boxing

Hall of fame boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler, widely regarded as one of the greatest middleweight champions the sport has ever seen, passed away Saturday at the age of 66.

Hagler, known for his ominous shaven skull and workmanlike demeanor, was a well-rounded boxer/puncher who held the undisputed middleweight crown from 1980 to 1987 making 12 straight title defenses. Born Marvin Hagler, he legally changed his name to add the "Marvelous" in 1982.

Hagler will always be remembered along with Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard, whom he lost his title to in a controversial 1987 split decision, as part of the "four kings" who dominated and revived the sport of boxing in the 1980s. His third round knockout of Hearns in 1985 is considered one of the most thrilling fights in boxing history.

Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the biggest match in boxing history, the first meeting between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Held at a sold-out Madison Square Garden and billed as "The Fight of the Century," it was the first time two undefeated heavyweight champions had ever met in the ring. Ali had been stripped of his title in 1967 for refusing induction into the United States Army on religious grounds and banned from boxing for three years with Frazier gaining the championship in the interim.

During his absence from boxing Ali became an icon of both the civil rights movement and the anti-War movement while Frazier was unfairly billed as representing the status quo. This provided political undertones which made the bout a cultural happening. Frazier dropped Ali with a massive left hook in the final round to secure a unanimous decision, though Ali received praise for his toughness in defeat. The two men would meet twice more with Ali winning both encounters. To commemorate the event ABC television aired a remastered video of the bout over the weekend while a statue memorializing the battle was unveiled in Frazier's hometown of Philadelphia Monday.


Boxing fans today…we think we know tough. Television specials showing fighters greased up and spitting out teeth is a familiar image from both the sport itself and popular culture. Nothing takes away from the dedication and toughness that comes from contemporary boxers, as it is a level of elite fitness that few can attain, and even fewer can sustain.

I recently pondered the popular idea of GOAT. GOAT, for the casual sports fan, stands for Greatest Of All Time. Each generation believes their sports heroes to be the GOAT, and hours are spent by sports analysts comparing statistics from athletes of one generation to the next. Searching the archives for boxers from yesteryear with intentions to do just that, I tumbled down a rabbit hole, and discovered a legend in my own backyard.

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In the Panhellenic games of ancient Greece, wrestling, boxing and pankration were called the “heavy events." The term was chosen to describe combative contests in those arts because they were not only crowd favorites but also the domain of the larger and heavier athlete.

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