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Black History NJ: Marvin Hagler

On May 23, 1954, a boxing legend was born in Newark, New Jersey. Marvin Nathaniel Hagler spent the beginning of his life in the Central Ward of Newark, where he experienced the Newark Riots first-hand, which killed 26 people in July of 1967. The riots also caused $11 million in property damage, which included the Hagler family’s dwelling, forcing them to move.

The family relocated to Brockton, Massachusetts, and in 1969, Hagler took up boxing. He practiced at a gym in town owned by two brothers, Pat and Goody Petronelli, Hagler’s future trainers. Hagler won the National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) 165-pound title in 1973, launching his professional career.

Lasting Success

Hagler stayed the number-1 ranked middleweight boxer for the majority of his professional career. He had a hard time finding high-profile opponents to fight against early on in his career, though; fellow boxer Joe Frazier told him it was because he had “three strikes” against him: “You’re black, you’re a southpaw, and you’re good,” Frazier said. But Hagler eventually got his chance when he fought Willie “The Worm” Monroe. After the close match, Monroe won and offered Hagler a rematch; Hagler knocked Monroe out in the 12th round of the rematch, and went on to knock Monroe out in the 2nd round of a third bout.

Hagler’s first title shot came in November 1979, against World Middleweight Champion Vito Antuofermo at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. The fight was another close one, ending in a draw. British boxer Alan Minter then beat Antuofermo and gained the title; afterward, it was Minter who gave Hagler his second chance at the belt. Hagler traveled to Wembley Arena in London, England to face Minter, and after three rounds, Hagler became World Middleweight Champion on September 27, 1980.

Defending the Belt

Marvin HaglerHagler held on to the title for twelve undisputed defenses and continued to dominate the ring throughout his career, until 1987 when he faced Sugar Ray Leonard, who out-boxed Hagler in the match’s twelve rounds (which was changed from fifteen at the request of Leonard). Hagler waited, but never got his rematch; Finally, in 1988, he retired from boxing with a 62-3-2 record, knocking out 52 opponents.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. The New Jersey-native holds nearly-unparalleled achievements, and is one of the most revered boxers to ever step into the ring.

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