Hagler: 'I won that fight'

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

Two decades later, the mere mention of the name still puts a bit of that old fire back into Marvelous Marvin Hagler's belly.

For a few minutes, then, the shaven-skulled warrior who ruled the middleweight division in the 1980s is back. The proud fighter who, to this day, remains convinced as ever that he was ripped off by the judges in what would turn out to be his final bout.

"They can take away the belt, but they can't take away what I know, and I know that I won that fight," Hagler said yesterday, in the quiet of the Brookstreet Hotel, when asked about that April night in 1987 when judges awarded Sugar Ray Leonard a controversial split-decision win.

Hagler tried fruitlessly to get Leonard back into the ring for a rematch. But when it became apparent Leonard "was waiting for me to grow old," Hagler left the sport for good in frustration. The man who'd spent much of his career battling the politics of boxing, simply had enough.

"I'd been a victim of that for a long time," said Hagler, who'll be the star guest at tonight's Ringside For Youth charity event at the Aberdeen Pavilion. "I just decided to say 'Ciao, I'm finished.' "

Hagler insists he hasn't had a moment's regret since. And the man sitting across the table, now 53, clearly seems like a man at peace with himself. Life is good these days for Hagler, who's resided in Milan for much of the past 18 years, though he still keeps a home near Brockton, Mass., where he was raised.

Since retiring, Hagler has moved into the film industry in a big way, with "action-adventure movies" his specialty over in Italy. He has come to love the country's famous cuisine, and the people there have warmed up to him, often greeting him with the word 'Marvelous' in their native tongue.

NOW AN ACTOR

Hagler aspires to take his acting talents to Hollywood someday, perhaps even in a flick with Sylvester Stallone.

"But no Rocky VII," he says with a grin.

He has also lent his expertise to BBC boxing telecasts, and will do the same for ESPN's Friday Night Fights series beginning in July. Hagler also welcomes the opportunity to be a part of an event like tonight's, which has raised $1 million for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa in the past 12 years.

"I feel very lucky and fortunate, so basically I try to give something back to the youth," said Hagler. "I believe in two things: Sports and education. I believe that through sports, we can help a lot of people. That's what I use, like a tool."

But 20 years ago, his tools were the powerful arms that relentlessly pounded on foes. He relished the famous brawls he had with John "The Beast" Mugabi and the legendary Roberto Duran.

Nothing, however, could ever top the memory of the savage slugfest between Hagler and Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns. That April 15, 1985 bout, simply known as The War, is still considered one of boxing's most brutal, thrilling fights ever. Hagler finally floored Hearns for good in the third round of that rumble for the ages.

Hagler still hears about it from fans everywhere.

"I get chills every time I see it," said Hagler, whose chin was built to take the heaviest of punches. "I think it was the highlight of my career.

"What I liked about Mugabi and Hearns and Roberto Duran is these guys came to fight and they came to take away my title. And I showed that I was the better man," he said. "The fight with Leonard ... you've got to go chase him and he runs around like a rabbit. I couldn't see how they gave him the opportunity to say he won. He knows, too, that he didn't win the fight."

Hagler considers the politics and the big money that are a part of boxing today, and agrees they've combined to poison the sport. He knows fans who haven't watched a fight since his heyday in the 1980s. They simply can't keep up with the multiple champions in each division.

"It cheats the public," he said. "All the fans want to be familiar with the real champion. Some people don't even know any of them now. They still think Mike Tyson is the champion."

UFC WON'T KILL BOXING

Hagler sneers at the thought that ultimate fighting will push boxing onto its deathbed.

"I don't see any skill in (UFC) or art ... anybody can do that kind of fighting off the street," he said.

"Boxing will never die. It will come back some day, some year. We'll find another superstar."

But Marvelous? There's still only one of those.


Photos