The great fighter withdraws with his assets and skills intact.
Then he stays in retirement – defying the urge of sponsors, the public, and the wild power of himself that made him great in the first place.
It’s the most unlikely story in boxing.
And it’s happiest.
And it’s Marvelous Marvin Haglers, forever.
“When I wonder what the hell I’ve been doing boxing all these years, I think of Marvin Hagler,” said Bob Arum on Saturday shortly after being informed of Hagler’s death. “He was the most loyal and dedicated fighter I’ve ever promoted.”
This is from a man in the business aged 55 who couldn’t persuade Hagler to make another comeback. Not for lack of attempts and regardless of the price.
Arum recalls being at Caesars Palace in the late 1980s. Muhammad Ali was there. Tommy Hearns was there. So did Roberto Duran and Ray Leonard, about a year after Leonard won his controversial decision about Hagler.
“Tell Marvin we should do it again, a rematch,” Leonard said to Arum. “We’re going to make a fortune. Tell him.”
Since Leonard’s logic was invulnerable, Arum conveyed the message.
Hagler stared down at the promoter. “Tell Ray to have a life,” he said.
No allusions to the great Leonard, but that’s the hardest part. For fighters, fighting is easy. Not fighting is harder. Living a life happy and healthy and rich enough to enjoy yourself after the fights is the most difficult task of all. And if you judge Hagler’s place in boxing history – the always controversial decision to Leonard, the less ambiguous decision on Duran, the interruptions of Alan Minter, Vito Antuofermo, Hearns (watch on ESPN +) and John Mugabi – that should be considered his greatest victory.
The greatest himself couldn’t do it. I remember the first time I saw Ali in person and signed Macy’s Haberdashery. Someone had to wipe the drool from his mouth. It was a terrible thing to see, but also in the middle of it longer celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ali-Frazierand the memory of Ali’s majesty, it is worth remembering.
Hagler did not come back after the Leonard fight.
He owed nothing to the IRS.
I didn’t feel the need to sell myself in an “exhibition”.
He didn’t have to feed his ego or appease his regrets. Other people might argue about the importance of his career, or the Leonard fight itself. Hagler knew what he was doing. He spoke his piece in the ring in its prime, as it should be. And when he was done, he was done.
Actually, he wanted to finish earlier. “He wanted to retire after Hearns,” said Arum, referring to their three-round standard for concussive title fights. “But it was big business in the casinos. It was the biggest weekend ever at Caesars Palace.”
Arum recalls that the casino raised their bid to “a few million” when a few million meant something. After all, Hagler would fight Mugabi 25-0, all failures, back then when 25-0 actually meant something.
Hagler finally allowed himself to be persuaded with Mugabi, whom he eliminated in the 11th round. Then, 13 months later – at which point he knew his abilities were failing – it was Leonard.
“I remember driving five hours in the middle of the night with Pat Petronelli, his manager,” recalled Arum. “When we finally get to his New Hampshire house, Pat tells me to wait in the car. He goes to meet Marvin. They talk in that little picnic area by the side of the house. It goes on and on and on and on Finally I see Marvin hit his fists on the table, I think, “This is not going so well.” Then Pat went back to the car.
“What was The all about? “asked Arum
“You won’t believe that,” said Petronelli, who, along with his brother Goody, Hagler’s coach, offered to cut fees by 50 percent to make the fight possible.
“What did he say?” asked Arum.
“He said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to fight that bastard, but if I do you better take all of your fee.'”
Hagler and Leonard fought on April 6, 1987 (watch on ESPN +).
“He never hurt me,” Hagler said afterwards.
“Where is he going now?” asked Leonard. “I’m sad for him. I really do.”
By chance, Hagler got a life, as happily reported in 1990 Rick Telander in Sports Illustrated. He moved to Milan and became an actor, mostly villains in action films. He still had most of his money, most of $ 40 million, his health and memories intact.
“I saw Joe Louis at the door at Caesars Palace, just shaking hands, and that left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said to Telander. “Then I saw Jersey Joe Walcott do the same thing in Atlantic City.”
Earlier this year, Hagler traveled back to the United States to see his daughter graduate from high school. He met Petronelli.
“For the first time in my life I am happy with myself,” he told the manager. “I am in retirement.”
Even if he still turned down immeasurable fortune for a rematch with Leonard.
“I just spoke to Ray on the phone,” said Arum on Saturday night. “He’s really broken.”