As we conclude our Four Kings series, we appreciate anew how each of the four champions — Duran, Leonard, Hearns and Hagler — were multi-faceted talents, but perhaps none was more complete than Marvelous Marvin when he was in his prime. From 1979 to 1985, Hagler was part of any discussion about the best fighter in the game, pound-for-pound. Quick, powerful, ruthless and clever, he was feared and avoided, Ray Leonard publicly stating more than once that he wanted nothing to do with the undisputed middleweight champion who blew away one top contender after another and ruled his division with impunity.
By the time Sugar Ray decided to come out of retirement to challenge Hagler, the competitive fire of the Marvelous One had all but burned itself out. He had been fighting professionally for 14 years, had 62 wins, and had fulfilled all of his career goals. Leonard timed his comeback perfectly. Having collected massive paydays for his fights with Duran and Hearns, not to mention lucrative endorsement contracts with Pizza Hut and Gilette, Hagler was seriously contemplating walking away from the fight game. His zeal for combat had waned and against Sugar Ray it showed.
In any case, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, while universally regarded as an all-time great middleweight champion, is still viewed by some as primarily a two-fisted, power-punching, knockout artist. The shaved head, the menacing scowl, the “Destruct and Destroy” mentality, all helped to create the image of Hagler as a brute of a fighter who relied on ferocity and power above all else. But in fact this view completely short-changes “The Marvelous One” and his extraordinary talent. Here Lee Wylie breaks down for us one of the key elements of Hagler’s skill set: his sophisticated footwork and rare ability to switch stances. Suffice to say, Hagler brought much more to the ring than power, aggression and excellent conditioning. — Robert Portis