“If you open my bald head you will find a boxing glove”

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“If you open my bald head you will find a boxing glove”
"If you open my bald head you will find a boxing glove". Photo: Courtesy

“If you open my bald head you will find a boxing glove”

by
“If you open my bald head you will find a boxing glove”
"If you open my bald head you will find a boxing glove". Photo: Courtesy

“If you open my bald head you will find a big gold boxing glove. It’s everything I am. I live it” (Marvin Hagler).

Those 20 words uttered somewhere, long ago portrayed one of the most exalted middleweight world champions of any division in the history of boxing, whom the whole world knew and admired as Marvin “Marvelous” Hagler, who passed away on March 13th in a hospital in Bartlett, New Hampshire, at the age of 66.

His characteristic and feared southpaw guard, his aggressive, even ruthless style, will not be forgotten by those who saw him perform in the ring for 14 years between 1973 and 1987, when he left disappointed because he considered that he had been stripped on the decision of his fight against another now immortal, Ray Sugar Leonard, on April 6, 1987 at Caesar’s Palace Hotel in his 12th WBA and WBC middleweight title defense. Haggler had won those titles in crowns, won in September 1980 against Englishman Alan Minter in Wembley, England, by technical knockout in three rounds.

Before taking on Leonard, the legendary fighter whose brilliant bald head shone even more under the spotlights, had defended the belt 11 times with 10 KOs (only Roberto “Mano É Piedra” Durán survived the 12 rounds), successes that confirmed him as one of the greatest of all time in the category, without question, in addition to being recognized as one of the best 50 fighters of all times.

That verdict against Leonard, 118-110 and 115-113 (the judge Luis Filippo gave him the vote, 115-113), put Hagler away from boxing forever, by his own decision, and went to Italy for a while to digest his disappointment. That was his third disappointment, the others were against Bobby Watts on January 13, 1976 and Willie Monroe on March 9, 1976. In 67 fights he won 62, 52 by KO with three losses and two draws, numbers that in 1993 exalted him to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, in Canastota, New York.

A BRILLIANT CAREER

That “bald-headed” young man, as he used to call himself, was from the very beginning a great talent with gloves. He was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1955, and became a boxer in Brockton, Massachusetts, led by the Goody brothers and Pat Petronelli, his longtime handlers.

His debut was against Terry Ryan, whom he slaughtered in two rounds on March 18, 1973, and then had 25 wins with 18 KOs and a draw until he was stopped by Watts, three years after his debut. On November 30, 1979 he faced Vito Antuofermo for the WBA and WBC middleweight belts in a fight that ended in a draw 145-141 for Hagler, 144-142 for the champion and 143 for both, a sentence considered unfair by a majority that saw the challenger win.

Ten months later at Wembley, “Marvelous” faced local Alan Minter for the WBA and WBC middleweight belt and knocked him out in only three rounds. It was the beginning of a hegemony that seemed to have no end. In his first exhibition, he defeated Venezuelan Fulgencio Obelmejías in 8 rounds, followed by Antuofermo (4), Mustafa Hamsho (11), Caveman Lee (1), Obelmejías again (5), Tony Sibson (6), Wilford Scypion (4), Roberto Durán, Argentine Juan Domingo “Martillo” Roldán -who knocked him down in the opening round, the first and only knockdown of the champion, winner by KO in the 10th-, Hamsho again (3), Thomas Hearns (3) and John Mugabi (11), all before the limit with the exception of Durán, until his final performance against Leonard that took him definitely away from the ropes.

THAT UNFORGETTABLE FIRST ROUND

A review of “Marvelous” Hagler’s boxing career would be incomplete unless we mention that never forgotten first round against Hearns on April 15, 1985, when they faced each other outdoors at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.

There is unanimous opinion that those three minutes were the best first round in the long history of boxing today. They were 180 seconds loaded with explosive and thrilling drama, with the two fighters in a brutal and wild relentless attack of punches, as if both were risking their lives. There was not a single moment of rest, of calm, of peace in those three minutes that never seemed to end. With a nasty wound on his forehead, Hagler was checked by the doctor at the end of the round. “I thought,” he said afterwards, “that there was a trick against me, that they wanted to harm me. I didn’t even know or feel the wound on my forehead and yet they wanted to stop it.”

After an equally violent second round, Hearns and Hagler again deployed a ferocious offensive (the fight was well known as The War) that ended with the former collapsed on the canvas, almost dead, while a bloodied Hagler spun wildly in the ring in jubilant celebration. It was 7 minutes and 52 seconds of a memorable encounter that was forever sown in the history of the sport.

AN UNEXPECTED DEATH

The unexpected death of this legend of the ring was announced on the 13th by his wife Kay to the media, without further details. Almost immediately after the announcement, rumors were unleashed about a death caused by the effects of a Covid vaccine which generated a heated debate between anti-vaccine and vaccine advocates, theories that his wife Kay dismissed and asked not to speculate about.

Meanwhile, the sports world continues to be shocked by the sudden disappearance of this icon of ecumenical pugilism, the mythical Marvin “Marvelous” Hagler, who was, as those who knew him well have proclaimed, a kind and noble human being, besides being in the ring a wonderful gladiator with gloved hands.


Gilberto Jesus Mendoza will be a speaker at the "Boxing Regulation" conference



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