Who do I want?
Make him work!
Tire him out!
Gonna catch hell,
At the bell!
In the dark, cold autumn morning before first light, Marvelous Marvin Hagler is chanting. He is running in his Army boots along the path that begins at the far end of Herring Cove Beach and bends off to the left—away from the main road, toward the beach, into the dunes. "This is where I can dream," he says.
This is also where the Pilgrims first landed, where they looked around, had second thoughts, and hauled up anchor, finally disembarking across the bay at Plymouth Rock. Now it's part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, a place of sea gulls, salt hay and solitude. In the fall, when the tourists are gone and nearby Provincetown boards up, surf casters belly up to the sea and an occasional biker pedals by, but they decrease in number when it gets dark early and the wind grows horns and snorts off the beach.
Hagler has been coming here since 1977, working out of the Provincetown Inn, at the very tip of the Cape, sparring in a ring set up by the indoor pool, getting up before dawn to run with his sparring partners from the inn to the beach and beyond: the charge of the dark brigade. This is Hagler's self-imposed prison. Among the scrub pine, goldenrod and rose hip, he comes to serve that harshest sentence of all, the one that he imposes on himself: The confinement is as solitary as he can make it. "I get mean here," he says.
The man many regard as one of the greatest middle-weights of all time, a consummate professional who can box or brawl ambidextrously, is preparing to defend his world middleweight title against Fulgencio Obelmejias—Fully Obel, for short—in San Remo, Italy on Oct. 30. Hagler knocked the Venezuelan challenger senseless in the eighth round the first time they fought, on Jan. 17, 1981, but he has too much at stake to take any man lightly.
After the path lets go of the highway, it dips and loops for miles among the dunes, and Marvin Hagler, fueled by his obsession to conquer, to endure, is pushing himself again. This is his country: desolate, eerily silent, forbidding. Coming to a fork, Hagler veers left. The slap of his boots is like a mantra. He thinks: Goin' through him! I have to be on the inside. Don't stay on the outside. Goin' through him! The path swings back to the right and pretty soon turns left to the mouth of a tunnel under the main road. Hagler turns around at the mouth of the tunnel and shouts:
Get out of bed, Oh-BELL,
I'm comin' at you,
Gonna destroy you.
Destruct and destroy!
I'm the champ!
"I've gotten meaner since I've become champion," he says. "They're all trying to take something from me that I've worked long and hard for, years for, and I like the feeling of being champ. 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."
Marvin Hagler was born on May 23, 1954, in Newark, the first child of Ida Mae Hagler and Robert Sims (who weren't married at the time, hence Marvin's surname). The latter abandoned the family when Marvin was a child, leaving Ida Mae to raise Marvin and his brother, Robbie, and their four sisters, Veronica, Cheryl, Genarra and Noreen, on welfare. Marvin grew up in the playgrounds and the streets: cruising sidewalks, hanging out, playing sports, boxing shadows, dreaming big.
"I always wanted to be somebody," Hagler says. "Baseball, I played like I was Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays; basketball, I'd be Walt Frazier or Kareem; boxing, I'd pretend I was Floyd Patterson or Emile Griffith." Hagler first put on gloves when he was 10 for a man he knows only as Mister Joe, a social worker.
By then, Hagler was a fatherless loner who turned Ida Mae's back porch into a clinic for wounded birds and a coop for raising and training pigeons. A turtle lived on the fire escape, and to Ida Mae's dismay Marvin even let it swim in the family tub. "They were the only friends I could relate to," Hagler says of the animals. "Maybe the only friends I really liked. I was always by myself."
Hagler was reaching out when Mister Joe reached in. "He helped me with any problems I had," Hagler says. "He taught me sports. We went to the park to fly kites. He'd call up, 'What's the problem? You gonna be at the club?' He kept me out of trouble. He got me involved in counseling other kids. I haven't seen him since I was a kid, and I've been trying to find the guy again for a long time. I do believe that one day he'll show up."
Mister Joe gave Marvin his first set of gloves, and his uncles began to teach him how to use them. "A rough bunch," Hagler says.
