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A tribute to Mae Lang: ‘World Middleweight Champion Mama’ to Marvelous Marvin Hagler

Jimmy Myers
A tribute to Mae Lang: ‘World Middleweight Champion Mama’ to Marvelous Marvin Hagler
Mae Lang with Massasoit Community College President Ray DiPasquale (left) and Brockton Mayor Robert F. Sullivan at the Evening of Champions event May 13. PHOTO COURTESY OF MASSASOIT COMMUNITY COLLEGE

There is so much to tell about the life of Mae Lang — from the riot-torn streets of New Jersey in the late 1960s where she brought her family to the city of Brockton, her final resting place. 

Her son Marvin became a professional boxer. “Mama Mae,” like every other mother who raised a fighter, absorbed every blow along with her son as he climbed the middleweight contender rankings.

Marvin introduced me to his mom over 40 years ago. I remember liking her right from the start. Our relationship developed to the point where I would call her to track the whereabouts of her son, not the Petronelli Brothers, who acted as his managing handlers during the formative years of his professional boxing career.

Mae fought for Marvin and his siblings with the same ferocity as her son comported himself in the boxing ring. The woman was a warrior in every sense of the word.

And believe me when I tell you that Marvelous Marvin Hagler, one of the toughest men (physically and mentally) that I have covered during my sportscasting career, had a “healthy fear” of his mother, mixed with his undying love and devotion to her and his family.

When Marvin finally won the World Middleweight Boxing title by blasting his way past Alan Minter in London, Sept 27, 1980, I recollect a tearful call from Mae.

“He did it. My baby did it,” she exclaimed.

She, I and everyone who had followed her son’s boxing career rejoiced that day.

My thoughts also drifted back to Nov. 30, 1979, when Marvin was “robbed” of his first chance at the title. He had beaten middleweight champ Vito Antuofermo all over the ring for the entire fight, nearly knocking him out —twice!

I interviewed a tearful Marvin afterward as he uttered the words: “For all the people who wanted to see me win the title, I feel bad. But the one person I wanted to win the title for the most was my mom, my greatest fan. What am I going to have to do, kill somebody to get this for her and my family?”

Her daughter Ronnie, who Mae called the wind beneath her wings, said, “My mother loved and cared for all of her family, not just Marvin.”

Marvelous Marvin Hagler gained sports immortality by defending his middleweight title a record-tying 14 times before losing a controversial decision to Sugar Ray Leonard. He refused a rematch that could have made him millions more dollars, and left America for Italy, becoming an international film star with his roles in films including “Indio” and Indio 2”.   

He and Mae told me that he had lost faith in the boxing world’s judging system and would never return. “My son is a man of his word,” Mae said. “So when he told me he was done for good, I believed him.”

History proved that Mae Lang knew her son better than the rest.

By the time this article is read, Mae Lang will have been laid to rest (the funeral was held on July 25). She leaves the legacy of being one of the most demanding mothers to one of the world’s toughest boxers in pugilistic history. 

The last time I saw Mae Lang was on May 13 at the fundraising event (“Evening of Champions”) held at Massasoit Community College to raise money for scholarships to send young people to that college. Mae built this event to keep the memory of her son alive. (Marvelous Marvin Hagler died a couple of years ago at age 66.)

Hundreds attended the event.

I was honored to be the master of ceremonies for the second year. Mae told me that I would be the emcee of the Evening of Champions event as long as she lived. That statement came in the form of a “standing order.” Out of respect to her and her son, I have followed that order to the letter. 

A tender and respectful farewell to Mae Lang, “World Middleweight Champion Mama,” who now joins her son Marvelous Marvin Hagler in eternity.

Mae Lang, Marvin Hagler, professional boxing