Marvin Hagler’s Training Routine & Monster Mindset

How Marvin Hagler trained

The majority of fighters train very hard, but when I think of someone who gives it his all even before he steps in the ring. I can’t help but think of Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

Throughout his whole career, Hagler felt he had to prove something against the boxing world. Against those that never gave him a chance or an opportunity. 

By the time it came to fight night, The Monster inside Hagler would be released and he would give it his absolute all to win. No matter the cost. 

But just like with any great champion it was Hagler’s rigorous training and brute mentality that made him one greatest middleweights we have ever seen. 

In this blog, I’m going to go over the training methods and psychology of what made Marvin Hagler so Marvelous. 

You can watch my video version or continue reading below.

Hagler’s Background and Amateur Years

But first up it’s important to go back to Hagler’s younger years and how the trauma he faced, helped push him to greatness

When a quiet teen from Newark arrived in Brockton Massachusettes. He was someone who grew up around poverty, chaos, and riots in his hometown. Hagler at first was very timid around his new neighborhood particularly trusting those who were white, as he wasn’t used to being around mixed society in his upbringing. 

Hagler would eventually find and go to the boxing gym each day in Brockton. Observing the activity in the boxing gym where the Petronelli brothers Goody and Pat ran a boxing club. They had both been amateurs and close friends with Brockton’s finest, the undefeated Heavyweight world champion Rocky Marciano. Interestingly they were meant to partner up with him in the gym before his sudden death. 

Meeting The Petronellis’

Marvelous Marvin Hagler with trainers, Pat and Goody Petronelli | How Hagler trained
Marvelous Marvin Hagler with trainers, Pat and Goody Petronelli. Brockton, MA 1982
(Photo: Tony Triolo /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Goody who was the recognized trainer of the two brothers noticed a young Hagler diligently observing the training and the fighter’s every move from the sidelines. 

After a while, Goody noticed the young Hagler taking in the training. It wasn’t until Goody eventually took his chance to convince him to get involved. 

From here Hagler’s passion for boxing would begin as he became a regular face at the gym tuning up each day. All with the intention of learning as much as possible about the sweet science.

As a young Hagler committed himself, his trust in the Petronellis began to grow, with Goody saying the following:

“After a while, I told Marvin how pleased I was with his development. His eyes lit up with delight. He confessed that when he went home, he continued to practice his moves over and over again in a big mirror.”

Goody Petronelli

It just shows you how a few words of encouragement can push someone to work harder and go for their dreams.

The trust grew further with Petronellis as they set him out on his amateur career. While he was also given a laboring job with the brothers which included digging ditches, mixing cement, cutting trees, and other hard laboring jobs. 

This all no doubt helped build up his incredible strength, power, stamina, and resilience from a young age. I always find any working-class man that works in the trades and boxes is always going to be tough. 

In this crucial amateur period is where Hagler would build up his impressive skill set and the development of switch-hitting and his adoptive southpaw stance despite being naturally orthodox. Before he would finally enter the pro game!

Training Schedule

Marvin Hagler jumping rope | how hagler trained
‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler using a skipping rope during a public training session in Palm Springs, California, circa 1987. (Photo by Chris Smith/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Before getting into the specific training areas of the things Hagler works on. I wanted to share his actual training routine under the Petronelli’s. 

Now I’ve gotten the information from archive articles, fight documentaries, and his biography and this is pretty much a brief outline of a typical training camp day when he was Princetown. 

It is also important to remember Hagler was a full-time professional in camp doing these routines. So you won’t be able to implement all this within your own routine. But you can definitely take some ideas into your own plan. 

7am 6 mile run + steep hills + running backwards
9am Breakfast 
10am – 6pmRest – watch tv, read, sleep, late lunch
6pm – 8pm Boxing Training + Strength Conditioning
9pm Dinner and, watch film and sleep

Now when you actually look at this typical day, it’s nothing that would blow your mind. It is very simple and old-school in nature. And just shows you that you don’t have to overcomplicate your own training. But you do however need to show complete dedication. 

But let’s get into the specific details of his training now below. 


Hagler running in cape cod province town | How Hagler trained
Hagler running in the winter at Cape Cod

So as just mentioned Hagler would go for a morning run usually for around 6 miles. He famously would also go running wearing combat boots. Claiming only softies would wear running shoes for their roadwork. Which no doubt added to his mental toughness. He said after his career. 