"He always said he wanted to be a boxer," Ida Mae says. "I didn't believe him. He said he wanted to be like Floyd Patterson. 'When I get grown,' he'd say, 'I'm gonna buy you a home.' I thought he'd be a social worker. He loved little kids."
The uncles came and went, as did the broken-winged birds, the pigeons, Mister Joe. The one constant in Marvin's life was his immediate family: his grandmother, Bessie Hagler, his brother, his sisters and Ida Mae. "We were close, very close," says Cheryl, 23. Even today, on birthdays and holidays they come together to celebrate.
Ida Mae—a bright, jovial woman of exceptional strength and vitality who kept the kids on a short rein—worked as a caterer and housekeeper. When Marvin was 14 and a freshman in high school, he dropped out of school to work in a toy factory to help support the family.
"As long as we have each other, we can make it," Ida Mae used to tell them. And, "Don't get on the wrong track: No drugs, no prisons for us." And, "Stay away from strangers. Mind your own business." And, "Come straight home from school. Stay home till I get home."
Ida Mae's word was law. "That's what brought us up to be the way we are," says Marvin. "Everybody that came into the house, you better make sure it was 'miss' or 'mister' when you spoke. That's the way she was."
Although they were poor, at Christmas there was always a tree, at dinnertime there was always a meal. If the clothes weren't new, they were always clean. "We took care of what we had," Veronica says. And when there was a race riot, Ida Mae was there, her voice a broom that whisked the kids under Veronica's bed.
That's how they survived the first riot, living close to the ground. It began on July 12, 1967. For five days Newark was a battleground and the Haglers were caught in the crossfire. They lived on the top floor of a three-story building. Looking down on the streets at the looters, Marvin says, was like watching ants on a picnic table.
"People were running out of stores," Marvin says, "carrying big TVs on their backs, and couches. You'd see little guys trying to carry things they couldn't even carry."
"Really terrifying," Ida Mae says. At night, she drew the shades, turned off the lights and double-locked the door, securing it further by jamming the back of a chair under the knob. For three days no one left the apartment. "She'd have killed us," Hagler says. When Uncle Eugene, who had been visiting, tried to leave the apartment to get home, a burst of gunfire chipped the facade above the front stoop and drove him back inside. The Haglers lay that night under Veronica's bed. One night, two bullets smashed through the bedroom window and shattered the plaster above the bed.
"Stay away from the windows," Ida Mae told her family. Police and National Guardsmen were everywhere—on the street, on the rooftops, chasing looters, searching for snipers. "You could hear them running across the roof above us," Ida Mae says. "There was running and cussing and policemen outside." Ida Mae forbade any of the kids to stand up. For three days they went about the five-room apartment on all fours, sliding around on cushions to get to the bathroom and the kitchen.
"It was like the end of the world," Veronica says.
By the time it was over, 26 people had died, and whole ghetto neighborhoods of the once vibrant city lay in ruin: Buildings were abandoned, garbage and mattresses were strewn in the streets, and countless cars were stripped.
"It was scary," Marvin says.
Ida Mae thought: I never want to go through that again.
Nearly two years later there was another riot. A thousand angry blacks roamed the streets, smashing store windows, looting and throwing bottles at police cars. Once again, the Hagler kids weren't allowed outdoors. The 1969 riot lasted only two nights, and no one was killed, but Ida Mae called a relative in Brockton, Mass., 20 miles from Boston, and asked her to help find the Haglers a place to live.
So, with the help of friends, a few weeks later she filled a U-Haul truck with their belongings and moved the family to Brockton, once renowned for its shoe factories, later as Rocky Marciano's hometown, a city that hadn't seen much social unrest since militant townsmen with hunting rifles took to its streets to support Shays' Rebellion in 1786. An old blue-collar town, it is also a mixed ethnic salad of Yankees, French Canadians, Lithuanians, Italians and Irish, with a small percentage of blacks and Puerto Ricans.
