Marvin Hagler's legacy lived on long after his fight days ended

In an extract from his book, Brian Doogan takes a look at the late, great champion, Marvelous Marvin, who had a big impact on an all-time great from Ireland.

Former super middleweight champions Steve Collins idolised the great Marvelous Marvin Hagler to the point that he based his own career on that of his hero.

So much so that when he embarked on a professional boxing career he based himself and trained in the same gym in Brockton, Massachusetts.

"The Petronelli brothers, Goody and Pat, who trained both of us, would never allow me to spar with Hagler because I was young and hungry and he was the middleweight champion of the world," reflected Collins, who went on to claim world titles at middleweight and super middleweight and engaged in thrilling battles with Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Mike McCallum.

"Rubbing shoulders with a legend like Hagler as we worked together in the gym every day was incredible. It was a tough way to learn your trade but I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

Irish author Brian Doogan has delved deep into Hagler's background and that of fellow legend of the sport Sugar Ray Leonard in his new book, The SuperFight, revealing the demons that drove both fighters, two of the greatest to ever lace up the gloves, and culminating in their epic showdown at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Billed as boxing's first $100million showdown, the book is as much a psychological thriller as it is about boxing, while also chronicling the social and racial tensions which were prevalent while both men grew up and how deep psychological scars affected their lives and careers in the ring.

Hagler, who tragically passed away earlier this year aged 66, lived through notorious 'race riots' with his family in the ghetto that was Central Ward in Newark, New Jersey.

For five whole days of deadly unrest, following years of institutionalised discrimination and racism by police and lawmakers, buildings were set ablaze and Newark burned.

In scenes even more violent than those which occurred this year on city streets across America in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, running gun battles between police and disenfranchised black residents, entrenched in unaddressed poverty, resulted in 26 people killed in Newark alone and more than 1,000 injured.

"It was like the end of the world," Hagler recalled.

Hagler's mother would ultimately move her family out of Newark, taking them to Brockton, hometown of former world heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, who was a lifelong close friend of the Petronellis.

It was here that Hagler blazed the trail which Collins duly followed.

"I am from the ghetto in north New Jersey. I believe my drive and determination came from there," Hagler says in The SuperFight.

"Everything I was able to go and do I had to fight for all my life. I went through all of that growing up in a black area, the riots, a lot of poverty.

"I can't understand the ignorance of people who are against people of another colour. We're all on this earth together. I don't look at people as black, white or whatever. I look at people for who and what they are.

"My mother moved our family to Brockton and that's how I ended up in The Petronellis' Gym with Goody and Pat. Boxing was my art - to me, it is an art - and I worked really hard to try to perfect it.

"I was built to destroy and no one could go to war better than me, but the subtleties and skills of the sport I always tried to work on and perfect in order to become the best I could be.

"So much about boxing I hated but I did my homework. I would even go home and practise throwing punches in the mirror. To be the best, you have to work harder than anyone else is prepared to work. That's how I always looked at it."

Hagler was unbeaten for 11 years and had been world middleweight champion for almost seven, making 12 title defences, when he was challenged by Leonard in one of the most famous fights in boxing history.

"For me to come back and beat Marvin Hagler like I did was the greatest accomplishment of my life," Leonard reflected.

"Not many people gave me a chance before the fight. But I showed heart and determination, that true grit you need in order to be a champion, and I won the fight exactly how I said I would win it.

"To this day, that gives me a great sense of accomplishment."

*** The SuperFight is available now via Amazon and in bookstores.

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