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Boxers Thomas "Hitman" Hearns (left) and Marvelous Marvin Hagler fought outdoors at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on April 15, 1985, for Hagler's middleweight title. Hagler won by technical knockout. He died at age 66 on March 13, 2021. (AP) Boxers Thomas "Hitman" Hearns (left) and Marvelous Marvin Hagler fought outdoors at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on April 15, 1985, for Hagler's middleweight title. Hagler won by technical knockout. He died at age 66 on March 13, 2021. (AP)

Boxers Thomas "Hitman" Hearns (left) and Marvelous Marvin Hagler fought outdoors at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on April 15, 1985, for Hagler's middleweight title. Hagler won by technical knockout. He died at age 66 on March 13, 2021. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher March 16, 2021

Claim blaming COVID vaccine for Hank Aaron, Marvin Hagler deaths lacks evidence

If Your Time is short

  • The cause of Aaron’s death was ruled natural and not linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • It is not yet known whether Hagler received a COVID-19 vaccine or what caused his death.

A social media post by former Major League Baseball player Aubrey Huff appears to blame the deaths of two sports legends on the coronavirus vaccine.

Huff, who has made several social media posts questioning vaccines, made his claim the day after Hagler’s death. His March 14 Instagram post read:

"Hammering Hank Aaron...now Marvelous Marvin Hagler two legends dead after taking the #covid19 vaccine."

The widely shared post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

There’s no evidence that either man’s death was related to COVID-19 vaccines.

Huff did not reply to our email.

Aaron’s death ruled natural

Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974, and his 755 home runs ranks second behind the 762 hit by Barry Bonds, who broke Aaron’s record in 2007. 

Aaron died at age 86 on Jan. 22, 17 days after he chose to receive the COVID-19 vaccination publicly in hope that other Black people would get the shot. The Fulton County (Ga.) Medical Examiner’s office said Aaron’s death was not linked to the vaccine. 

We rated as False a claim that said otherwise.

Questions about Hagler 

Hagler, who legally changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler to include his nickname, was a middleweight champion in the 1980s and is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. 

His wife, Kay Hagler, announced March 13 on Hagler’s fan club page on Facebook that Hagler died unexpectedly that day at their New Hampshire home. She didn’t mention a cause of death. 

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Hagler was 66. 

The next day, Kay Hagler posted another message on the same page, saying in part:

"I would like to speak with my heart to all of you. I apologize if my English is not written correctly but I hope everyone understands me in this difficult moment. ...I was the only person close to him until the last minute, and 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. 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."

MarvelousMarvin.com, the boxer’s official website, said Hagler died of natural causes near his home.

One of Hagler’s children, James Hagler, told TMZ that his father was taken to a New Hampshire hospital on March 13 after experiencing trouble breathing and chest pains at home. That was several hours before he died, according to TMZ.

We contacted the New Hampshire Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to ask whether Hagler received a COVID-19 vaccine and what caused his death, and were referred to the state attorney general’s office. A spokeswoman said the medical examiner "will accept jurisdiction for unexplained and non-natural deaths," but that Hagler’s death "did not fall under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner."

Rumors of Hagler’s death being related to a COVID-19 vaccine can be traced to one of his former rivals.

Thomas "Hitman" Hearns, a Hall of Fame boxer who was defeated by Hagler in a championship fight in 1985, said in a March 13 Instagram post with a photo of Hagler: "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 Hagler’s death, Hearns wrote on Instagram, according to The Daily Mail: "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."

That post apparently has been deleted.

Our ruling

Aubrey Huff claimed that Hank Aaron and Marvelous Marvin Hagler died "after taking the COVID-19 vaccine," suggesting that the deaths were linked to the vaccine.

The medical examiner said Aaron’s death was natural and not linked to the vaccine. It is not yet known whether Hagler received a COVID-19 vaccine or what caused his death, but his wife said it was not the vaccine.

With no evidence to back this claim, we rate it False.

Our Sources

Instagram, Aubrey Huff post, March 14, 2021

Facebook, Kay Hagler post on Marvin Hagler Fan Club page, March 13, 2021

PolitiFact, "No evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine caused Hank Aaron’s death," Jan. 26, 2021

Facebook, Kay Hagler post on Marvin Hagler Fan Club page, March 14, 2021 

The Daily Mail, "Anti-vaxxers hijack boxing legend Marvin Hagler's death after rival Tommy Hearns said he was 'in ICU fighting after-effects of vaccine': Boxer's family says 66-year-old actually died of natural causes at home," March 14, 2021

TMZ.com, "FORMER CHAMP DEAD AT 66 … Had Breathing Trouble," March 13, 2021

MarvelousMarvin.com, home page, accessed March 15, 2021 

New York Times, "Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Middleweight Champion of the 1980s, Dies at 66," March 13, 2021

Email, Kate Giaquinto, director of communications New Hampshire Office of the Attorney General, March 15, 2021

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Claim blaming COVID vaccine for Hank Aaron, Marvin Hagler deaths lacks evidence

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