I never saw Ray Robinson fight. But I saw Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was the epitome of a fighting man.
While I respect and honour the legend of Robinson, to my mind Hagler was arguably the greatest middleweight of them all, and maybe the best fighter of all time.
He was a freak of nature, standing 5ft 9.5ins with a 6ft 3ins reach. Whether at long range, or in the pocket, he was a master.
Hagler was the consummate pro and could deal with any style. He trained up in Long Island in a two star-hotel that would shut down during the winter.
When I close my eyes I see him running through the wind and rain along that beach, and pounding the heavy bag for all he was worth.
Because he was so good he did not get his chance until 1979 and even then he was robbed with a draw against Vito Antuofermo.
A year later he came to Wembley and tore the middleweight crown from Alan Minter amid disgraceful scenes at the final bell.
He reigned undefeated for seven years, defending in some amazing fights with the likes of Mustafa Hamsho, Tony Sibson and Juan Domingo Roldan.
In April 1985, just two months before my own career-defining night, Hagler gave us the greatest nine minutes in boxing history against Tommy Hearns.
Hearns had lost to Ray Leonard at welterweight, won a world title at light middle and met Hagler at middleweight thinking he was ripe for the taking.
It was bombs away from the first bell, like two steers going at each other. Speed, accuracy, power, the fight had everything. Caesars Palace was all frenzy.
At the end of the first Hagler seemed hurt. I had never seen him in trouble before, but incredibly he rallied towards the bell.
The second round was equally relentless. Then in round three Hagler broke him with a sweeping right hook. Thereafter he was all over Hearns until the ref stepped in a minute and 52 seconds into the round.
Hagler would defend his title an 11th time against John ‘the beast’ Mugabi before meeting Ray Leonard in 1987.
Leonard was brilliant. Hagler was better, clearly won the fight, but didn’t get it. It was a robbery too far. He was so upset he never fought again.
I was proud to call him a friend. He and his second wife Kay and Sandra and I shared a number of holidays together and met up at the Laureus Awards every year.
He was a great character, and a generous man. I thought he’d live for ever. Now he’s gone. Just like that.
- Follow Barry on Twitter at @ClonesCyclone @McGuigans_Gym @CyclonePromo
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