Thomas Hearns

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Thomas Hearns
Thomas Hearns 2.jpg
Hearns at Planet Hollywood, 2009
  • The Hitman
  • Motor City Cobra
Height6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Reach78 in (198 cm)
Born (1958-10-18) October 18, 1958 (age 63)
Grand Junction, Tennessee, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights67
Wins by KO48

Thomas Hearns (born October 18, 1958) is an American former professional boxer who competed from 1977 to 2006. Nicknamed the "Motor City Cobra", and more famously "The Hitman", Hearns's tall, slender build and oversized arms and shoulders allowed him to move up over fifty pounds in his career and become the first boxer in history to win world titles in five weight divisions: welterweight, light middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight.


Hearns was named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1980 and 1984; the latter following his knockout of Roberto Durán. Hearns was known as a devastating puncher throughout his career, even at cruiserweight, despite having climbed up five weight classes. He is ranked number 18 on The Ring's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. [1] He currently ranks #78 in BoxRec ranking of the greatest pound for pound boxers of all time. [2] On June 10, 2012, Hearns was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. [3]

Early life

Hearns was born in Grand Junction, Tennessee, on October 18, 1958, [4] the youngest of three children in his mother's first marriage. With her second marriage, six children joined the first three. On her own, Mrs. Hearns raised Tommy and his siblings in Grand Junction until Tommy was five years old; then the family moved to Detroit, Michigan. Hearns had an amateur record of 155–8. In 1977, he won the National Amateur Athletic Union Light Welterweight Championship, defeating Bobby Joe Young of Steubenville, Ohio, in the finals. He also won the 1977 National Golden Gloves Light Welterweight Championship.

Professional career

Hearns began his professional boxing career in Detroit, Michigan, under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward in 1977. Steward had changed Hearns from a light hitting amateur boxer to one of the most devastating punchers in boxing history.

He won six major world titles in five weight classes during his pro career, defeating future boxing hall of famers such as José "Pipino" Cuevas, Wilfred Benítez, Virgil Hill and Roberto Durán. In addition, he won the IBO title at Cruiserweight.

Hearns started his career by knocking out his first 17 opponents. In 1980, Hearns carried his 28–0 record into a world title match against Mexico's Cuevas. Hearns ended Cuevas's 4-year reign by beating him by TKO in the second round. Hearns was voted "Fighter of the Year" by Ring Magazine in 1980.

Hearns vs. Leonard

Hearns, center, in Detroit, December 1981 Tommy Hearns ca. Dec. 1981, Detroit Michigan USA.jpg
Hearns, center, in Detroit, December 1981

In 1981, Hearns the WBA Champion, with a 32–0 record (30 KOs), fought WBC Champion Sugar Ray Leonard (30–1) to unify the World Welterweight Championship in a bout dubbed "The Showdown." In this fight, Hearns suffered his first professional defeat when Leonard stopped him in the 14th round. In the 13th round, Leonard, behind on points on all 3 judges scorecards, needed a knockout to win. He came on strong and put Hearns through the ropes at the end of the round. Hearns was dazed, totally out of gas and received a count but was saved by the bell. Leonard, with his left eye shut and time running out, resumed his attack in the 14th. Hearns started the round boxing and moving, but after staggering Hearns with an overhand right, Leonard pinned Hearns against the ropes. After another combination to the body and head, referee Davey Pearl stopped the fight. Hearns and Leonard banked a combined 17 million dollars for the fight, making it the largest purse in sports history at the time. The following year, Leonard retired due to a detached retina, and there would be no rematch until 1989. [5]

Light Middleweight Champion

Hearns moved up in weight and won the WBC Super Welterweight (154 lb) title from boxing legend and three-time world champion Wilfred Benítez (44–1–1) in New Orleans in December 1982, and defended that title against European Champion Luigi Minchillo (42–1) (W 12), Roberto Durán (TKO 2), no.1 contender Fred Hutchings (29–1) (KO 3) and #1 contender Mark Medal (26–2) (TKO 8). During his reign at this weight, the 2 round destruction of Roberto Durán, in which he became the first boxer to KO Durán, is seen as his pinnacle achievement, earning him his second Ring Magazine "Fighter of the Year" award in 1984. [6]

