FOR some reason, Marvin Hagler took a shine to me. He bashed me up in six rounds (in Worcester, Massachusetts in February, 1983) and we stayed in touch.
Every time Marvin was in England I would get a phone call from him saying: “Come and see me Tone, let’s meet up”. I always did, and he was always such great company.
The last time I saw him was in Milan around four years ago. I was in Milan for a Kasabian gig and Marvin came and joined us at the hotel. I was there with my mates from the British Legion in Blaby (a district of Leicester) and Marvin sat with us and chatted about life and boxing for hours. He had time for everyone. He really was a lovely man.
He did what he did in the ring and outside the ring he was always smiling.
He looked so well the last time I saw him. He looked like chiselled marble and I remember thinking: ‘I bet he could still do 15 rounds flat out in a heartbeat.’ It’s hard to believe he’s gone. I loved Marvin as a fighter and a man. I loved (former European middleweight champion) Gratien Tonna and Carlos Monzon was long, lanky and could really fight, but Marvin was up there with the best of them, an absolute legend.
I was just a young kid when I fought him. I earned the right to fight him. I beat Dwight Davison in an eliminator (at a packed NEC in Birmingham in February, 1982) to become the No 1 contender, but when I stepped up to fight Marvin I was out of my depth. He was just too good for me. I gave it a go, but he was too good.
I remember touching his tummy at the weigh in. I was intimidated by all the people there and was trying to show I wasn’t. Marvin looked at me and said: ‘Don’t do that again.’ So I did it again to show I wasn’t intimidated. Marvin just smiled at me and then he got his own back in the ring!
He was only nasty to me when we fought. He was polite before and afterwards.
I first met him when he was over for the Alan Minter fight in 1980. I was living in Clapham at the time and training at the Lavender Hill Boxing Club with the Finnegans (brothers Chris and Kevin) and others. Marvin came to train at the gym and we had to leave, but I shook his hand before we went. I never really thought we would end up fighting each other one day.
My heart is broken now that he’s gone. I was in a daze for a couple of days after I heard the news. John H Stracey sent me a text message in the middle of the night telling me Marvin had gone and when I read it I thought: “What? This can’t be true.” I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I wanted to ring someone to see if it was true, but it was too early. I just sat there in bed, feeling bewildered. Marvin didn’t have any history of being ill and then he was gone. I messaged (Hagler’s wife) Kay after I heard the news. I didn’t want to ring her, but wanted her to know how upset I was and that I was thinking of her.
These have been rubbish times over the last few months and now we’ve lost a legend like Marvin. That’s what he was, a legend.
Marvin really was my hero. He showed me so much respect before and after the fight and I think he was loved by everyone in boxing. Everywhere he went people were drawn to Marvin because he was such a beautiful man.