Thomas Hearns - The Hitman | Ask Dr. Tommy
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Thomas Hearns - The Hitman
Tommy McElroy, MD
Thomas 'Hitman' Hearns is one of the most remarkable fighters in boxing history. A decorated amateur who became an all-time great professional, Hearns reigned during a golden age of the middle weights of boxing. Not only was he champion from welterweight to light-heavyweight (147-175 lbs) over the course of his career, but he dominated in an era that included fighters such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Pipino Cuevas, Wilfredo Benitez, Virgil Hill, and Iran Barkley. Of those only Barkley and Hagler were able to to best Hearns completely. Even Sugar Ray Leonard admits that the second fight with Hearns ('The War') was a draw in name only: 


So here is a recap of some key fights in The Hitman's long, successful career.
1. August 2, 1980 vs. Jose 'Pipino' Cuevas - W KO 2 - Thomas Hearns caps off a successful professional career by taking out the steel-chinned WBA welterweight Pipino Cuevas with stunning efficiency in the 2nd round. In this fight the freakishly tall, quick, and powerful Hearns completely overwhelms and destroys the sturdy, hard-hitting Mexican with one of the most vicious knockouts in the history of the sport. 



2. Sept. 16, 1981 vs. Sugar Ray Leonard - L TKO 14 - In 'The Showdown' WBC welterweight champion Leonard faces off against WBA champ Hearns. In one of the only times when two all-time greats met in their primes, boxer Leonard famously turns slugger while master assassin Hearns reverts to his former stick-and-move style of boxer and actually outboxes Leonard for most of the fight until he succumbs to Leonard's unrelenting attack in the 14th round. When referee Davey Pearl stopped the fight with Hearns laying against the ropes, it signalled an temporary end to 'The Hitman' who then became once again, 'The Motor City Cobra' and began his climb back up the ladder.



3. December 3, 1982 vs. Wilfredo Benitez - W UD 15 - Fighting for the fourth time since being beaten by Leonard, Hearns redeems himself by beating master boxer Wilfredo Benitez whom Leonard had beaten himself to win the welterweight title in 1979. Fighting with an injured right wrist, Hearns once again proved his versatility as a master boxer by outfoxing the smaller Benitez over 15 rounds to win the WBC light-middleweight title. By claiming a second title in the 154-lb class, Hearns was well on his way to establishing his legend. His next big fight against 'Manos de Piedra' Roberto Duran sent shockwaves through the boxing community and signalled that the 'Hitman' was back!



4. June 15, 1984 vs. Roberto Duran - W KO 2 - In this showdown featuring rough and tumble Panamanian great Duran against the still alien-tall Hearns for the 154-lb title, Hearns displays shocking power and frighteningly vicious speed and accuracy in knocking out the 'indestructible' Duran who had just finished 15 rounds again middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Already an all-time great lightweight champion, Duran was riding high after his impressive display against the dominant Hagler in an unsuccessful bid for the 160-lb crown seven months prior. In what was a low-point for Duran, Hearns once again displayed the ferociousness that took him to the title and showed that 'The Hitman' was back!



5. April 15, 1985 vs. Marvin Hagler - L TKO 3 - 'The Fight' is the ultimate irresistible force vs. immovable object showdown. In a fight that lives up to the hype, Hagler and Hearns go to the mattresses for 3 rounds of ferocity not seen in the middleweight division since the Tony Zale - Rocky Graziano fights of 30 years prior.  Despite hitting Hagler with some nuclear bombs in the first round, Hearns is not able to stave off the hard-charging bald bull Hagler who gradually wears down the taller challenger and then knocks him down, stopping Hearns in the third round.



6. June 12, 1989 vs. Sugar Ray Leonard - D 12 - Hearns gets a second bite at the Leonard apple and takes advantage. In an exciting fight between aging greats, the two fight tooth and nail for 12 rounds before battling to a draw. Despite being down twice, Leonard responds strongly and nearly again takes out 'The Hitman' in the 12 and final round. When all the cards were added up, the official result is a draw, but Leonard and Hearns later agree, the real result is a win for Hearns and redemption.



7. June 3, 1991 vs. Virgil Hill - W UD 12 -  In a fight where Hearns seals his greatness, underdog Tommy Hearns once again reverts to master boxer 'Motor City Cobra' persona and outboxes and defeats master boxer long-time WBA light heavyweight champion Virgil Hill. At the time, Hill was one of the longest reigning champions and over-the-hill Hearns was seen as a easy pelt to claim for the dominant North Dakota legend Hill. Over the course of 12 masters-level boxing rounds, Hearns takes the fight to the younger champion and wins the light-heavyweight title for the second time. A glorious cap to a glorious career.


There are fights which didn't make this list. Barkley I & II, Juan Roldan, James Kinchen, Andrew Maynard, and other exciting bouts, but these are seven fights which define and celebrate the career of all-time great Thomas 'The Hitman' Hearns.

Dr. Tommy McElroy is a concierge medicine physician in Wesley Chapel, Florida. He is the founder of Echelon-Health and host of the Ask Dr. Tommy Show.







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