"What a relief," Ida Mae says. "It was wonderful. I could leave my doors unlocked. The kids could go outside and sit on the porch. I was strict in Newark because I had to be; here I let up a little."
In culture shock, Hagler didn't adjust so readily. "I felt out of place, going from an all-black society to a mixed society," he says. "The only place I'd run across whites was in stores. They were always behind the counter, taking the cash. School principals. Police. The post office. I really didn't trust them. If they were nice, I thought, 'What do they want from me?' I had to learn for myself how people really were. When I found out all white people weren't bad, I started to relax around them. It took me a long time. Goody and Pat had a lot to do with that."
Guareno (Goody) and Pascuale (Pat) Petronelli, partners in a Brockton construction company, also ran a gym for fighters. Goody had just retired from the U.S. Navy, in which he had served 20 years in the medical corps and had been a boxing coach. He and Pat had fought as amateurs around Brockton and had known Marciano well; in fact, Rocky had intended to join them as a partner in the Brockton gym when the former heavyweight champ was killed in an airplane crash in 1969.
As the Petronellis worked with fighters in that gym they noticed Marvin, then 15, hanging around, watching. Finally, Goody approached him. "Hey, kid, you want to learn how to fight?" he asked. "Sure, yeah man," Hagler said.
Their relationship—with Goody as trainer, Pat as manager—has endured to this day. It took time to mature, though. "He had a thing about Whitey," Goody says.
What he also had, and Goody saw it right off, was a passion for boxing, a sense of purpose. "I like to box," Hagler says. "I fell in love with all the fancy moves. And I liked the gloves—the smell of them, the look, the feel, just putting them on, trying to hit someone with them, trying to get out of the way from getting hit, the different colors. The black ones, the red ones. Emile Griffith came out with a nice pair of blue ones. I never seen blue ones before. Then I saw a pair of green ones; I liked those. But I fell in love with the red ones. Red's my favorite color. That's the blood color."
Hagler came to the gym every day. "Diligently," Goody says. "He had that desire. He'd get a little swollen lip or a black eye and he'd come back the next day. Those are the kids you look for. But you don't promise 'em nothin'."
From the start Hagler seemed to learn more quickly than the others. One day Goody mentioned that to him.
"I'm doin' my homework," the boy said. "I go home and practice those punches in the mirror." Just as he had practiced in Newark, shadow boxing as Floyd Patterson, busting holes in doors on a dare. I always wanted to be somebody.
Hagler was an exceptional amateur. He told a stretcher about his age, adding two years so he could start fighting sooner. It wasn't until last spring—when everyone thought he was 30 years old—that the truth came out. When he legally changed his name from Marvin Nathaniel Hagler to Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the date of his birth was certified in court. "I'd appreciate it if you'd write that I am 30," he told a reporter then, seeming a little embarrassed, but by that time the truth was in all the papers.
The Marvelous was bestowed upon him by a Lowell, Mass. journalist after Hagler had fought there as an amateur. He was called a Muhammad Ali look-alike because, in those days, he was a showboat—shuffling, preening, dancing. "Everybody went through that stage," he says. "I went through it to find my own identity. I found that learning how to box was a very serious business, especially when you're trying to make it to the top. I enjoy it like a boy, play it like a man. When I'm not training for a fight, I clown in the gym with the guys. But when I come in that ring, it's for real. There is no clowning around."
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!"
Hagler rose quickly in the middleweight ranks in New England. If that is rather like being the world's tallest midget, it was the only world he had. He had begun shaving his head when he was an amateur, and he has shaved it ever since. He was seen as a menacing figure, and surely that domed roof enhanced the image, that and his riveting eyes, which he squints as he attacks, and the remorseless way he stalks and strikes. The only blemish in his first three years as a pro occurred when Hagler, after beating 1972 Olympic light welterweight champion Sugar Ray Seales in Boston—"A big mouth with a big gold medal and two-tone shoes"—met him again in Seattle, Seales's hometown. The bout was scored a draw, a dubious call.