Hagler vs Hearns

While remaining super-welterweight (light-middleweight) champion, Hearns ventured into the middleweight division to challenge undisputed middleweight champion Marvin Hagler in 1985. Billed "The Fight" (later known as "The War"), [7] this bout has often been labeled as the three greatest rounds in boxing history. [7] [8] The battle elevated both fighters to superstar status. Hearns was able to stun Hagler soon after the opening bell, but he subsequently broke his right hand in the first round. [9] He did, however, manage to open a deep cut on Hagler's forehead that caused the ring doctor to consider a stoppage. The fight, however, was allowed to continue at this point, with the ringside commentators remarking on the fact that, "the last thing Hagler wants or needs is for this fight to be stopped on a cut." [10] The battle did go back and forth some, but Hearns was unable to capitalize on his early successes against Hagler. As a result of breaking his right hand, Hearns began to use lateral movement and a good jab to keep Hagler at bay as best he could. This tactic worked fairly well, but in the third round Hagler staggered Hearns and managed to catch him against the ropes, where a crushing right hand by Hagler knocked Hearns down. Hearns beat the count but was clearly unable to continue and the referee decided to stop the fight. Despite the loss, Hearns garnered a tremendous amount of respect from fans and boxing aficionados alike. [11] Considering the popularity of the fight and the level of competition, a rematch seemed to be a foregone conclusion and was highly anticipated, but it never took place. [12] [13]


Hearns quickly made amends by dispatching undefeated rising star James "Black Gold" Shuler with a devastating first-round knockout in 1986. One week after the fight, Shuler was killed in a motorcycle accident. Hearns presented the NABF championship belt to Shuler's family at his funeral, saying he deserved to keep the belt as he had held it longer than Hearns.

In March 1987, Hearns scored six knockdowns of Dennis Andries to win the WBC light-heavyweight title with a tenth round stoppage at Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan. Later that year, his four-round destruction of Juan Roldán (63–2) to claim the vacant WBC middleweight title made Hearns a four-weight world champion.

In a huge upset, Hearns lost his WBC middleweight title to Iran Barkley via a third-round TKO in June 1988 in a bout Ring Magazine named 1988 Upset of the Year. In November that year, Hearns returned to win another world title, defeating James Kinchen (44–3) via a majority decision to win the inaugural WBO super-middleweight title. Hearns became the first boxer to win a world title in five weight divisions.

Rematch with Leonard

Hearns had to wait until 1989 for a rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard, this time for Leonard's WBC super-middleweight title and Hearns's WBO title. This was Hearns's sixth Superfight, a fight which much of the public believed Hearns won, flooring Leonard in both the 3rd and 11th rounds. However, the judges scored the fight a controversial draw. [14]

Later career

Hearns had one last great performance in 1991, as he challenged the undefeated WBA light-heavyweight champion Virgil Hill. In Hill's eleventh defense of the title, Hearns returned to his amateur roots and outboxed the champion to win a convincing decision and add a sixth world title to his illustrious career. [15] On March 20, 1992, Hearns lost this title on a split decision to old foe Iran Barkley but continued to compete and won his next 8 bouts. [16]

On June 23, 1997, Hearns appeared on a WWF telecast, performing in a storyline where he was taunted and challenged by professional wrestler Bret "Hitman" Hart, who claimed that Hearns "stole" the "Hitman" nickname. Hearns ended up "attacking" Jim Neidhart and knocking him down with a series of punches before officials entered the ring and broke up the "confrontation." [17]

On November 6, 1998, Hearns had a boxing fight which featured a rare, double knockdown. In it, Hearns and opponent Jay Snyder landed punches simultaneously during the very first round, Hearns a devastating right hand to Snyder's chin and Snyder a left jab to Hearns's chin. Hearns was able to get up before the referee's count reached ten seconds; Snyder was not and Hearns won by first-round knockout. [18]

