SI Vault
William Nack
October 18, 1982
When middleweight champ Marvin Hagler added Marvelous to his name, he wasn't on an ego trip, only confirming what hard work has wrought
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October 18, 1982

What's In A Name?

When middleweight champ Marvin Hagler added Marvelous to his name, he wasn't on an ego trip, only confirming what hard work has wrought

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In culture shock, Hagler didn't adjust so readily. "I felt out of place, going from an all-black society to a mixed society," he says. "The only place I'd run across whites was in stores. They were always behind the counter, taking the cash. School principals. Police. The post office. I really didn't trust them. If they were nice, I thought, 'What do they want from me?' I had to learn for myself how people really were. When I found out all white people weren't bad, I started to relax around them. It took me a long time. Goody and Pat had a lot to do with that."

Guareno (Goody) and Pascuale (Pat) Petronelli, partners in a Brockton construction company, also ran a gym for fighters. Goody had just retired from the U.S. Navy, in which he had served 20 years in the medical corps and had been a boxing coach. He and Pat had fought as amateurs around Brockton and had known Marciano well; in fact, Rocky had intended to join them as a partner in the Brockton gym when the former heavyweight champ was killed in an airplane crash in 1969.

As the Petronellis worked with fighters in that gym they noticed Marvin, then 15, hanging around, watching. Finally, Goody approached him. "Hey, kid, you want to learn how to fight?" he asked. "Sure, yeah man," Hagler said.

Their relationship—with Goody as trainer, Pat as manager—has endured to this day. It took time to mature, though. "He had a thing about Whitey," Goody says.

What he also had, and Goody saw it right off, was a passion for boxing, a sense of purpose. "I like to box," Hagler says. "I fell in love with all the fancy moves. And I liked the gloves—the smell of them, the look, the feel, just putting them on, trying to hit someone with them, trying to get out of the way from getting hit, the different colors. The black ones, the red ones. Emile Griffith came out with a nice pair of blue ones. I never seen blue ones before. Then I saw a pair of green ones; I liked those. But I fell in love with the red ones. Red's my favorite color. That's the blood color."

Hagler came to the gym every day. "Diligently," Goody says. "He had that desire. He'd get a little swollen lip or a black eye and he'd come back the next day. Those are the kids you look for. But you don't promise 'em nothin'."

From the start Hagler seemed to learn more quickly than the others. One day Goody mentioned that to him.

"I'm doin' my homework," the boy said. "I go home and practice those punches in the mirror." Just as he had practiced in Newark, shadow boxing as Floyd Patterson, busting holes in doors on a dare. I always wanted to be somebody.

Hagler was an exceptional amateur. He told a stretcher about his age, adding two years so he could start fighting sooner. It wasn't until last spring—when everyone thought he was 30 years old—that the truth came out. When he legally changed his name from Marvin Nathaniel Hagler to Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the date of his birth was certified in court. "I'd appreciate it if you'd write that I am 30," he told a reporter then, seeming a little embarrassed, but by that time the truth was in all the papers.

The Marvelous was bestowed upon him by a Lowell, Mass. journalist after Hagler had fought there as an amateur. He was called a Muhammad Ali look-alike because, in those days, he was a showboat—shuffling, preening, dancing. "Everybody went through that stage," he says. "I went through it to find my own identity. I found that learning how to box was a very serious business, especially when you're trying to make it to the top. I enjoy it like a boy, play it like a man. When I'm not training for a fight, I clown in the gym with the guys. But when I come in that ring, it's for real. There is no clowning around."

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