Already Hagler was beginning to languish in Boston, unable to get competitive fights. "You have three strikes against you," Joe Frazier would tell him one day. "You're black, you're a southpaw and you can fight." Hagler's biggest purse in 1975 was $2,000, which he got for facing undefeated southpaw middleweight Johnny Baldwin, who Silverman figured would beat him. "Look, I can't get Hagler no fights," Silverman had protested to Pat Petronelli.
"Try and get him licked if you want," Pat said.
"You mean that?" Silverman said. "I got a guy who's gonna lick him."
"Then lick him!" Pat said. Giving Mad Dog Baldwin 18 pounds, Hagler whipped him in a 10-round decision. Hagler could have fought forever in Boston, picking up $300 here and $700 there, but the title had obsessed him since he was an amateur signing photographs "Marvin Hagler, future middleweight champion of the world."
Since 1971, he had dug ditches and cut down trees for the Petronelli Construction Co., and the work had taken him to Brockton's white, affluent west side. "Everybody that had money was on the west side," he says. "I always wanted to live on the west side. When I worked construction, we used to come into these areas where it was always nice, where they brought you ice tea when you worked outside. In the poor areas, nobody had ice tea. They brought out cookies. They made you lunch. It was nice: green grass, nice homes, big cars. I used to love working on people's homes here. Pat and Goody did something for me that they never realized. I was grateful to have a trade. They matured me. I found trust in these two people. I kind of knew what I wanted in life. I wanted a house with my own name on it in West Brockton—Hagler."
To get there, he first had to get out of New England. "Rocky Marciano had to leave New England to make the big time," Hagler says. "I like Brockton, but to make it, you gotta get out."
There was only one place to go, of course, and that was Philadelphia, to what Goody called the "Lion's Den" of middleweights—the Spectrum. It was where the money was and where the best fighters were: Bennie Briscoe, Willie (The Worm) Monroe, Eugene (Cyclone) Hart, Bobby (Boogaloo) Watts. "The baddest middleweights in the world," Goody says. "We had to go down there and fight the iron."
J. Russell Peltz, the Spectrum's director of boxing at the time, was skeptical when first approached. "Who's Marvin Hagler? Kids from Boston can't fight," he told Pat.
"This one can," Pat said.
One by one, Hagler would take them on, until finally he had nailed them all, but not before two successive losses left him perilously close to oblivion. Watts wasn't the best of the middles, but for Hagler he was the first. They fought 10 rounds on Jan. 13, 1976, and when the judges gave it to Boogaloo, there were hoots from the hometown crowd. "Now Boogaloo is a friend of mine, but he didn't win that fight," says George Benton, the Philly trainer.
Two months after the Watts fight, Monroe beat up on Hagler on the way to a 10-round verdict. "A tough decision to accept," Hagler said after the fight, "but an honest one. I still have a few things to learn. I get the feeling that he's already learned them."
Peltz told the Petronellis of the trouble they were in: "I know you got screwed with Boogaloo Watts, but you got your ass kicked by Willie Monroe. Three strikes and you're out."
Next up: Hart. Working one day on the heavy bag in Joe Frazier's gym, Hart had spotted Marvin and said, "Hey, Hagler, I got the baddest left hook in town. Watch this." Bam! Hart slammed his left into the bag. "You're lookin' at the next middleweight champion of the world." Marvin turned to Pat and said, "Put him on the list."
The record book says Hagler knocked Hart out in eight, but what happened is more ambiguous. There was an argument in Hart's corner after the eighth, and he never came out for the ninth. The victory was only bittersweet, but Hagler had survived. "I thought he was just an ordinary fighter," Briscoe says. "He proved to be more than that." In a rematch against Monroe in Boston on Feb. 15, 1977, Hagler knocked The Worm out in the 12th round. Peltz staged the rubber match at the Spectrum six months later, and it was then that Hagler made his name in Philly.
Hagler buckled Monroe's knees with a right hook in the second round and pounced. A beautiful left hook caught Monroe. Down he went. And out.