On 10 April 1999, Hearns travelled to England and beat Nate Miller by unanimous decision to win the IBO cruiserweight title. [19] In his next fight in April 2000 he lost the title to Uriah Grant. The first round was competitive, with Hearns appearing hurt by a solid right to the jaw. Both fighters traded blows in the second round until Hearns appeared to injure his right ankle. He was forced to retire injured at the end of the round. [20] The crowd booed and Hearns took the microphone and promised his fans that he would be back. [21] Hearns fought twice more, winning both fights by TKO. His final fight was on 4 February 2006 against Shannon Landberg. [22]

Personal life

Hearns signs autographs in Houston in January 2014 Tommy Hearns signs autographs in Jan 2014.jpg
Hearns signs autographs in Houston in January 2014

Hearns's family is a fixture on the Detroit sports scene. His mother, Lois Hearns, is a fight promoter. Their company, Hearns Entertainment, has promoted many cards, including the Mike Tyson Andrew Golota bout in 2000. His son Ronald Hearns is also a boxer, and he fought on the undercard of his father's last couple of fights. Hearns lives in Southfield, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit). Hearns serves as a Reserve Police Officer with the Detroit Police Department.

Due to personal financial issues, Hearns was forced to auction off his possessions at The Auction Block of Detroit, Michigan, on April 3, 2010. Items included were a 1957 Chevy, 47' Fountain boat, and a slew of collectible memorabilia. His debt to the IRS was $250,000. He took responsibility for repaying the entire debt, which he said was accrued from being overly generous toward his large extended family. [23]

In 2012, Hearns was ticketed for parking in the middle of the road. He subsequently paid the ticket. His ticketing was featured in Parking Wars. [24]

