Hagler

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Sugar Ray Leonard, five-division world champion, has waged wars, epic wars with the likes of Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Donny Lalonde. Yet when Leonard thinks back on his Hall of Fame career, one fight, one beautifully brutal battle, stands out.

“Marvin Hagler,” Leonard told Sports Illustrated in a phone interview. “That was the closest I have come to death.”

For a boxer, compliments don’t get much better.

Hagler died on Saturday, his wife, Kay, announcing Hagler’s passing on Facebook. He was 66. Born in Newark, N.J., in 1954, Hagler’s family moved to Brockton, Mass., a blue collar suburb of Boston, in the late 60s. It was there he took up boxing, racking up a few amateur titles before turning pro in 1973. He claimed his first middleweight belt in 1980 and spent the better part of a decade as the dominant middleweight of his era. In 1987, Hagler lost a hotly disputed decision to Leonard. He never fought again.

The 1980s were a Golden Age for boxing, and Hagler was in the thick of it. A member of the Four Kings—joined by Leonard, Hearns and Duran—Hagler was involved in some of the most memorable fights in boxing history.

April 15, 1985: Hagler put his middleweight titles on the line against Hearns, then the 154-pound champion. Outdoors in Las Vegas, Hagler and Hearns engaged in one of the most memorable fights in middleweight history. The first round—a rock ‘em, sock ‘em robot affair—has been hailed as arguably the best fight in boxing history. In the third round, a Hagler right hand sent Hearns stumbling to the ropes. Another right hand finished him. The entire fight lasted eight minutes. It will be remembered for an eternity.

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