Boxer Thomas Hearns has blasted Covid anti-vaxxers for co-opting the death of Marvin Hagler, after the all-time great passed away Saturday at age 66.
Before Hagler’s death, Hearns – who was knocked out by Hagler during their famous bout in 1985 – had told followers online that the star was suffering from ‘the after effects of the vaccine’.
But no official cause of death has yet been announced, and his family have made no mention of a Covid vaccine being to blame.
Hagler’s son James told TMZ his father was rushed to hospital with chest pains and was experiencing trouble breathing before dying about four hours later.
Earlier on Saturday, Hearns wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of his old opponent: ‘A real true warrior Pray for the king and his family.. he’s in ICU fighting the after effects of the vaccine! He’ll be just fine but we could use the positive energy and Prayer for his Full Recovery!’
After news of Hagler’s death emerged, anti-vaxxers took to social media to say that it was proof that vaccines are unsafe.
But on Saturday night, Hearns hit out at anti-vax campaigners, posting on Instagram: ‘Our love and respect to Marvin and his family, this is not an anti vaccine campaign.. it’s outrageous to have that in mind during the passing of a King, Legend, Father, Husband and so much more.’
Hagler’s death – the cause of which is not yet known – was confirmed by a statement on his website
Hagler’s wife, Kay G. Hagler, confirmed that he had died at home in New Hampshire in a post on Facebook
A family statement posted on Hagler’s website also confirmed the news. Neither statement referenced COVID or the vaccine
Following his death, Hearns wrote: ‘Allow us to have our peace. Our love and respect to Marvin and his family, this is not an anti vaccine campaign… it’s outrageous to have that in mind during the passing of a King, Legend, Father, Husband and so much more’
Hagler’s wife, Kay G. Hagler, wrote on Facebook: ‘I am sorry to make a very sad announcement. Today unfortunately my beloved husband Marvelous Marvin passed away unexpectedly at his home here in New Hampshire. Our family requests that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.’
A statement on Hagler’s website read: ‘We are very sad to report that Marvelous Marvin Hagler died on March 13 of natural causes near his home in New Hampshire. He was a champion until the end. His family asks for privacy at this time of sorrow.’
More than 100million Americans have already received their COVID vaccines, including 4.6m on Saturday alone.
However, the roll-out is being slowed down by vaccine hesitancy, which remains higher in some ethnic minority groups, including among African Americans.
The US Center for Disease control describes the approved COVID vaccines as ‘safe and effective’ with severe side effects being ‘extremely rare’.
Tens of millions of people have already successfully received their first doses across the world.
However, anti-vaxxers immediately jumped on Hagler’s death to make unfounded claims that the vaccine is dangerous.
Twitter user Joel Smalley wrote: ‘Maybe the death of someone famous will wake the vaccine death deniers. Lockdowns, masks, vaccines do more harm than good. How many more people have to die?’
An account called Noble Brown posted: ‘The vaccine killed Marvin Hagler’.
Another user tweeted: ‘Re Marvin Hagler. The msn covid Game, if a high profile celebrity dies of covid its front page news, if it’s due to the vaccine they don’t even mention it. They use covid to keep us petrified.’
Meanwhile, Phil Theecow wrote: ‘It’s filtering through that boxer Marvin has died aged 66 of an adverse reaction to his Covid vaccination… I like many haves [sic] had the virus and was 1 of the 99% with no problems… Therefore why on earth would I take the vaccine that may kill me & I know the virus wont.’
Hagler – born in Newark, New Jersey – dominated the sport’s middleweight scene, which he was champion of between 1980 and 1987.
He was also named as the Fighter of the Decade for the 1980s by Boxing Illustrated magazine and won the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year award twice.
The man who was floored officially only once in his incredible brutal career - and that was actually a slip – finally took the count.
Hagler, who turned pro in 1973 out of Brockton, Massachusetts, took seven years to earn his first middleweight title crack afer almost beating everyone in his path.
