The Morning Mile is a daily column written by Culture Editor Ryan Shepard and published at 9 a.m. CT. The views of Ryan Shepard do not necessarily reflect those of Def Pen writers, editors and staff.
Joe Frazier once told Marvin Hagler, “You have three strikes against you. You’re Black, you’re a southpaw and you’re good.” Knowing a thing or two about boxing, Frazier proved to be right. Hagler’s race, style and talent level proved to be obstacles when securing the best fights at first. However, those issues did not fester for too long. In an era in which many seek respect from others, Hagler did not. He demanded it. When others avoided him because of his style and talent, he ventured out to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to fight the best of the best in their home states. When announcers refused to refer to him as “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, he legally changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler. When referees nearly stopped the most important bout of his career against Thomas Hearns due to a massive cut, he finished it one round later. After judges awarded his middleweight title to “Sugar” Ray Leonard, he left the sport completely. Hagler was not a man that needed our respect to validate himself. He knew who he was, what he was capable of and what he brought to each ring he stepped into.
The Hagler story is not limited to a boxing ring or an arena in Las Vegas. It extends from Newark, New Jersey to Italy. He started off his life in the city of Newark, but his family was forced to pick up and move after the race riots that ravaged the city in 1967. Two years later, he found himself in Massachusetts trying something new, boxing. However, it was less about boxing and more about his ability to reinvent himself after a monumental moment in his life took place. Shortly after he was stripped of his middleweight titles in a controversial decision against Leonard, he found himself starring in Italian films. He appeared in Indio, Indio 2 and Virtual Weapon. Nearly a decade into his second act, he remarried and embarked on another journey with a new partner. If anything, the Hagler story is just as much about reinvention as it is about boxing.
When the public thinks about Hagler in the wake of his passing, it is easy to think about his loss to Leonard or even the first round of his fight against Thomas Hearns. However, those moments only begin to scratch the surface of Hagler’s journey. Hagler was a father. Hagler was a movie star. Hagler was a philanthropist. Hagler was many things, but one-dimensional was not one. As we mourn the loss of a boxing great, let’s not stop telling his story in the first round, but tell all the story 15 that he lived.