Marvelous Mavin Hagler has to be considered to be one of the best, if not the greatest middleweight boxer of all time. From looking from the outside, his hard work and discipline are something anyone can admire.
He was known for ferociousness in fights against the likes of Hearns, Mugabi, and Leonard. However, people forget there was a lot more to Hagler than just those fights. Marvelous was in fact a tremendous boxer who used a vast array of skills throughout his career.
In this boxing style analysis article, I’ll be taking a closer look at Hagler’s tremendous overall skill set, which I hope will keep his legacy alive.
You can watch my video version or continue reading below:
But first, let’s here’s a quick overview of the Marvelous One’s boxing career.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Hagler first put on a pair of boxing gloves at the age of ten, it was from this point it looked written in the stars. Growing up he would pretend he was like Floyd Patterson or Emile Griffith who I can see elements in his one style.
Due to the riots in Newark in 1967 that caused much damage to his family’s property, Hagler’s family moved to Brockton, Massachusetts. It was here a couple of years later a young Marvin would get roughed up by a local boxer on the street – whom he would later defeat – From here a young Hagler was determined to become a young boxer himself so this wouldn’t happen again.
Hagler would walk into a gym owned by Pat and Goody Petronelli who would become his trainers and managers. Here Hagler would turn amateur but had to lie about his age to become amateur, which was fairly successful with a US national championships and 55-1 record.
The Pro Journey Begins
Hagler would then turn professional and very much had to do it the hard way to get to the top of the sport. Where he struggled to find high-profile opponents to face. Many claimed it was because he was southpaw, which many fighters would avoid, with Hagler and his team having to list themselves as orthodox and even fight orthodox so they could line up other fights – The birth of his switch-hitting some could say. Joe Frazier once famously said:
“You have three strikes against you. “You’re black, you’re southpaw and you’re good.”Joe Frazier
Hagler would have much success for the most part in his early career but did have some controversial decision losses and a draw on his record, however Marvelous was able to avenge them all with knockouts. Eventually picked up and signed by Bob Arum.
Middleweight Champion Run
It would take Marvin Hagler 50 fights before he got his first title fight against Vito Antufermo in Las Vegas going 15 rounds. Unfortunately for Marvin, it would end in disappointment once again in a split decision draw. However, it wouldn’t be long before he would get his shot again against Alan Minter who defeated Antufermo. After 54 fights Hagler would become undisputed Middleweight champion.
From here he would go on to have 12 title defenses in some of his most famous fights against the likes of Hearns, Duran, Mugabi, Sibson. In particular, the fight against Tommy Hearns was regarded as one of the most brutal in boxing. Round one is regarded as the greatest round in boxing history. If you haven’t watched it, make sure you do!
Hagler would then finish his career in the super fight vs Sugar Ray Leonard where he lost by Split Decision in a close fight, but with many feeling, he won the fight clearly. It was this fight that would end up being Marvelous One’s last in what was truly a legendary career.
Hagler’s Boxing Style
Now let’s get onto the actual elements of Hagler’s boxing style. As someone who didn’t really study Hagler many years after his retirement. Many often get drawn to his classic fights against the likes of Hearns, Mugabi, or Leonard. Where you could easily have mistaken him for having a very aggressive brawler style.
However, that was very much just one element of Hagler’s style as he could very much as well box on the backfoot, counterpunch, and use his jab all night. I would very much say he was more of a cautious boxer-puncher if you look at his career as a whole, where he would in fact adapt to the opponent he was facing.
Hagler was in no way the fastest fighter we have seen, but it was his extremely good punch timing from either southpaw or orthodox stances that made him so effective. While his footwork was also a huge part of his success as a fighter.
You could also tell Marvin was a very fit and trained fighter, which helped him be able to turn up the gas when he needed to.
But let’s get into some of the more individual elements of his style now.
As mentioned already. Hagler would often have to fight out of an orthodox stance in his early career to get the fights he wanted. This would no doubt be a big factor in him learning to be a switch hitter as he progressed throughout his career. Very much use it to take advantage of opponent angles and movements. While also adding an element of the unpredictability of what stance he would fight in.
For the most part, Hagler was best as a southpaw, and he would have much more success in this stance in my opinion. It also helped that he was right-handed and was very capable of throwing strong lead right hooks, or powerful right crosses from an orthodox stance.
One of the best ways Hagler would be able to quickly change stance was by using the shift technique, this would help him quickly help him apply more pressure on the opponent or to catch them off guard by throwing his backhand before quickly shifting into the other stance before throwing another follow-up punch. I recommend you check out my shift technique article to find out more.
(Find out about more switch-hitting boxers here)
Now, this is another part of Hagler’s style that doesn’t get talked about enough and that is of course his terrific jab.
As mentioned, Hagler’s jab was at its best as a southpaw, it also helped that he was naturally right-handed, which made this punch so devastating at times. Another advantage he had was his long reach of 75’ for a man at 5ft ’9. Which made his jab very deceptive.
Marvelous would very much use the jab by throwing it heavily to the head and to the body.
He would also double up or even triple up the punch to push back his opponent or even just to create a bit of distance.
But most famously Hagler would use the Gazelle Jab / Punch. This is no doubt something he took from one of his boxing inspirations Floyd Patterson who used this often. For the Gazelle Jab or Hook, he would shuffle forward slightly before he would put his weight on his front foot before leaping forward into the punch.
