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If you were a Boston sports fan in the ‘80s, Marvin Hagler was a must-see athlete

Marvin Hagler fought Norberto Rufino Cabrera in this 1979 bout.RALPH GATTI/AFP via Getty Images

For Boston sports fans who grew up in the 1980s, there are certain events you never get tired of watching. Larry Bird’s steal in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals, Dave Henderson’s Game 6 two-run homer in the 1986 ALCS, Doug Flutie’s Miracle in Miami the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1984.

And there’s the other list: The events so disappointing, maybe even devastating, that you only need to see once, like Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, or the Super Bowl XX.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the pride of Brockton who passed away on Saturday at 66, was on both lists. His knockout of Thomas Hearns in the third round of their title fight in 1985 is still regarded as one of the greatest three rounds in boxing history, and belongs on the first list.


But two years later, his controversial loss to Sugar Ray Leonard via split decision in what would ultimately be his last fight would fall into the latter category.

Hagler’s death came 35 years to the week after his last victory, a knockout of John “The Beast” Mugabi.

Hagler’s longtime promoter, Bob Arum, told the Globe in an interview last year that Hagler wanted to retire after the victory over Hearns, but he was talked into coming back to face Mugabi, who had won all 26 of his fights by knockout.

“He wasn’t into it,” said Arum. “That was an unbelievable fight. He won, but his talent was receding.”

Leonard noticed that Hagler was not the same fighter as well, and challenged the champ, who had once again told Arum he was not going to fight again. But the lure of a big payday in a superfight was enough to delay Hagler’s plans.

“When Ray Leonard came out of retirement, and he wanted to fight Marvin, Mike Trainer, Leonard’s manager, he and I weren’t getting along,” said Arum. “He said that Leonard wouldn’t do the fight if I was the promoter, and Hagler said ‘Go tell him, unless Top Rank is promoting the fight, I’m not going to do it.’


Trainer backed down, but insisted on a guaranteed payday for Leonard, so Arum offered $11 million, which Trainer accepted. Hagler fought for a percentage of the total gate, and took home $19 million.

“Ray’s a great guy, but he would never ever forgive me,” Arum said. “I told him it wasn’t my fault, it was your advisor.”

After the loss, Hagler vowed to never step in the ring again, and it was Leonard who would keep seeking a rematch, confronting Arum at a black tie event honoring Muhammad Ali that both fighters attended at Caesar’s Palace the following year.

“Ray says go and talk to him, and tell him we need to do a rematch because there’s a fortune to be made,” said Arum. “So I went over to Marvin, and he looked at me with those cold eyes, and he said, “Go tell him to get a life.”

Hagler never looked back. After briefly serving as an announcer, and appearing in movies in Italy, he kept his public appearances to a minimum.

“He was sensational, a crazy loyal guy. Marvin was a real man. There were no airs about him,” said Arum. “He wasn’t into the media. He later learned he had to do a little communication with the media, but he was his own guy. He was the kind of guy that if you were in a foxhole, you would want him next to you.”


Follow Andrew Mahoney @GlobeMahoney.