ANTI-VAXXERS have hijacked boxing legend Marvin Hagler's death, after the all-time great passed away Saturday at age 66.
Before his death, competitor Tommy Hearns said Hagler was "in the ICU fighting after-effects of vaccine" – prompting conspiracy theorists to use the tragedy to promote their unfounded claims it is dangerous.
Announcing the 66-year-old’s passing on Saturday, Hagler’s wife Kay said his death was "unexpected".
The grieving wife wrote on Facebook: "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."
Hagler’s son James earlier told TMZ his father had been rushed to hospital with chest pains and was experiencing trouble breathing before dying about four hours later.
No official cause of death has yet been announced, although the family have said he died of “natural causes”, with no mention of a Covid vaccine being to blame.
Earlier on Saturday, Hearns wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of his old opponent: “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!”
After news of Hagler's death emerged, jab-opposers took to social media to claim it was proof the vaccines are unsafe.
On Saturday evening, Hearns attempted to correct anti-vax campaigners, posting on Instagram again with the caption: “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.”
More than 100 million Americans have already received their Covid-19 vaccines, including 4.6m on Saturday alone.
However, the roll-out is being slowed down by vaccine hesitancy, which remains higher in some ethnic minority groups, including among African Americans.
The US Center for Disease control describes the approved coronavirus vaccines as “safe and effective” with severe side effects being “extremely rare” – however anti-vaxxers still immediately jumped on Hagler's death to make unfounded claims that the vaccine is dangerous.
The American boxer – born in Newark, New Jersey – dominated the sport’s middleweight scene, which he was champion of between 1980 and 1987.
He was also named as the Fighter of the Decade for the 1980s by Boxing Illustrated magazine and won the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year award twice.
Hagler, who legally changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler, fought 67 times over 14 years as a pro.
He retired at 34 after losing to Sugar Ray Leonard, a decision he claimed was stolen by the judges, the Associated Press writes.
Hagler beat Hearns in a fight in 1985 that is legendary in boxing circles.
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