Happy Birthday to the Marvelous one, Mr. Marvin Hagler. It's hard to believe that this legendary fighter from my youth is now 62 years old. Thinking back over all the time that's passed, I'm a bit surprised - though pleasantly so - that the man is considered such an icon today.
For the longest time I stated he beat Ray Leonard in their famous 1987 bout, but I'm going to probably have to look at it again now that it's been a while to make a fair re-assessment. Still, the conclusion of that fight - where the insanely popular Leonard won a controversial split decision over the grizzled Hagler - should arguably have been enough to confine Hagler to permanent Sonny Liston status. You know, the man forever known as a tough guy who was out-slicked by an icon.
That hasn't been the case, though. Indeed, Hagler has earned icon status himself over the ensuing decades. I think this is at least partially due to the fact that he never fought Leonard a second time. For Hagler was convinced judges would never give him a fair shake, and - knowing boxing - whose to say he wasn't right?
What Hagler's decision not to fight Leonard twice ultimately meant, however, was that their first fight would always be clouded in controversy, that there would never be a universal belief that Leonard really won their fight. In a sense, Hagler gave himself the role of Jack Dempsey to Leonard's Gene Tunney. Sure, Leonard and Tunney won, but millions have remained unconvinced of the validity of their victories.
Even more importantly, though, Hagler - like Leonard - now represents the kind of fighter who is willing to challenge himself, who isn't afraid to take a loss or even get knocked out. That's impressive stuff in this age of safe bets and avoidance. Here's hoping the memory of Hagler and his sportsmanlike disposition continues to live on...marvelously, of course.