FANTASY FIGHTS: Marvin Halger v Roy Jones Jr

by Cain Bradley

Marvin Hagler was born in Newark in 1954. At the age of 13, following riots in Newark, his family moved to Brockton, Massachusetts. It was there he would begin boxing at the age of 15. After only four years as an amateur boxer he became the National AAU champion. His record according to Sports Illustrated would end at 52-2.

His first coaches Pat and Goody Petronelli would become his trainers and managers throughout his entire career. This was one of numerous things that Hagler would keep the same throughout his professional career. Unlike many of his peers, he would have no entourage and even carried his own bags. He spent his time in Massachusetts and trained in army boots as he described running shoes for “sissies.”

Hagler would have two main motivators throughout his career. The first was the poverty he was born into. Marvin fought in order to make his way into prosperity. It was the reason he turned professional when he did and can be seen as a motivator throughout his career.

As well as this, Hagler always felt he was given a lack of respect throughout his career. He reportedly remained angry at a Sugar Ray Leonard who earned $40,000 for his debut compared to the $40 that Hagler received. This feeling was amplified throughout his career as Hagler saw himself on the wrong end of disputed decisions and was avoided at all costs by numerous fighters.

He was told as a young boxer by Joe Frazier that he had three strikes against him; he was black, he was a southpaw, and he was good. He also felt this lack of respect when he was not referred to as “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. This irked him so much he had the name legally changed. Marvin would always resent this lack of respect and the feeling he was never truly given the credit he deserved managed to push him onto greater things. 

His first two years would see Hagler take on 23 bouts. In his 15th he would hand the first loss to Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales. The second bout between the pair would be a draw. After his 25th fight he would head to Philadelphia to fight the hometown boy Bobby Watts. He would lose a disputed decision and the promoter J. Russell Peltz would apologize to the Hagler team.

Two months later after defeating Matt Donovan he would return to Philadelphia and lose to Willie Monroe on two week’s notice. This would be avenged with two stoppage defeats, the first in 12 rounds and then in the 2nd round. After 20 consecutive wins Hagler would get his world title shot against the Vito Antuofermo. Hagler would outbox the Italian brawler with the referee Mills Lane congratulating him and telling him to face the cameras until they announced him the winner.

Unfortunately for Marvin Hagler, it would result in a draw which saw Antuofermo retain the title. He would get another shot, after three more wins including one over Bobby Watts. The shot would come against Alan Minter, who Hagler would dominate in three rounds. He would go on to defend this title 12 times including a win over Antuofermo. He would also earn his first $1million purse defeating southpaw Mustafa Hamsho in 11. Hagler defeated Panamanian Roberto Duran in a hard-fought decision. He would stop his next four opponents, Juan Roldon in 10, Mustafa Hamsho in three, Thomas Hearns in three, and John Mugabi in 11. The Hearns fight is generally known as “The War,” lasting eight minutes and generally described as one of the greatest fights of all time. His final fight would be against a returning Sugar Ray Leonard where he lost another split decision. Hagler would never return to the ring. His final record would stand at 62-3-2 with 52 KOs. 

Hagler was a right-handed southpaw which meant he had a sledgehammer of a jab. He could also switch to orthodox comfortably, a tactic he employed against Sugar Ray Leonard. Despite not being a tall fighter at 5’9 he had long arms with an incredible reach of 75 inches. He was commonly described as a boxer-puncher who really had it all.

He could counter-punch, wear his opponents down with big combos and brawl with anyone. Leonard commented after the first Hamsho fight that he never realized Hagler could box too. He could box at distance or use feints to lure his opponent into making mistakes. His lateral movement, especially against an orthodox boxer where his style would move him away from the powerful right hand, was brilliant. He had one of the best chins in boxing history, being knocked down only once. This would come against Juan Roldon and replays would show it to not be a punch but a slip. The end of his career would see Hagler move from a slick boxer-puncher into more of a flat-footed stalker with heavy hands. It could also be argued he lacked the speed of a Sugar Ray Leonard or a Tommy Hearns and was too machined in the ring rather than being spontaneous. 

Roy Jones never suffered the lack of acceptance that made Hagler bitter throughout his career. He was born in January 1969 and raised in Florida. He was raised for boxing success, taught by his father, Roy Sr.

His father was tough on young Roy and their relationship was forever tainted by this. Roy Sr. would drop to his knees and box his young son as well as using pipe on his thighs if he got out of line in a workout. Senior described this as training but Roy Jr. never forgot the torment and when his Dad shot Roy’s beloved pit bull the relationship broke down, with neither speaking to the other for years.

He was a decorated amateur and a two time Golden Gloves winner, the first win coming at the age of 17. At the 1988 Olympics he competed at the tender age of 19. He would shine throughout the tournament, but in the final would come up against Park Si-Hun the hometown fighter. He would outland Park by over 50 and out throw him by over 100. Despite this he lost the decision 3-2. One judge reportedly said afterwards he was so sure Jones had won he gave Park his scorecard so to not embarrass the home nation. Despite this loss Jones would win the Val Barker trophy. His final amateur record was 121-13.

Despite the incredible start to his career Jones was promoted by his Dad in his early fights. He missed out on the chance to be on network TV and earn the huge sums of money that someone like Sugar Ray Leonard did early in his career. Despite this, Jones would start his career flawlessly with 15 stoppages.