“It’s totally different now. Fighters are always trying to find the easy way of doing things but there is no easy way…It’s got to be from the old school, the hard way.”

Marvelous Marvin Hagler

Not only that, for many of Hagler’s training camps he would run in the cold winter months at Cape Cod, Provincetown next to the Atlantic ocean. He would run through desolate bike trails and quite often on the beaches next to the sea. 

While it was also said he would at least run one mile going backward too. Interestingly in studies, it has been said that reverse running can make your legs stronger as it’s activating muscles you don’t work on. 

Jump rope 

Another cardio-based workout like all boxers use was jump rope. Which would usually be for a 3-minute round and mainly as part of the warm-up or warm-down during his afternoon boxing training. 

(Find out more about how to jump rope like a boxer here or why running is important for boxers)

Boxing Training 

Now in terms of boxing training, Hagler would keep it very simple and his whole evening workout acted as a big circuit. But the main rule was to enact the timings in a boxing fight. This is of course three minutes of work and one minute rest for everything.

Obviously, this would help Hagler be able to mimic the intensity of the fight he was preparing for. But for each activity, it would be 3-5 rounds of each type of training. 

In terms of what Hagler would do it includes: 

Shadow Boxing

You can tell just by watching footage of him, he is visualizing. As if someone in front of him while practicing things like his combinations, switching stances, working on the back foot, and also making sure he would shadowbox in front of the mirror to keep himself in check. 

Heavy Bag 

Hagler would also use the heavy bag too but there is very little footage or photography of him using this. 

Speed bag 

The Speed bag was also another key part of his training and would mainly help with his shoulder conditioning, timing, and rhythm. 

Pad work

The Brockton fighter would also work with Goody Pertonelli on the pads working on various combinations with his trusted trainer. Once again there isn’t too much footage, but this no doubt helped Hagler to work specific combinations and tactics for the upcoming fights. 


Finally, it was sparring for Hagler which of course was the key component in his development and preparation for any fight. And as you would expect Marvelous would ‘Train as you fight, fight as you train‘. 

Goody would also make sure to bring sparring partners for Hagler that would be similar to the opponent he would also be facing. For example in their preparation for Tommy Hearns, they brought in tall, rangy fighters like the Hit Man including Bobby Watts and Jerry Holly. 

Hagler was also known to bust up a lot of his sparring partners due to the intensity he trained at too. Quite often sending a lot of them home on the first day.

Goody would also aim to make it more challenging by making him wear extra heavy gloves and sometimes make him do longer rounds.  

Strength And Conditioning 

Marvin Hagler strength and conditioning

Now for strengthening and conditioning-related exercises, it was all really part of his boxing training circuit in the evenings. And from my research, Goody didn’t particularly didn’t believe in traditional weight training. He felt that it would compromise speed and flexibility. He much preferred Calisthenics exercises as he saw it was a better way for boxers to build up strength and endurance without damaging their speed.

This included exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, leg lifts, and crunches. But a big focus was three rounds of different variations of sit-ups to really strengthen the midsection. Which is so crucial to enhance the power of the punch and withstand punches. 

Training In isolation

Now another big part I want to talk about was the fact Hagler felt he had to isolate himself in training camp. Quite often in the middle of winter at the end of Cape Cod in Provincetown. Which pretty much is the end road. But he was obviously inspired by fellow past greats who would do similar to himself training camps. 

“You’re supposed to seclude yourself, all the great champions did the same. Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali up on his mountain at Deer Lake. They put themselves in jail. I put myself in jail.”

Marvelous Marvin Hagler on isolating himself for training camp

It was quite often said he wouldn’t really socialize because he was so focussed on the task at hand. Hagler would rather isolate himself in his room watching tapes of himself or studying upcoming opponents.

He could be seen frequently sitting alone on his balcony staring out at the Cape water for long periods of time. Marvin no doubt was visualizing what he would do to his opponent come fight night. He would even tell his family before going there not to contact him for the full 6-week camp. 

Provincetown created mental toughness

Hagler training at cape cod in the winter

It’s interesting, you see a lot of fighters take themselves away from their comfortable setting at home to train and get away from distractions. But a lot of them go to warmer climates instead or cities where their entourage can’t distract them. 

Hagler, on the other hand, was different, he saw Provincetown as a place that forced him to train and challenge himself mentally. He even said the famous quote 

“It’s tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5 am when you’re sleeping in silk pyjamas.”

