A Hagler-Leonard Story
By: Marley Malenfant
In my old man’s gym hangs a framed picture of Marvin “Marvelous” Hagler with the black and blue trunks, the trunks he wore in the fight against Sugar Ray Leonard 30 years ago.
Anytime I visit his gym and look at that picture, I think of my Pops sucking his teeth and said “that decision was bullshit. Hagler won that fight.”
The result of the fight is often discussed between my parents. Pops was ride-or-die with Hagler and my mom loved her some “Sugar” Ray Leonard, so they could never come to an agreement on who won the fight.
My Pops is from Rhode Island and always felt like Hagler was kin. My mother watched Leonard’s fights on TV before cable television monopolized the sport.
“The Green Hill boxing gym” opened in 2001. My pops called this part of the room the “wall of fame.” On the right is a framed picture of “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and “Sugar” Ray Leonard.
My parents met in the Army and boxing is likely what drew them together. While serving in the military, my old man was an amateur boxer.
Hagler, also a New Englander by way of Brockton, Massachusetts had this no nonsense image about him. In the build up to the Leonard fight, he wore a hat at a news conference with the word “WAR” embolden above the brim.
I think that’s what my old man liked about Hagler the most. Hagler disregarded his opponents.
New York Times columnist Phil Berger appropriately called him “Boxing’s Angry Man.” While I wouldn’t call my pops angry, I’d say he always approached boxing and training his students in a no bullshit way. My old man is like Julius (played by Terry Crews), the character that represented Chris Rock’s fictional father in the TV show “Everybody Hates Chris.”
Like Hagler, my pops grew up poor.
My old man saw Hagler as someone who made it out. More so than the power, skills and savagery that Hagler possessed, was the every-man feel that my pops and other fans admired.
Hagler came in each fight like therew was a repressed memory of a bully, and that bully did something awful to Hagler in his childhood and now he’s looking to take it out on whatever man is in front of him.
This is the behavior I sense from him but I had to watch Hagler-Leonard for myself again, by myself.
Hagler’s approach to most of of his fights was to remain mean. From the training camps and promotions, all the way through fight night, Hagler’s demeanor was bully-like. It was cartoonish, like the X-Men’s Wolverine or Dragon Ball Z’s Vegeta.
Hagler once called his Cape Cod training camp “jail.”
Columnist Michael Katz wrote about how Hagler skipped seeing his wife and new-born baby daughter because it would make him too soft before his fight with William “Caveman” Lee.
“Nah,” replied Hagler. “I don’t want to kiss no babies. I gotta be mean.”
Anger can be a valuable psychological weapon in the ring but in this fight against Leonard, it held him back. Hagler started the fight in a conventional stance even though it was known that Leonard struggled with southpaws.
Hagler chased him all fight long and Sugar Ray’s clinch’s frustrated Hagler. He made Hagler badly miss what seemed like easy set ups for power punches, and he outworked Hagler by using his legs and speed and working the ring.
While Hagler muscled his way through Leonard’s flurries, Sugar Ray never panicked. His legs were tired but still battled and got off flurries and quick combinations on the stoic Hagler.
I scored the fight 115-114 for Leonard.
Sorry pops, but you can’t win this one. Mom was right.
She usually is.