James Hagler Jr. (3-1, 1KO) has been around boxing his entire life. His grandfather, "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, reigned as the undisputed middleweight champion from 1980 through 1987, making twelve successful title defenses of the title against the likes of Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, and John "The Beast" Mugabi. Now it's James' turn to carry on the family legacy, and it begins on May 20th at the Park Theater in Cranston, RI. While the Marvelous one enjoyed a legendary hall-of-fame career, he unceremoniously retired from boxing after losing a disputed decision to "Sugar" Ray Leonard in 1987. After the loss, the Brockton native moved to Italy to take up acting, never to be involved in the sport again.
Thirty years later, James Hagler Jr. looks to follow in his celebrated grandfather’s footsteps. However, boxing is not the career that Marvin Hagler would have chosen for his grandson, who he was very close with. "My family didn’t want me to box," recalls Hagler Jr. "I first learned about boxing when I was 3 years old, but when I started wanting to go to the gym, they told me that my grandfather didn’t want me to box. He wanted me to focus on football. He didn’t want any of us going through the boxing politics that he went through his whole career."
Despite Marvin's wishes, the sport runs deep in the Hagler family genes, and once James became an adult, he couldn’t ignore the boxing bug any longer and decided to embark on his own fistic career. "I got started late as far as fighting, but I’ve been learning about boxing my whole life," explains the 32-year old. "I started my amateur career when I was 24. I had 10 fights: I won 7 and lost 3 from 2015-2019. I turned pro at the end of 2019, but I lost a whole year because of Covid."
Hagler has only fought four times in four years as a professional, but he recently signed a promotional pact with CES Boxing and looks to fight as often as possible. "I plan to be fighting in New England a lot," says Hagler Jr. of his immediate goals. "I don’t want to move too fast, but in three years I’d like to be ready for a title shot."
Joining the CES Boxing stable under the tutelage of Jimmy Burchfield Sr., the Georgia native can finally get his career on track, and it begins with his light heavyweight bout on May 20th at the Historic Park Theater in Cranston, Rhode Island. "I got to New England on May 1st to finish preparing for this fight," says an excited Hagler Jr., who credits Knuckles Demolition Services for sponsoring him during training camp. "I’m training out of the same gym where Demetrius ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade trains in Rhode Island. My weight is good, my stamina is there and I’m improving my skills, so I’m ready to go. With me and Robert Duran fighting on the same card Saturday night, it’s going to be a great show."
James is referring to Robert Duran Jr. (11-3, 8 KOs), the son of the multi-division legend who also recently signed with CES Boxing and will make his CES debut in a junior middleweight bout on Saturday. "Duran and I are like brothers," explains James. "We went through a lot in boxing as far as legacies and people using us, so we talked a lot about our similar experiences and we became close. Our careers aren’t like Nico Ali’s and Evan Holyfield’s careers. Ours was a lot harder, so we’re trying to get the right people around us."
Indeed, James has now experienced some of the boxing politics that his grandfather was hoping he would avoid. Thankfully, both he and Duran Jr. are making changes to their respective teams early enough in their careers that it’ll make a difference. A key part of that effort involved finding a promotional company who would work in their best interest. Without coordinating, they both chose CES Boxing to guide their careers.
"We didn’t know that we were signing with CES at the same time," laughs James. "It’s crazy – I called him up and told I’m going to sign with Jimmy, and he was like, really? I’m about to sign with Jimmy. We signed in the same month."
With a promoter in tow that is active in the northeast, the Hagler name will once again ring bells across New England. The question on every boxing fan’s mind will be, however, does James fight anything like his famous grandfather? "I’m a southpaw and I have a good jab like him, but I just don’t switch stances like he did," says Hagler Jr. "My grandfather was more aggressive. I try to box more."
James is also naturally bigger, and while Saturday's fight takes place at light heavyweight, Hagler Jr. is looking to settle into the super middleweight division going forward. "I had a year layoff, so that’s why this fight is at light heavyweight," explains Hagler Jr. "I see myself fighting at 168. It’s a very competitive division. You’ve got Demetrius Andrade, who I look up to and train with, and you also have Canelo, David Benavidez, Caleb Plant. And then the younger guys like Edgar Berlanga."
And while Hagler Jr. envisions a future fight against Berlanga at Madison Square Garden, he views a showdown against the grandson of another boxing legend as his future super fight. "My dream fight is to fight Nico Ali," says Hagler Jr. about the prospect of facing Muhammed Ali’s grandson, who is currently 8-0 and competing in the middleweight division. "That would be a fight that attracts many people because it would be a legend’s grandson against another legend’s grandson. I went to his fight in Atlanta and it’s something we talked about".
While there is plenty of time to plan for those mega events, the countdown begins on May 20th at the Park Theater in Cranston, RI. Tickets for the May 20th event featuring James Hagler Jr. and Robert Duran Jr. at the Park Theater in Cranston, Rhode Island are on sale now and can be purchased online at cesfights.com or thepark.com. The event will be streamed live at SpectationSports.com for those watching at home.