CONWAY — Retired middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler, who died Saturday at his Bartlett home at age 66, was remembered as one of Mount Washington Valley’s own after the famous boxer first started coming here in the early 1980s, then bought a home in Bartlett in 1985.
“As far as I’m concerned, he was the valley’s celebrity,” is how Terry O’Brien, co-owner of the Red Parka Steakhouse and Pub in Glen, summed up Hagler.
Bartlett Police Chief Christopher Keaton said police logs show that Hagler was transported by Bartlett-Jackson Ambulance Services from his home near Attitash to North Conway’s Memorial Hospital on Friday evening.
The ambulance service also responded to another call on Saturday to the Hagler residence, as did a Bartlett police officer, Keaton said.
“I don’t actually know what the cause of death was,” Keaton said.
Tim Kershner, director of public relations at Memorial Hospital, said he could not comment due to HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.“I received calls this weekend from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and USA Today asking the same thing. I have not asked our ER department if he were a patient here because at this point it is irrelevant,” said Kershner.
Asked if an autopsy would be performed, Kershner deferred to Medical Director Dr. Matt Dunn who deferred to the state Medical Examiner’s Office.
A spokesman for the Medical Examiner’s Office Monday afternoon said, “All I can tell you at this point is that [Hagler] is not our case.”
Hagler’s death was announced to the world by his wife, Kay, on his Marvelous Marvin Hagler Fan Club Facebook page on Saturday.
She said there will not be a service. “Marvin hated funerals and therefore there will be no funerals or church celebrations. He wants to be remembered with a happy smile, but I would be happy if each of you can light a candle for him,” wrote Kay.
She discounted online rumors that his death was caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I was the only person close to him until the last minute, and I am the only person that knows how things went, not even his family know all the details and I do NOT accept to read some stupid comment without knowing really what happened,” his wife wrote, adding, “For sure it wasn’t the vaccine that caused his death. My baby left in peace with his usual smile and now is not the time to talk nonsense.”
Hailed by CBS News as “one of the toughest and most beloved boxers of the modern era,” Hagler was a 1993 inductee to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He made 12 defenses of the undisputed middleweight title he held from 1980-87 before losing the title to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987 in a split decision.
After retiring from the ring, he moved to Italy, where he starred in action movies. Hagler had five children with first wife Bertha. He married Kay, who is Italian, in Italy in 2000.
A native of Newark, N.J., he settled in Brockton, Mass., as a teenager. Fighting from 1973-87, the southpaw compiled a record of 62-3-2, 52 knockouts.
He was managed and trained by brothers Pat and Goody Petronelli, who ran a gym in Brockton.
Hagler trained at the Provincetown Inn for many of his prizefights in the early ’80s and would run through the Cape Cod dunes as a strengthening exercise.
His record is highlighted by his third-round knockout in April 1985 of Thomas Hearns in a legendary fight that lasted less than eight minutes.
According to friend and Bartlett Selectman Gene Chandler, Hagler used to stay at the Dana Place Inn in Jackson, where he would train and sometimes go for runs with Chandler’s then 9-year-old son, Justin, now 49.
“He was great with kids. My youngest son Justin loved going up there and hanging out, running with him,” said Chandler, who said he and fellow Realtor Foley Morrell sold Hagler his Bartlett home.
“I think he enjoyed how the valley treated him and respected how this was his quiet space. I’d see him in a restaurant and say, ‘Hi, Champ’ and briefly chat and move on.”
Conway Daily Sun Sports and Education Editor Lloyd Jones said former Josiah Bartlett Elementary Principal Joe Voci would invite Hagler to give inspirational talks on the first day of school.
Jones recalled running into Hagler at Patch’s Market in Glen in 1983.
“He drove a big Cadillac and he came into the store to pay for his gas, and I said that I had to shake his hand,” said Jones. “I was a sophomore in college and I was pretty awestruck. I had him sign one of those brown lunch bags that I still have at home.”He recalled how Hagler would hang out with Clint Guptill and the gang at the office of his filling station in Glen, now an Irving gas station.
“He liked to sit and chat with the boys,” said Jones., adding that he and his late father Bob Jones once got to talk boxing with Hagler at the now closed Scarecrow Restaurant in Intervale. “I said to him, talking about the Sugar Ray Leonard fight, ‘You know you won that fight,’ and he said, ‘I KNOW I won that fight.’ ”Vito Marcello, proprietor of Vito Marcello’s Italian Bistro, said he and Hagler had many mutual friends.
“He also loved Italian food! He’d come in and we would talk for hours, sharing stories. It’s a very, very sad time,” said Marcello.
Nora Mulkern Bean, manager of the Shannon Door Pub in Jackson said Hagler was a welcome patron.
“He was always so gracious. Sometimes, he would go out to his car and get photos he would bring in and autograph for kids,” she said.
Local boxing author Ted Sares shared some special insights about Hagler.
“For me, the two words that best describe him are consistency and loyalty,” said Sares. “He kept the same managers and trainers throughout his career, namely, the Petronelli brothers out of Brockton. And amazingly, there was no written contract. Just their word and mutual trust. In a business not known for its moral upside, this was rare and refreshing.
“He also was incredibly consistent fighting at the same weight (middleweight) throughout his long career, and this was due, in part, to his dedication to training — much of what he would do in remote Provincetown, Mass., where he could train without being bothered. His style was pretty consistent, too — consistently outstanding.”
O’Brien said Hagler would come in the Red Parka “and say hi to everyone, asking how everyone was doing, how were the kids and the grandkids. He was a very friendly guy, always a gentleman,” said O’Brien, who said she had last seen him at the pub about one week ago.
“He would hate it when bartenders rang our bar bell whenever they received a good tip — not because they had gotten a big tip, but because the bell reminded him of the boxing ring!” shared O’Brien.