"Some day you know you're going to lose, but what I wanted to do was retire as the undisputed middleweight champion of the world. With all my belts. They didn't beat me. They took them from me. They took. That's what they did. They took. So that's the bitterness. I think time will help. That's all I'm asking. That's all I'm looking for. That's all I want, peace and time."
—MARVELOUS MARVIN HAGLER
He swerved into the parking lot of the small shopping center off Washington Street in Hanover, Mass., in a car that was far less a conveyance than a motorized advertisement for himself. A 1987 420 SEL Mercedes with a spit-shined black-and-silver exterior and miniature windshield wipers on the headlights, it bore license plates personally issued by a former governor of Massachusetts: WORLD MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMP/MMH.
If the plates were obsolete, the fighter did not appear to be as he swept through the front door of his store—Marvelous Marvin Hagler's Sportswear and Novelty Shop—a pair of designer shades perched on his bald head and a grin across his face. Dropping into a director's chair in the back of the shop, he patted a knee.
"Feel excellent," Hagler said. "Back to work! Staying busy. Trying to stay in touch with this here store. We have a bunch of movie things we're looking at. I'm running, playing volleyball and swimming. I'm only six pounds over—166! I feel a lot better about myself. As far as the fight game is concerned, I'm gonna sit back and watch and see what happens now. I want to let the world know I'm O.K."
Thus Hagler surfaced last week, appearing fit, speaking volubly and seeming quite like the Hagler of old, reports to the contrary notwithstanding, and he wanted the world to know that he was not 1) a wife-abuser, 2) a cocaine addict with an alcohol dependency or 3) a crazy recluse who, out of grief and pain over having lost a prizefight, had dived into the deep end of life's pool, never to be heard from again. Not that the above haven't been well reported by the media.
On April 6, in a controversial split decision, Hagler lost his middleweight championship to Sugar Ray Leonard, and with it all he had ever sought in his professional life. Hagler had always been the consummate pro—disciplined, almost monomaniacal, in the way he pursued the title. Finally, after eight years and 53 professional fights, he won the unified WBC-WBA crown from Alan Minter on Sept. 27, 1980, and then over the next 6� years he successfully defended it 12 times against all comers. Along the way he picked up the IBF portion of the championship.
Of his title defenses, 11 ended by knockout; only a shifty, clever Roberto Duran took Hagler 15 rounds. And then came Sugar Ray. Leonard fought him as Duran had fought him, showing Hagler angles and lateral movement that confused him and left him relatively ineffective. And, ultimately, shorn of the title that meant everything to him.
Hagler can still taste the bile in his mouth. "It was unfair," he says. "You can't take a champion's title away like that. Leonard didn't beat me. I can't understand the judging. There are millions of people watching and seeing what is happening, and they can do this right in front of television. I think it's really bad.
"I felt I fought a very good fight. I trained for three months. I sacrificed like hell for that fight. I think what happened to me is this: When I don't knock a guy out and he's left standing, everyone thinks, 'The guy did great! He survived.' That's what Leonard did. He didn't come out there to try to win the title. Leonard came out there to look pretty, and just to show he wasn't scared, and to get in the ring with me. But, hey, he didn't come out to try to knock me out. He knew he couldn't do it."
Upon being reminded that Leonard had said he was there to win by points, not by a knockout, Hagler said, "No! Leonard didn't win points. Leonard went in there to show the world he wasn't afraid of me. He ran!" That movement, of course, frustrated Hagler, who chased Leonard while urging him to fight. "Come on, little bitch!" he had called to Leonard.