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Boxing : Hagler's Wife Puts Up a Tough Fight

July 13, 1986|Richard Hoffer

Marvelous Marvin Hagler doesn't win all his fights and, depending on how often he goes head-to-head with Bertha, may not even win most of them. Certainly, he's behind on points going into the championship rounds of this domestic battle.

Oh, you didn't know? That's what this whole sudden and expensive retirement is about. Wife Bertha is crawling up hubby's shirt over this proposed $10-million bout with Sugar Ray Leonard. Hagler would love to fight Leonard. He'd love to fight anybody. Anybody, in the long run, but Bertha.

According to promoter Bob Arum, who has banked a lot of money for both the Haglers and himself, this whole situation is a family squabble. "It's hard to believe," he says, "but it's the truth. The strain in their marriage, it's been going on constantly. After the Thomas Hearns fight, she's been putting pressure on him to retire. Then when he agreed to fight John Mugabi, she went crazy."

If you remember, the undisputed middleweight champion was late going into training for that fight, and when he did go, he quickly broke his nose and injured his back.

"Then right after Mugabi, she made him promise it was his last fight," Arum says. "He appeased her and announced right after the fight (that) he (had) retired." In fact, that's what happened, with manager Pat Petronelli later saying, well, Marvin's kind of tired right now, but we're sure we'll work this out."

But it has yet to be worked out, even though it has been assumed all along that Hagler would make himself available for Leonard's one-shot comeback. Bertha evidently stacks up tougher than a stack of $10 million.

It has been advanced, of course, that Hagler is toying with Leonard. Hagler remains bitter over Leonard's retirement, coming as it did before Hagler reached his own superstar status. Leonard bowing out cost Hagler a lot of money. And Leonard didn't handle the announcement all that graciously, either. But Arum denies there's anything so calculated. "If there is," he says of Hagler, "he should get out of boxing and go into acting."

Not that Arum is without hope. Petronelli is working on the Haglers, but he's used to working a different kind of corner. "The one thing going for us," Arum says, "is the money. But it's nothing I'd want to put odds on."

If Hagler does stay in the den, that of course means the end of the middleweight division as we know it. It likely will fragment to three champions, just like the other divisions. And Hearns and Donald Curry will go for a while before reaping those big Hagler-esque pay days.

And if Hagler does stay home with Bertha, it shouldn't come as a surprise. "It's those Brockton wives," Arum says. The last fighter of note to retire too soon may have been Rocky Marciano of the same Massachusetts hometown. His wife wanted him out of the ring, too.

Boxing Notes

The Country Club in Reseda goes again July 29 with a card of unnamed and presumably unknown San Fernando Valley fighters. Meanwhile, a longtime Country Club fighter, undefeated middleweight Michael Nunn, takes on Charley Boston at Las Vegas on July 25. . . . Later this year, boxing will come to the Valley with a vengeance. Joining the Country Club in September will be Don Fraser at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills and Harry Kabakoff at the Universal Sheraton. Fraser hopes to duplicate his success with the young business crowd that he has enjoyed at the Irvine Marriott. He'll start with either former super-bantamweight champion Jaime Garza, who is reportedly out of training again, or perennial contender John Montes. Montes, by the way, fights well everywhere but on television. Of his four losses, all were on network TV against former or eventual champions. . . . Speaking of Montes, he's a good example of what has happened in network TV's cutback of boxing shows. Whereas he got $25,000 for fighting Pernell Whitaker, he got just $3,000 for fighting on an Irvine card. More and more network fighters will be beating the bushes for such down-scaled purses now that TV dates are drying up. Another example: Olympic gold medalist Tyrell Biggs was being shopped around for a fight on one of Fraser's cards, just so he could stay busy.

One of the last TV fights of the year will be on CBS July 20. That will have Olympic champion Paul Gonzales defending his NABF flyweight title against undefeated Orlando Canizales at Caesars Tahoe. Canizales is the younger brother of former bantamweight champion Gaby Canizales. Gonzales, who is 4-0, has been on the tube twice and might have been on three times but bowed out of one date. However, his promoter, Don Chargin, also recognizes that the TV gravy train will be making fewer stops. "The boxers and promoters are demanding too much and boxers pull out for the flimsiest reasons. If Larry Bird pulls out of the NBA finals, the Celtics are still there." In other words, it's always easier and cheaper to send those divers off the Acapulco cliffs than to send some boxers into the ring.

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