Boxing legend Marvin Hagler's death is being used by anti-vaxxers to push conspiracies about the COVID vaccine

Boxing legend Marvin Hagler's death is being used by anti-vaxxers to push conspiracies about the COVID vaccine
Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
  • Boxing legend Marvin Hagler passed away on Sunday at the age of 66.
  • Former opponent Thomas Hearns said Hagler died fighting the after-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Hagler's family has since said that he died from natural causes.

Boxing legend Marvin Hagler passed away at the age of 66 on Saturday, and the cause of his death has fueled controversy related to the risks of COVID-19 vaccines.

Hagler's wife, Kay G. Hagler, confirmed the news in a Facebook post on Saturday, saying that Hagler died in his New Hampshire home from natural causes.

"I am sorry to make a very sad announcement. Today unfortunately my beloved husband Marvelous Marvin passed away unexpectedly at his home here in New Hampshire. Our family requests that you respect our privacy during this difficult time," Kay G. Hagler wrote.

However, earlier that same day, Hagler's former opponent and friend Thomas Hearns said Hagler was in ICU fighting the after-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"A real true warrior Pray for the king and his family.. he's in ICU fighting the after effects of the vaccine! He'll be just fine but we could use the positive energy and Prayer for his Full Recovery!" Hearns wrote.


Hearns' post fueled an outpouring of anti-vaccination sentiment in response to Hagler's death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the vaccine's side effects can include pain and swelling in the injected arm, as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. The CDC has also said that the vaccines are "safe and effective" and that severe side effects are extremely rare.

Over 92 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through March 8, 2021. In that time, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reported 1,637 deaths among individuals who were injected with a vaccine, according to The CDC. However, there was no evidence linking those deaths to the after-effects of the vaccine.

This data didn't stop conspiracy theorists from using Hagler's death as a tentpole in their anti-vaccination campaigns on Saturday.

Hearns made a follow-up statement addressing the anti-vaxxer's reaction to Hagler's death on Instagram later in the day via Instagram story.


"Allow us to have our peace. Our love and respect to Marvin and his family, this is not an anti vaccine campaign... it's outrageous to have that in mind during the passing of a King, Legend, Father, Husband and so much more," Hearns wrote.

Kay G. Hagler also posted a follow-up statement on Facebook, condemning those using her husband's death for their agendas.

"I am the only person that know how things went not even his family know all the details and I do NOT accept to read some stupid comment without knowing really what happen," Kay G. Hagler wrote. "For sure wasn't the vaccine that caused his death. My baby left in peace with his usually smile and now is not the time to talk nonsense."

Hagler is not the first former athlete to have his death hijacked by anti-vaccination campaigns. Former MLB player Hank Aaron passed away on January 22, 17 days after posting on Twitter that he'd been vaccinated. Anti-vaxxers falsely linked Aaron's death to the vaccine's after-effects then as well.

Georgia Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there is "no evidence" that Aaron's death had anything to do with the COVID-19 vaccine.


Despite the science proving the vaccines' safety, diverse portions of the general population in the US and elsewhere are skeptical of taking the vaccine.

A poll released by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist showed that 47% of people who voted for former President Donald Trump said they wouldn't get the vaccine, while just 6% of Joe Biden voters said they wouldn't get it.

As long as that sentiment exists, anti-vaxxers could use cases like Hagler's to support their agenda.