"That was the fight that made him," Peltz says. "There was a complete difference between the Marvin that had fought in 1976 and 1977. The competition here had made him better. He had more confidence. He was sharper, his punches were shorter, he had more power."
There was only one more to go in Philly: Briscoe. On Aug. 24, 1978, 15,000 people jammed into the Spectrum to see them fight. Both boxers showed up in burgundy trunks, and neither would change. Peltz still wonders what the fans in the uppermost seats made of the spectacle: two shaved-headed black men wearing burgundy trunks. Who's on first? In the end Hagler was, but the Petronellis had to scramble. Hagler got butted in the second. Between rounds, Goody tried to stop the bleeding as Pat headed off the doctor coming over to inspect the cut, repeatedly pointing to the crowd and telling the doc that someone was calling him. By the time the doctor got to Hagler, Goody had the bleeding stopped. "I didn't spend 20 years in the Navy medical department for nothing," he says.
Where Hagler had been a banger against Monroe, he boxed artfully against Briscoe, sticking and moving to win the decision.
By now some were calling Hagler the uncrowned middleweight champion of the world, but still he couldn't get a title shot. "I can understand it now," Pat says. "Who needs a Marvin Hagler?" Hagler's sense of frustration deepened.
"Every time I fought, Pat and Goody said, 'Marvin, you've got to keep winning to get a shot! If you win this one, Marvin, you've got it.' Every time I won, there was nothing. Every day I was out there running, paving the ground, getting knocked around in the gym, keeping sharp, getting ready for that day." He waited some more. He wondered: What do I have to do to get recognition? Kill somebody in the ring? To Pat and Goody, he would say: When am I gonna get a break? To Bertha Washington, then his fiancée, now his wife, he would fume: The hell with this damn game! I'm sick of it. Promises, promises, always promises.
He was just too good for his own good. Bitter and frustrated, he packed his bags and prepared to leave the Petronellis and Brockton and move to California, to start his career anew. Pat and Goody urged him to stay, saying, "If we felt as though we couldn't do it for you, we'd be the first ones to let you find something else."
After talking it over with Bertha, Hagler yielded. "So I took my bags back," he said. "But I was hurt. The rent had to be paid. The kids had to have clothes. It was tough. When people look at me today they say, 'Hey, you're a millionaire now, you got it made.' They didn't know me before I was a success and as a result they don't realize that everything I got I worked for. There hasn't been nobody giving me nothin'."
Hagler finally got his title shot, six and a half years after he turned pro, and they didn't give him nothin' that night, either. This also happened to be the card—Nov. 30, 1979—on which Sugar Ray Leonard, in his 26th pro fight and first title shot, took the welterweight crown from Wilfred Benitez. Hagler's challenge for Vito Antuofermo's title was his 50th pro fight. He had been a long time in the shadows; he would be even longer.
The bout lasted the full 15 rounds, and it became at times so moving a spectacle—two men standing there and simply whaling away at each other—that at the end the crowd in Caesars Palace rose in applause. Hagler had clearly landed more and harder punches. Waiting for the decision, Referee Mills Lane told him, "Congratulations, now stay facing this way until they announce the decision and I raise your arm." When the verdict was announced, however, it was Vito's arm that went up. One judge had given it to Hagler, another to Antuofermo, while a third called it a draw: A tie always goes to the champion.
"I won the fight," Hagler says. "It hurt, but I just went back to school. Back to work. I felt as though, if I missed that shot, I'd never get another opportunity."
There was an immediate demand for a rematch, but Antuofermo was having no part of Hagler if he didn't have to.
On March 16, 1980, Alan Minter of England outpointed Antuofermo, and the Petronellis went after Minter, but of course Minter gave Antuofermo an immediate rematch. At Wembley Arena in London, Minter's turf, the champion stopped the challenger in the eighth. Hagler was next, Minter's first mandatory opponent. Marvin trained furiously for the fight. "I felt, 'This is it!' " he says. This bout was also fought at Wembley. On his way to the ring, Hagler said to Goody, "I'm ready to die for this. Don't stop it."
