It has long been Marvelous Marvin Hagler's lament that he labors in the suburbs of greatness, while fighters of lesser merit bask in metropolitan limelight. So when ring announcer Nuno Cam neglected to introduce Hagler, the world's undisputed middleweight champion, before his bout last Friday in Worcester, Mass. with England's Tony Sibson, Hagler took it in stride. As he'd pointed out a few days before the fight, "If Sibson wins, he'll go home a national hero. If I win, I'll just go home."
Hagler's hometown, Brockton, Mass., is itself a suburb, of Boston, and is about 50 miles from Worcester, but for seven weeks before the fight his home was the Provincetown Inn at the tip of Cape Cod, which afforded him the solitude to train his magnificent body and develop a hatred for his opponent.
"He's got a big mouth," Hagler snarled, venting his self-induced fury at his shy and quiet challenger. "This is the last of the cocky Irishmen [sic]. The British people want nothing more than to take him home a hero. They've led him on, and they've led him to destruction. But he's courageous. That's good. I won't have to look for him."
Sibson, 24, was mystified at the outburst. "I don't know where he got that from, unless he's just using it to psych himself up," Sibson said. "All I've said was that I'm excited about fighting him because I think he's the best middleweight, probably since Sugar Ray Robinson. And I say that even though Carlos Monzon was my boyhood idol."
When the fight was stopped at 2:40 of the sixth, after Hagler had pummeled Sibson to the deck twice in the round, Hagler, in an interview with HBO's Larry Merchant, suggested that he was the greatest middleweight of all time.
"Others would have to sit in judgment on that," Merchant said.
"Well, at least the greatest since Monzon," Hagler said, backing off a bit farther than necessary.
Since winning the championship from Britain's Alan Minter on Sept. 27, 1980, Hagler has, in just six defenses, stormed his way past the best of his contemporaries in a dismally weak division. It's hard for a man asking to be compared with the likes of Robinson and Mickey Walker and Harry Greb to offer opponents like Mustafa Hamsho and Fulgencio Obelmejias as a yardstick by which to measure his talents. Not that Hagler can be faulted for ruling a division of mediocrities. It's the same problem WBC heavyweight champion Larry Holmes is faced with. But at least Hagler has world-caliber challengers on the horizon: Thomas Hearns, the WBC super-welterweight champ, and the man Hearns beat for that crown, Wilfred Benitez.
Certainly Hagler already can be rated among the 10 best middleweight champions ever, and he's improving with every fight. His punching power rates with the alltime best, and he's a textbook boxer: He never drops his guard and never loses his head, and he's always in position to punch. And he has never been knocked out; indeed, it's doubtful that any middleweight in history could have KO'd him, except possibly Stanley Ketchel or Bob Fitzsimmons.
But no matter how great the fighter, there is always a way to beat him. Against Hagler, perhaps there are two: the busy and skilled infighting of, say, a Jake LaMotta or a Dick Tiger, or the moving and jabbing of a Robinson. A truly mobile fighter, one with skill, would give Hagler all he could handle.