This would be a great way for Marvelous to find ways to get into range. He would also use this sometimes as an opportunity to change his stance and continue the pressure. I also have a whole other video on the Gazelle punch technique you can check out. See Hagler using his jab below:
Now a huge part of Marvin Hagler’s ability was his tremendous use of constant feints. For me, he has to be one the very best to use them so efficiently. Never at one point would Hagler’s body or head position be in the same place.
He would always be using jerking-like movements to keep his competitors cautious about whether he would throw a punch or not. It made Hagler in fact a very difficult opponent to hit cleanly or on time. It would also stop the more aggressive fighters from overcommitting as Hagler was very capable of catching them with big counter punches rushing in.
In terms of setting up his attack, he would usually move his head before throwing a punch of combination.
While he would also use foot feints alongside his to see how his opponent would react to him coming in and out of range. Similar examples of other fighters using feints like this in more recent times include the likes of Pacquaio and even Tyson Fury. See below:
Another part of Hagler’s arsenal was of course his tremendous footwork. For the most part, Hagler really did have a marvelous rhythm when in the ring. But with the combination of his upper body feints and head movement, it made it very difficult to attack or hit him cleanly!
Hagler was one of the best at punching and moving, but instead of moving back in straight lines, he would use great lateral movements to get out and restart his offensive. Sometimes he would even use this as a way to continue his attack.
In terms of offense, like all great southpaws, he was very good at getting his foot on the outside of orthodox opponents, which in turn would help set up his straight left down the middle.
But for me, we saw some of his best boxing footwork when he faced southpaws such Hamsho and Minter, where he would circle to their right before firing heavy right-handed jabs or hooks.
Another aspect I’d like to mention was that he was also capable of also applying pressure on his opponents, slowly creeping forward before attacking or countering his opponent. Much like we have seen Canelo do recently with his pressure fighting, Hagler still maintained a bouncing and jerky rhythm with his.
When you think of Hagler, his defensive abilities are probably the last thing you would think of. But Marvin Hagler in fact was tremendous defensively throughout the majority of his career.
As I have discussed so far, his feints and footwork would work together in making him an elusive target for the majority of competitors.
Like I have said already in this article, it was all about hitting a moving out the way marvelous one. It’s something people don’t seem to appreciate until you watch some of his less famous fights.
But to talk about other elements of his defense, Hagler had very good upper body and head movement. He was very much able to slip incoming jabs and quickly counter.
He was also one at the best, rolling incoming hooks before quickly moving out the way. Hagler would also parry punches away with his higher guard. Or when he had to use the traditional high guard catch shots.
As a defensive boxer, Hagler was very much marvelous at it.
Hagler’s inside fighting was also very good for the most part, and when his opponents were hurt or starting to tire he would start to get to work on the inside.
First, he would look to use his arms or shoulder to control his opponent before throwing sharp uppercuts up the middle.
He would also make sure to lean his head on the opponent’s shoulder so he could protect his own chin. When the opponent would try to come out from the closer quarters, Hagler was almost always ready to throw a hook on the break.
For the most part, Hagler was very capable of handling himself on the inside and I think the vast majority of opponents struggled to win the battle with him. Especially as he was so physically fit and strong.
Against Mugabi, we saw some brilliant I work in Hagler’s exchanges on the inside. Where he would catch shots with his arms and guard before immediately countering. While always changing his body position. Hagler of course would come out on top landing far more.
Brawler & Finisher
Now I wanted to finish with Hagler turning into a bit of a brawler in his last few fights. Which he was very capable of fighting with style. I think after he defeated Tommy Hearns in devastating fashion in their legendary fight, Hagler no doubt felt he could approach that way against anyone.
In a way, this has inspired many fighters in having this WAR come forward mentality. But the thing I want to point out is that although Hagler had a far more aggressive approach in these last fights. He still had developed a tremendous skill set on top of this as I’ve discussed. This should be a warning to fighters wanting to fight like Hagler in his last few fights.
But I do think it shows that sometimes fighters have to go for broke and take the fight to their opponent, regardless of who is in front of them. Maybe if Hagler approached the Hearns fight more cautiously, he would lose as he had done in the past. He didn’t want to take the chance of relying on judges’ scorecards.
Hagler without a doubt could have fought like this his whole career, but would he have lasted as long as he did?
To end on a more positive note, there is no denying Hagler was a tremendous finisher with 52 Knockouts from his 62 wins. I wouldn’t necessarily say Marvelous was a one-punch KO artist. But instead was very meticulous at breaking guys down over the round before he would catch them with his killer blow.
*Marvin Hagler sadly passed away in March 2021. Hagler was not in any way in my era of boxing growing up, instead, I found out about him when I started my boxing journey. Once I began learning and studying the history of the sweet science, it was clear Hagler was the go-to fighter to watch. This is why I love this sport, as you can learn so much from fighters from the past.
In the case of Hagler, he is very much one of the names many will continue to look back on due to his legacy in the ring. I hope this article will continue that legacy and help inspire upcoming boxers and fans in years to come to learn from the Marvelous one. As Hagler was truly marvelous inside and out of the ring. Rest in Peace Champ.
Check out my other boxer style analysis features here or why not look at my other analysis on the following boxing stars:
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