Professional boxing record

Professional record summary
67 fights61 wins5 losses
By knockout484
By decision131
No.ResultRecordOpponentTypeRound, timeDateLocationNotes
67Win61–5–1Shannon LandbergTKO10 (10), 1:35Feb 4, 2006The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S.
66Win60–5–1John LongTKO9 (10)Jul 30, 2005Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
65Loss59–5–1 Uriah Grant RTD3 (12), 3:00Apr 8, 2000Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.Lost IBO cruiserweight title
64Win59–4–1 Nate Miller UD12 Apr 10, 1999 MEN Arena, Manchester, EnglandWon vacant IBO cruiserweight title
63Win58–4–1Jay SnyderKO1 (10), 1:28Nov 6, 1998Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
62Win57–4–1Ed DaltonKO5 (10), 2:47Jan 31, 1997Great Western Forum, Inglewood, California, U.S.
61Win56–4–1Karl WillisKO5 (10), 2:45Nov 29, 1996 Civic Center, Roanoke, Virginia, U.S.
60Win55–4–1Earl ButlerUD10Sep 26, 1995 The Palace, Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S.
59Win54–4–1Lenny LaPagliaTKO1 (12), 2:55Mar 31, 1995Detroit, Michigan, U.S.Won vacant WBU cruiserweight title
58Win53–4–1Freddie DelgadoUD12Feb 19, 1994 Coliseum, Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.Retained NABF cruiserweight title
57Win52–4–1Dan WardTKO1 (12), 2:09Jan 29, 1994 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.Won vacant NABF cruiserweight title
56Win51–4–1 Andrew Maynard TKO1 (10), 2:34 Nov 6, 1993 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
55Loss50–4–1 Iran Barkley SD12 Mar 20, 1992 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.Lost WBA light heavyweight title
54Win50–3–1 Virgil Hill UD12Jun 3, 1991Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.Won WBA light heavyweight title
53Win49–3–1Ken AtkinsTKO3 (10), 2:08Apr 6, 1991 Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
52Win48–3–1Kemper MortonKO2 (10), 2:02Feb 11, 1991 Great Western Forum, Inglewood, California, U.S.
51Win47–3–1Michael OlajideUD12Apr 28, 1990 Etess Arena, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.Retained WBO super middleweight title
50Draw46–3–1 Sugar Ray Leonard SD12 Jun 12, 1989 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.Retained WBO super middleweight title;
For WBC super middleweight title
49Win46–3 James Kinchen MD12Nov 4, 1988Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.Won NABF and inaugural WBO super middleweight titles
48Loss45–3 Iran Barkley TKO3 (12), 2:39 Jun 6, 1988 Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.Lost WBC middleweight title
47Win45–2 Juan Roldán KO4 (12), 2:01Oct 29, 1987 Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.Won vacant WBC middleweight title
46Win44–2 Dennis Andries TKO10 (12), 1:26Mar 7, 1987Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.Won WBC light heavyweight title
45Win43–2 Doug DeWitt UD12Oct 17, 1986Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.Retained NABF middleweight title
44Win42–2 Mark Medal TKO8 (12), 2:20Jun 23, 1986Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.Retained WBC and The Ring light middleweight titles
43Win41–2 James Shuler KO1 (12), 1:13Mar 10, 1986Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.Won NABF middleweight title
42Loss40–2 Marvin Hagler TKO3 (12), 1:52 Apr 15, 1985 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.For WBA, WBC, IBF, and The Ring middleweight titles
41Win40–1Fred HutchingsTKO3 (15), 2:56Sep 15, 1984Civic Center, Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.Retained WBC and The Ring light middleweight titles
40Win39–1 Roberto Durán TKO2 (12), 1:05 Jun 15, 1984 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.Retained WBC and The Ring light middleweight titles
39Win38–1Luigi MinchilloUD12Feb 11, 1984Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.Retained WBC and The Ring light middleweight titles
38Win37–1 Murray Sutherland UD10Jul 10, 1983 Caesars Boardwalk Regency, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
37Win36–1 Wilfred Benítez MD15Dec 3, 1982Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.Won WBC and vacant The Ring light middleweight titles
36Win35–1Jeff McCrackenTKO8 (10), 1:29Jul 25, 1982Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
35Win34–1Marcos GeraldoKO1 (10), 1:48Feb 27, 1982 The Aladdin, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
34Win33–1Ernie SingletaryUD10 Dec 11, 1981 Queen Elizabeth's Sports Centre, Nassau, Bahamas
33Loss32–1 Sugar Ray Leonard TKO14 (15), 1:45 Sep 16, 1981 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.Lost WBA welterweight title;
For WBC and The Ring welterweight titles
32Win32–0Pablo BaezTKO4 (15), 2:10Jun 25, 1981 Astrodome, Houston, Texas, U.S.Retained WBA welterweight title
31Win31–0Randy ShieldsTKO12 (15), 3:00Apr 25, 1981 Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.Retained WBA welterweight title
30Win30–0Luis PrimeraKO6 (15), 2:00Dec 6, 1980Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.Retained WBA welterweight title
29Win29–0 José Cuevas TKO2 (15), 2:39Aug 2, 1980Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.Won WBA welterweight title
28Win28–0 Eddie Gazo KO1 (10), 2:41May 3, 1980 Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
27Win27–0Santiago ValdezTKO1 (10), 2:56Mar 31, 1980Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
26Win26–0 Ángel Espada TKO4 (12), 0:47Mar 2, 1980 Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.Won vacant USBA welterweight title
25Win25–0Jim RichardsKO3 (10), 2:27Feb 3, 1980 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
24Win24–0Mike ColbertUD10 Nov 30, 1979 Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
23Win23–0 Saensak Muangsurin TKO3 (10), 2:31Oct 18, 1979Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
22Win22–0José FigueroaKO3 (10), 1:17Sep 22, 1979Sports Arena, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
21Win21–0Inocencio De la RosaRTD2 (10)Aug 23, 1979Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
20Win20–0 Bruce Curry KO3 (10), 2:59Jun 28, 1979Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
19Win19–0Harold WestonRTD6 (12)May 20, 1979 Dunes, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
18Win18–0Alfonso HaymanUD10Apr 3, 1979 Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
17Win17–0Segundo MurilloTKO8 (10), 2:25Mar 3, 1979Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
16Win16–0Sammy RuckardTKO8 (10)Jan 31, 1979Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.
15Win15–0 Clyde Gray TKO10 (10), 2:03Jan 11, 1979Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
14Win14–0Rudy BarroKO4 (10)Dec 9, 1978Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
13Win13–0Pedro RojasTKO1 (10), 1:09Oct 26, 1978Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
12Win12–0Bruce FinchKO3 (10), 2:01Sep 7, 1978Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
11Win11–0Eddie MarcelleKO2 (10), 2:59Aug 3, 1978Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
10Win10–0Raul AguirreKO2 (10), 2:08Jul 20, 1978Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
9Win9–0Jimmy RothwellKO1 (10), 1:49Jun 8, 1978Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
8Win8–0Tyrone PhelpsTKO3 (10), 2:08Mar 31, 1978Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.
7Win7–0Ray FieldsTKO2, 2:15Mar 17, 1978 Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
6Win6–0Billy GoodwinTKO2, 1:18Feb 17, 1978 Civic Center, Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.
5Win5–0Robert AdamsTKO3 (6), 2:45Feb 10, 1978Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
4Win4–0Anthony HouseKO2, 2:00Jan 29, 1978Hyatt Regency, Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
3Win3–0Willie WrenTKO3 (6), 2:41Dec 16, 1977Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
2Win2–0Jerry StricklandKO3 (6), 1:27Dec 7, 1977Hillcrest Country Club, Mount Clemens, Michigan, U.S.
1Win1–0Jerome HillKO2 (4), 1:59Nov 25, 1977 Olympia, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.