He had to settle for a controversial draw against Vito Antuofermo in that first crack but essentially ruined Antuofermo who lost his title in his next defence to Alan Minter.
Tommy Hearns (right) who was knocked out by Hagler in one of the most entertaining fights of all time in 1985, called him former opponent ‘a real true warrior’
Hagler’s wife, Kay (left), announced her husband’s passing on social media on Saturday
Anti-vaxxers have hijacked Marvin Hagler’s death after the unverified claim he was suffering from the after-effects of the vaccine
Hagler then challenged Minter and on a night of pure hate at Wembley Arena cut up the Crawley southpaw in three rounds before having to run for his life to the dressing room while a racist crowd rained bottles on him. It summed up Hagler’s career. He had to do everything the hard way.
But now that he had finally won the title, there was no way he was going to lose it without a fight. Hagler duly destroyed a whole new generation of challengers in the 1980s, including Britain’s Tony Sibson. He simply cleaned up the division.
If it was a bit brash that he officially changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1982, who could begrudge him after all he had been through.
Joe Frazier told him in Philadelphia in the 1970s that he had three strikes against him… he was good, he was a southpaw, and he was black.
In 1985 came Hagler’s finest hour when slugged it out with Hearns in one of the greatest fights of all time. He walked right through Hearns in three savage rounds.
Earlier on Saturday, his friend, former professional boxer Thomas Hearns wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of Hagler: ‘A real true warrior Pray for the king and his family.. he’s in ICU fighting the after effects of the vaccine! He’ll be just fine but we could use the positive energy and Prayer for his Full Recovery!’
Rapper R.A. the Rugged Man tweeted before Hagler’s death: ‘One of the greatest athletes of my lifetime Marvelous Marvin Hagler is in ICU fighting the after effects of taking the Vaccine. Tommy Hitman Hearns just posted about it. I hope this great champion recovers. One of our GOATS #boxing’
He finally lost his crown in 1987 when Sugar Ray Leonard outsmarted a faded Hagler over 12 rounds.
His wife Kay Hagler wrote on social media on Saturday: ‘I am sorry to make a very sad announcement. Today unfortunately my beloved husband Marvelous Marvin passed away unexpectedly at his home here in New Hampshire.
‘Our family requests that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.’
Boxing legends from across the world have been paying tribute to Hagler.
Former WBA and lineal featherweight world champion Barry McGuigan tweeted: ‘Shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the incredible Marvellous Marvin Hagler.
‘I’m honoured to have spent some amazing times with him. My heartfelt sympathies to his wife Kay and his family. Rest in Peace Champ.’
Members of the boxing community paid tribute to Hagler after his death was announced
Promoter Frank Warren said boxing lost ‘an all-time great’ while Eddie Hearn announced that ring announcer Michael Buffer will lead a 10-bell tribute at the rematch between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez II on Saturday.
Buffer himself tweeted: ‘I am crushed at the news that MARVELOUS MARVIN HAGLER has passed away! He was-in his prime-POUND4POUND-the best, going 11yrs in 38 fights w/o defeat! He dominated the MW division 4 a decade! 62 wins/52KOs-3 losses R.I.P. 4EVER CHAMPION-4EVER REMEMBERED’.
World champion boxing trainer Dave Coldwell added: ‘Gutted to hear of the passing of Marvellous Marvin Hagler.
‘One of the toughest, and best fighters in one of the greatest eras in boxing history. Hagler along with Leonard, Hearns & Duran – the Real Four Kings.’
George Wallace tweeted: ‘You never hear about Mediocre Marvin Hagler… Or Middle of the Road Marvin Hagler. You were Marvelous with a capital M, Sir. Rest in peace.’
More than 100million Americans have already received their COVID vaccines, including 4.6m on Saturday alone. However, the roll-out is being slowed down by vaccine hesitancy, which remains higher in some ethnic minority groups, including among African Americans
How Marvelous Marvin Hagler ruled the middleweight division in the 1980s before one of the most controversial judging decisions of all time stripped him of his crown
Marvelous Marvin Hagler ruled over the middleweight division with an iron fist for much of the 1980s before his reign was ended by Sugar Ray Leonard in one of the most controversial judging decisions of all time.
