UPDATED: 7:30 p.m. ET
The boxing world was stunned to learn of the news that “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler died on Saturday at the age of 66. His wife made the announcement on the legendary boxer’s Facebook fan page and said her husband “passed away unexpectedly” in their New Hampshire home.
Absent from all the news coverage and ensuing obituaries has been Hagler’s cause of death.
That lack of disclosure drew attention to a social media post from fellow boxing legend Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, with whom Hagler had arguably his greatest triumph in the ring back in the 1980s. Hearns said without proof on Saturday prior to Hagler’s death that his former rival was suffering health problems due to “the vaccine,” using an exclamation mark for emphasis.
Hearns posted that message to his verified Instagram account and asked his followers to pray for Hagler, who he called “the king,” and his family.
“He’s in ICU fighting the after effects of the vaccine!” Hearns claimed in the post without offering any evidence or specifying which vaccine he was referring to.
Hearns assured his followers that Hagler will “be just fine but we could use the positive energy and Prayer for his Full Recovery !”
Hearns later deleted the Instagram post.
The Facebook announcement from Hagler’s wife came later that same day.
After Hearns’ Instagram post was widely interpreted as confirmation Hagler had an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, he went back on the social media app to add some context.
“Allow us to have our peace. Our love and respect to Marvin and his family, this is not an anti vaccine campaign,” Hearns wrote via his Instagram stories. “It’s outrageous to have that in mind during the passing of a King, Legend, Father, Husband and so much more.”
TMZ reported that one of Hagler’s sons said his father was hospitalized Saturday “after experiencing trouble breathing and chest pains at home.”
Hagler’s website was updated to say he died “of natural causes near his home in New Hampshire,” contrasting slightly with his wife’s statement that he died “at his home in New Hampshire.” Hearns’ initial statement suggested Hagler may have died in a hospital.
Days later, USA Today reported that Hagler’s death was not caused by the COVID-19 vaccine. However, no cause of his death has been announced and Hagler’s wife later said it “wasn’t the vaccine that caused his death.”
Hagler is forever linked to Hearns after beating him by TKO in the third round of their legendary fight in 1985.
To be sure, it was unclear when — or if — Hagler had actually been vaccinated.
Conspiracy theorists on social media cited the recent deaths of other aging high-profile former athletes like Hank Aaron and Leon Spinks who had been given the COVID-19 vaccine before dying as purported proof, but their deaths were never officially linked to taking vaccines.
There have not been any official reports of deaths attributed to the COVID-19 vaccines that have been widely distributed. The U.S. on Saturday reached a milestone by surpassing 100 million doses administered.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has listed several side-effects that are common from COVID-19 vaccinations that don’t include death. They include experiencing pain, redness, swelling, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea.
There have been multiple deaths reported following COVID-19 vaccinations, but none have been tied to the vaccines themselves.
The effort to vaccinate America has been a massive undertaking, prioritizing people in Hagler’s age group and older. The vaccines are expected to be made available to all adults by May 1, with hundreds of millions of doses recently ordered by President Joe Biden.
There has been some vaccine hesitancy across all demographics, with media reports emphasizing distrust among Black people in America. However, a number of notable Black people have publicly received their vaccines without reporting any complications, including former first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris.
CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly stated how many times Hagler and Hearns fought. The text has been updated to reflect this correction.