Marvin Hagler, he of the formidable muscles and the gleaming skull, is in a pout. The man who hasn't lost a fight in seven years said he isn't being paid what he's worth. As for that $1.25 million he picked up Friday night for swatting out Wilford Scypion in four rounds, Hagler said he's weary of fighting for comparatively sharecropper wages.
Friday night, Hagler got the biggest payday of his life. But he is lusting for some of the truly big money that has been out there. Paychecks like the $10 million each that Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney got for their one fight; the $27 million Sugar Ray Leonard earned for just three bouts with Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns, who also were remunerated in the millions.
It's disgusting, Hagler said, and do you know what? He might just decide to quit, he said in the postfight press interviews; give up the whole thing and retire into history as the most underappreciated middleweight champion of all time, so there. Guffaws. Some fight writers are crusty old cynics.
"Here I am, a champion with three belts (WBA, WBC and Ring magazine), and there are guys with only one belt with a lot more money in the bank than I've got," Hagler said. In a way, he's right. The aforementioned Holmes, Cooney, Leonard, Duran and Hearns have probably made more from one bout apiece than the industrious Hagler has earned for all of his 61. It's enough to make a man grumble.
But Hagler is fantasizing about the big money being still out there. There are signs that the party is over, that without Leonard and his magnetism to pump up the gate, there is no giant payday in sight for Hagler.
The Durans and the Benitezes and the Hearns only drew big when Leonard was the party of the other part. On their own, like Hagler, they could command only scale pay. With all his skills, Hagler was unlucky that Leonard, the Midas of the business, couldn't grow into Hagler's weight division fast enough, leaving Hagler to fight the plodders.
And also, as far as all that cable and pay-per-view money goes, there are signs that it may no longer exist. The Boston Herald has reported that the ABC-ESPN cable combine and the pay-per-view people took a bath last week in their grand plan on the Larry Holmes-Tom Witherspoon heavyweight title fight.
According to the Herald story, the projected revenue of $1,485,000 from pay TV shrank to a mere $816,000, a sign of fan apathy, and that of the 40,000 subscribers on one New England cable system, only 600 paid to plug in. Even supported by a Michael Dokes-Mike Weaver title fight, Holmes was not box office, "and the actual loss could be in the $2.8 to $3 million range, but they probably will never admit it," the Herald said.
But there are yet some things afoot. Promotor Bob Arum, a hero to those dismayed by Don King's control of most of the boxing scene, is even now plotting better days after turning a tidy profit on Friday night's fight. He visions a Roberto Duran-Hagler fight soon, if Duran, in one more of his comebacks, can beat former junior middleweight champ Davey Moore June 16 in Madison Square Garden.
In Providence, Arum said, "That's the dream match. Duran is cut out to be a middleweight. Hagler will be rooting hard for Duran to get rid of Moore, and then we'll have a big box office show." Arum did not seem to hear Hagler's retirement talk.
Arum also has another goodie in mind. He says he now has the ear of Larry Holmes, who is no longer fond of Don King after King tried to cut his purses. Arum wants to set up a Holmes fight with, guess who, Marvis Frazier, Joe's son, who has an 11-fight winning streak and who may be ready for Holmes if he beats Joe Bugner next week in Atlantic City, not an improbability. What do you know? Another Frazier to signal the return of the glory days. Maybe.