See also

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Sporting positions
Amateur boxing titles
Ronnie Shields
U.S. Golden Gloves
light welterweight champion

Ronnie Shields
Regional boxing titles
New title USBA welterweight champion
March 2, 1980 – August 1980
Title next held by
Kevin Morgan
Preceded by NABF middleweight champion
March 10, 1986 – October 1987
Title next held by
Michael Nunn
Preceded by NABF super middleweight champion
November 4, 1988 – April 1989
Title next held by
Don Lee
Title last held by
Orlin Norris
NABF cruiserweight champion
January 29, 1994 – February 23, 1994
Title next held by
Adolpho Washington
Minor world boxing titles
New title WBU cruiserweight champion
March 31, 1995 – September 1995
Title next held by
James Toney
Title last held by
Robert Daniels
IBO cruiserweight champion
April 10, 1999 – April 8, 2000
Succeeded by
Major world boxing titles
Preceded by WBA welterweight champion
August 2, 1980 – September 16, 1981
Succeeded by
Preceded by WBC light middleweight champion
December 3, 1982 – October 24, 1986
Title next held by
Duane Thomas
Title last held by
Sugar Ray Leonard
The Ring light middleweight champion
December 3, 1982 – October 24, 1986
Title next held by
Oscar De La Hoya
Lineal light middleweight champion
June 15, 1984 – October 24, 1986
Succeeded by
Preceded by WBC light heavyweight champion
March 7, 1987 – November 27, 1987
Title next held by
Donny Lalonde
Title last held by
Sugar Ray Leonard
WBC middleweight champion
October 29, 1987 – June 6, 1988
Succeeded by
New title WBO super middleweight champion
November 4, 1988 – May 8, 1991
Title next held by
Chris Eubank
Preceded by WBA light heavyweight champion
June 3, 1991 – March 20, 1992
Succeeded by
Iran Barkley
Sugar Ray Leonard
The Ring Fighter of the Year
Sugar Ray Leonard
Salvador Sánchez
BWAA Fighter of the Year
Sugar Ray Leonard
Matthew Saad Muhammad vs.
Yaqui López II
The Ring Fight of the Year
vs. Sugar Ray Leonard

Bobby Chacon vs.
Rafael Limón IV
Marvin Hagler
The Ring Fighter of the Year
Marvin Hagler
Donald Curry
BWAA Fighter of the Year
Marvin Hagler
José Luis Ramírez vs.
Edwin Rosario II
The Ring Fight of the Year
vs. Marvin Hagler

Steve Cruz vs.
Barry McGuigan
Juan Meza vs.
Jaime Garza
Round 1
The Ring Round of the Year
vs. Marvin Hagler
Round 1

Steve Cruz vs.
Barry McGuigan
Round 15