That Hagler made it alive out of Wembley took some doing, though it wasn't Minter who threatened him. In the third round, Hagler unleashed a tremendous right uppercut that rocked the champion, who was already bleeding profusely from four cuts, into helplessness. The referee jumped in and stopped it. "If they hadn't stopped it, I'd have killed Minter," Hagler says.
Minter drifted unsteadily back to his corner and Hagler dropped to his knees in joy as beer bottles rained down upon the ring. Goody dashed to the fighter to cover him, joined there by Hagler's lawyer, Steve Wainwright, the third cornerman, and Pat. They enveloped Marvin in a human canopy. Suddenly, a phalanx of helmeted bobbies swept into the ring and ushered them away.
The ref never got a chance to raise Hagler's arm. But the motorcade from Boston's Logan International Airport to Brockton made up for that. A crowd of 10,000 gave him a rousing ovation as he arrived in Brockton's City Hall Square. He had come to town 11 years before, a Newark ghetto kid who didn't feel at all at home, and now he owned the place. The mayor handed him the keys to the city. "It reminded everyone of when Marciano won the title from Walcott," he says.
Looking out over the crowd, Hagler felt a sense of déj√† vu. "I'd dreamed it years ago. I'd already seen this before. It was a once in a lifetime thing, coming from a place where there was all hatred to a place where there was nothing but love, where people wanted to touch you and feel you...."
I always want to be somebody.
He still does. Hagler has been the undisputed middleweight champion for more than two years and has defended the title four times, winning each bout by a knockout and each for more than grocery money: Obelmejias ($500,000), Antuofermo II ($500,000), Mustafa Hamsho ($1 million), Caveman Lee ($500,000). He is to make $500,000 for Obelmejias II. A good deal of money, perhaps, but nothing compared to the $12 million Leonard made for beating Thomas Hearns.
"I haven't gotten the real big payday," Hagler says. "But that keeps me working, keeps me hungry.
"You gotta love it. I walk it, talk it, sleep it, act it, look it. Some people don't believe me when I say that I'm miserable as hell around the house if I'm not doing anything."
He was around the house a lot this summer after old Boogaloo Watts, now a sparring partner, broke one of his ribs in the gym. The house, of course, was on Brockton's west side, where Hagler had wanted to live since first seeing it. This month Hagler moved to a posher neighborhood in Hanover, outside Brockton, where he has three acres and 69 pigeons to care for. He and Bertha share the place with their four children, two of them, Jimmy, 12, and Celeste, 10, Bertha's by a previous marriage, and two of their own, Marvin Jr., 6, and Charelle, 7½ months. Hagler spent his summer with the kids, mostly watching Charelle trying to figure out what her legs are for.
"I got the chance to see Charelle learn to turn over and begin to smile," he says, "to pull herself up on her feet on the side of the crib. I would've missed that if I'd been on the road." He also had a chance to spend time with his mother, who remarried in 1976 and is now Ida Mae Lang. She works as a receptionist at Norris Industries, a Brockton company that manufactures kitchen disposal equipment, and is thinking of going to law school. "I always wanted to be a lawyer," she says. "If I hadn't had kids so fast, that's probably what I'd be today." Newark seems a long way away now. "It turned out all right in the end," she says. "My girls are nurses, my boys are fighters. [Robbie is also a middleweight.] How many mothers get a house for a birthday present? That's what he bought me after he beat Antuofermo."
The summer with the family was fine, Marvin says, but now he's back to business again. "I'm always learning," he says. "People say, 'You've reached your peak.' There's no such thing for me. I feel as though I'm still learning. I'm getting better. I'm still young at heart. I still got a long way to go. You never learn it all. There's many combinations just off a jab, or off a right hand, or off an uppercut. It's just learning how to put them together. It's an art. Like switching from right hand to left hand. It was natural to me. I'm a creator, an artist. I have nothing else. This is all I got. I got to be the best. I've got to train! I've got to box! Spar!"
And run, chanting:
Who do I want?
Gonna catch hell,