Marvelous Marvin Hagler on challenges of training after success

But one thing you need to take note of about Hagler is that he knew it was tough, not many are willing to keep doing that type of training camp over the years. As he knew it gave him an advantage over the opponents that trained in majestic locations. He knew when it got tough his opponent would eventually go soft. 

Provincetown as well probably also acted more as a mental test than a physical one for the Marvelous one. 

Hagler Psychology 

Marvin Hagler training | psychology of the monster inside him

Now from everything I’ve gone over you can probably tell how dedicated and seriously Hagler took boxing and his preparation. But a big part of his determination I believe was his alter ego, which he often referred to as a Monster inside him.  

In Hagler’s early amateur days as a young man, he wanted to build up a ring persona, like Muhammad Ali at first. But he would get his eventual name ‘Marvelous’ after a local reporter commented on his exciting style. But as much as Hagler was a gentleman and had a marvelous style of fighting

It was more about unleashing the ‘Monster’ he kept deep inside him. In 1981 he famously said the following:

“There’s a monster that comes out of me in the ring. I think it goes back to the days when I had nothing. It’s hunger. I think that’s what the monster is, and it’s still there”

Marvelous Marvin Hagler

Unleashing the Monster

Brooke Evans who owned the hotel Hagler stayed at during his time in Provincetown went on a run with Hagler one morning struggling to keep up. However as Hagler was up ahead of him all he could hear was Marvin grunting ‘I’m going kill him, They aren’t going to stop me, I’ll kill them all!

It was in these moments Hagler would feed that Monster inside him, to store up the anger so he could take it out on his opponents. It was almost as if he was going to War! 

I think as well he felt much injustice from the lack of respect he felt he didn’t get compared to the other 3 kings who were receiving much bigger paydays than him. He couldn’t understand how he wasn’t earning as much, but I also feel this would feed that monster to take out his opponent. It’s no surprise when you consider he KO’d 78% of opponents in. 

Personally, I do believe having an alter ego can help increase performance and focus. And we have seen this with likes in other sports with Kobe Bryant and (The Black Mamba) mentality.

Some people need something to fuel their performance and I believe Hagler used the alter ego of the monster to fuel his killer instinct in the ring. But also so he could handle the tough environment he put himself in during his isolated camp so he only fuels the fire even more.

The Petronelli Brothers

The last point I want to touch on was the Petronelli brothers, who obviously had a big impact in training and guiding Hagler throughout his whole career. When Hagler first encounters them he had no trust in them. 

But slowly but surely they gained his trust and built him up into one of the greatest middleweights we have ever seen. Goody once referred to the trio saying “nothing is stronger than a triangle

While Pat said:

We came up the hard way. Anything we got we worked for. That’s why there’s a bond between us and the champ, We were never given anything on a silver platter. It was the same with Marvin. Nobody gave him a single break.” 

Pat Petronelli

We often see fighters jump around trainers a lot and I agree sometimes it is required if you wish to get better or learn something new. But there are two words that come to mind when I think of their trust and loyalty. Hagler considered moving on a few times in his career, but his gut instinct always told him to stay with them. 

And you have to give them credit as trainers and managers in making Marvelous Marvin Hagler. 

Final thoughts 

From doing all my research reading books and countless articles. There is no denying to me that Hagler is one of the hardest-working fighters there has ever been. His training regimen was often referred to as Spartan-like and I have to agree.

Hagler never had it the easy way, but he also made sure to put himself in an environment that most boxers would never dare to consider. 

He wanted to fuel the alter ego of the monster in his training camps all with the aim to destruct and destroy by the time it came to fight night. 

For me, Hagler leaves us a very good example of working your hardest and then even harder. He taught us not to take the easy route, but to dive into the abyss where no one else will go, as only then you find out if can be truly be Marvelous. 

If you want more like this, make sure to check out Marvin Hagler’s Boxing style analysis or why not give his biography a read?

Or why not check out how other champions train in the options below:

- The Marvin Hagler Story Marvelous - Biography by Damien and Brian Hughes
- Boston Globe
- HBO 

Jamie - Boxing Life

I'm a boxing analyst, amateur boxer, and blogger looking to pass on my boxing experiences and passion to anyone looking to learn or find out more about the sport of boxing. Whether that be gear reviews, fighter analysis, news, training tips, or my own personal journey, I'll be covering it on 'Boxing Life'.

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