Hagler was a natural southpaw who could sting. "He developed a good straight left hand," Goody says. Hagler won 50 of 52 amateur fights, including one in 1973 when, at 158 pounds, he pummeled Terry Dobbs in the National AAU finals to win the 165-pound championship. "He looked like old Henry Armstrong," Goody says. "He had everything that night: heart, desire. Dobbs was a big, tall guy and Marvin stood on him until he dropped. He really showed me something."
It was, in retrospect, a memorable night in Boston, a peek backstage at the actors before the curtain went up. Aaron Pryor, the future junior welterweight champion of the world, won that night. Leon Spinks, the future and now former heavyweight champ, was knocked out in the first round. Howard Davis, currently a lightweight contender, won a decision. And Randy Shields whipped a nifty little comer out of Palmer Park, Md. named Sugar Ray Leonard, who is, of course, now the undisputed welterweight champ.
As everyone knows, Spinks, Davis and Leonard went on to win gold medals at the 1976 Olympics, and their path to professional success was oiled by the celebrity the Olympics conferred upon them. But Hagler knows there was no way to predict that celebrity. Hagler says he has no regrets about turning pro in 1973. "You can't take a trophy and turn it in for a bagful of groceries," he says. "I think I made a good decision. I still got in four years of boxing."
Four long, lean years they were. In fact, by the time Leonard had fought his way to Montreal and won the gold medal—"The quest is over," he said at the time, "the dream is fulfilled"—Marvin Hagler's quest had just begun.
When Hagler turned pro, the late Boston promoter Sam Silverman, who would promote many of Hagler's bouts, had urged Goody to make him a righty so he could push him faster and farther. Petronelli did so, and on May 18, 1973 in Brockton, Hagler knocked out Terry Ryan in two for his first pro action. Then the promoter had a change of heart.
"Turn him back lefthanded," Silverman told Goody. "He's more dynamic that way."
Goody moaned, "Sam, make up your mind." Silverman might have, but Hagler didn't. He switches back and forth as opportunity beckons. He won his second fight, a six-round decision over Sonny Williams, and knocked out Muhammad Smith in two rounds for his third win.
Hagler got his first substantial purse, $1,000, in his fourth fight, against Don Wigfall, a local kid, in Brockton. There was more than money at stake, however, and to know why Hagler wanted Wigfall and what he did to him when he got him is to understand the kind of fuel that propels him.
In 1970, Hagler and Wigfall, a neighborhood tough, had had words at a party. "He had everyone scared of him," Hagler says, "but he didn't scare me. Coming from New Jersey like I did, if I didn't get you one way, I got you another. I hit you in the head with a bottle, or a brick. But I'll gitcha! I remember I just bought a new black leather jacket. We went outside. Before I could get my jacket off, he'd decked me. I rolled under a car; my jaw was swollen. For three years, I never let that die."
So it was that on Oct. 6, 1973, in the Brockton High School gym, Hagler punished Wigfall, decisioning him in eight. "Every time I had the chance to put him out, I let him back into the fight," Hagler says. "I whupped him, right in front of all the people who had seen him deck me that night. It might take me three years, but I'm gonna gitcha!"