Hagler, who has died suddenly aged 66, made 12 successful defences of the crown he had long coveted, the high point of which was indisputably getting the better of Thomas Hearns in an eight-minute firefight known as ‘The War’.
It was the penultimate win of a 67-fight professional career that ended after his defeat to Leonard, who came out of retirement in April 1987 to upset the odds at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in a bout that still divides opinion.
Many favoured Hagler’s aggression but he was ultimately outfoxed by a slippery Leonard, who flicked out the jab and landed flurries towards the end of most rounds that, while not particularly harmful, would catch the judges’ eyes.
Hearns v Hagler will go down as one of the all time greatest fights as Hagler knocked his rival out in three rounds in Las Vegas
A split-decision loss disgusted Hagler, who retired 14 months later at the age of 34 with a record of 62 wins – 52 by knockout – three defeats and two draws after becoming “tired of waiting” for Leonard to decide on a rematch.
By that stage, though, Hagler had already cemented his status as one of the all-time greats and the tangles he, Leonard, Hearns and Roberto Duran had with each other in the ’80s would see them chronicled as the ‘Four Kings’.
However, he arguably had the toughest road to prominence. He was born on May 23, 1954, in Newark, New Jersey, as the oldest of six children to Ida Mae Hagler and Robert Sims, who abandoned the family when Marvin was a child.
Ida Mae therefore raised Hagler, his brother and their four sisters, eventually uprooting the family following the 1967 Newark riots to Brockton, Massachusetts, where the eldest child would discover a penchant for boxing.
He was discovered as an amateur by the Petronelli brothers, Goody and Pat, who operated a gym in the city and went on to train Hagler for the entirety of his career in the paid ranks.
Hagler often considered himself something of a loner – he once remarked that wounded birds in his mother’s backyard were “the only friends I could relate to, maybe the only friends I really liked. I was always by myself”.
That feeling of being a pariah followed him in boxing, where he avenged contended losses to Bobby Watts and Willie Monroe before being granted a shot at the undisputed middleweight title held by Alan Minter in September 1980.
Ten months earlier, the suspicion Hagler had of being treated unfairly intensified after his contest against Vito Antuofermo was ruled a draw, and so the American left no room for doubt against Minter.
Minter, who defeated Antuofermo twice, was stopped inside three rounds at Wembley Stadium, where violence in the stands after the fight meant Hagler did not have his hand raised after capturing the WBC and WBA titles.
Hagler was the middleweight champion between 1980 and 1987 – he defended his title 12 times. He is pictured fighting Roberto Duran in 1983
Having taken so long to reach the top of the mountain – the win over Minter was his 54th fight – Hagler was in no hurry to begin the descent, with the rampaging southpaw stopping 11 of his next 12 opponents.
Only the great Duran was able to get to the final bell in 1983 although the Panamanian’s two-round capitulation against Hearns the following year meant many thought the ‘Hitman’ would be able to end Hagler’s long rule.
The 1985 showdown at Caesars Palace lasted three rounds but it was carnage. A gash on Hagler’s forehead threatened to end the fight earlier but the champion refused to buckle in a first round that has gone down in boxing folklore.
The pair threw everything at each other and although the blood flowed freely from Hagler’s bald head, it was Hearns who blinked first, wilting against the ropes and then floored as his foe rained down rights and lefts.
Hearns rose rubbery-legged and the fight was stopped. While he was the winner, Hagler looked a shadow of himself when he knocked out John Mugabi in 1986, prompting Leonard to come out of a third – of five – retirements.
Leonard would go back into retirement after defeating Hagler, who did not prevaricate when he decided to stop fighting in June 1988, moving to Italy and starring in several films.
Hagler, who legally changed his name to ‘Marvelous Marvin Hagler’, fathered Charelle, Celeste, James, Marvin Jr, and Gentry with first wife Bertha. He is survived by his second wife Kay and five children.