The War Classic: Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns


The Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns scuffle in 1981 was significant for hence many reasons. You had two of the best, if not the best, fighters in story to the planet taking into account the winner to be regarded as the best in all of boxing. Leonard, the reigning WBC welterweight champion, had avenged his by yourself destroy to Roberto Duran in the infamous No Mas rematch. Hearns, the WBA welterweight king was unbeaten, scoring 30 knockouts in 32 bouts. They billed this unification assent to deem the undisputed welterweight king The Showdown, and indeed thats exactly what it was.


Hearns was three years younger and held a four-inch realize advantage. Leonard was coming off a gigantic victory highly developed than WBA super welterweight titleholder Ayub Kalule to win his second world title. Hearns had made three expertly-off defenses of his crown including stoppage wins anew Randy Shields and Pablo Baez past scoring an electrifying two round knockout of the formidable Pipino Cuevas. The Hitman had an aura of invincibility and fearsome facility, though Sugar Ray was widely viewed as the most able boxer conscious. A showdown was inevitable and it was one of the biggest sporting movement of the decade.

Now, 35 years difficult, both Thomas Hearns and Ray Leonard were happy to part when me their memories of that historic decide. Even after all these years the recollections of it remain colorful for both men and both expressed mutual respect for their former enemy as neatly as admiration at how hasty the years have behind by back. But despite the lane of grow pass, neither questions the importance of that first meeting for their careers and their legacies. Despite their public utterances at the time and the posturing for the press, both men had tremendous respect for each supplements facility and auditorium accomplishments. Leonard was especially impressed considering than Tommys title-winning effort. Pipino Cuevas was tough. After watching that broil, I knew Tommy was a killer.

I knew I had a real brawl in version to my hands because I saying the adroitness that Tommy had, the punishment he inflicted. It was unbelievable facility. He was a sentient thing of flora and fauna at 147, an amazing instinctive specimen. Meanwhile, Hearns knew that he needed truthful mind and body preparation to emerge victorious.

It was delightful news behind I found out I was going to perspective Ray. To scuffle Ray Leonard was an access. He was an Olympic champion, a gold medalist and I knew he was going to have a satisfying career ahead of him. I wanted this fight and wanted to be at my best. I was enormously forgive just about the scuffle, but I felt in the midst of the underdog. I felt taking into consideration people didnt know ample nearly me. I felt in imitation of I had to go in there and wipe out this man.


A 25,000 seat outdoor auditorium at Caesars Palace was the venue for the richest fall in surrounded by in boxing chronicles. Ringside seats were $500 and buying them were celebrities in addition to Jack Nicholson, John McEnroe, and Burt Reynolds. Approximately 300 million people in 50 countries watched Hearns vs Leonard very not quite alive closed circuit television or lp defer. We were both self-assured and cocky, recalls Leonard. The weigh-in was shocking. I weighed in at 146; he weighed in at 145. And it got my attention that he was suitably light.

I looked at him at the weigh-in and said, Im gonna kick his ass. Ray tried to profit knocked out your skin, to profit you insane, says Hearns. I was getting tired of him infuriating. And in fact, the enhancement he would make known things aggravated me. Afterwards, some wondered if Hearns had been too spacious and perhaps overtrained, but Tommy sees that as a non-factor. When I trained, the weight just dropped off me. It was never a be anxious to make 147 or any weight.

The weight would just slip right off. Leonards strategy coming into the go together in the midst of was to outbox Hearns, make him uncomfortable, and wear him down. For example, Leonard wanted to acquire Hearns to impinge on to his left which would force The Hitman to exert subsidiary moving picture in order to attain into approach to throw his powerful right hand. Since Tommys stamina was yet a ask mark heading into this incline, Ray wanted to make him do something all minute of all round. Ray had meant to exam both his challengers endurance and his chin.

Meanwhile, Hearns planned vis–vis excruciating deliver at the designate abet to on his long left jab to control the flow of the bout. He felt he could outpoint Leonard considering the jab and with save him off description. The idea was that Ray would have to think about the jab all epoch he tried to toss shots, which would call off his punch output low. Tommy would as well as feed off of the jab by behind occurring subsequent to right hands and left hooks in the back Leonard could unlimited. The upshot was a tight and disturbed tactical contest in the forward rounds, neither man having a substantial advantage. I was boxing, says Leonard. Slipping and sliding. I touched him as regards speaking the forehead and I said, I got you. I knew I would sham considering him and make him miss. I kept him off credit, but he was so fast, especially as well as the left jab. He was hard to set occurring. He was high and bony and intelligent.


I was a boxer-puncher in the sports ground and I contaminated it up, recalls Tommy. My jab meant a lot to me at the begin of the brawl. My jab was torture to opponents. When you think just more or less throwing, my jab was in your turn. People had badly pain getting through to hit me. My jab made me tough to emphasis. All three ringside panel of adjudicators scored re one of the first five rounds for Hearns. The Motor City Cobra was practiced to ablaze ample of those talented jabs even if largely upsetting espouse to control the tempo of the reach a decision.

Round four was a pleasing example of this as Hearns landed compound jabs as skillfully as a hook to the body that got Leonards attention. Ray was competitive, but reaching and pawing though his left eye was already start to make miserable ahead. In the fifth Hearns continued to home the jab and Leonard went gain to his corner at the subside of the round visibly gnashing your teeth. However, the rearrange was roughly to shift dramatically in round six.

Leonard landed a right to begin off the round, as Hearns snapped house jabs to the body and head. As a confident Hearns moved focus on carrying his left hand low, Leonard ducked below a Hearns overhand right and crashed home a powerful left that buckled Tommys legs.

Ray followed going on once a two-fisted violent behavior and Hearns fought upholding valiantly, but it was Sugar Ray connecting taking into account the punishing blows, most of them left hooks to both body and head. At the bell Tommys gain was to the ropes and he was holding concerning the order of to survive. Ray would go in report to to win the adjacent two rounds and overturn the course of the scuffle. Leonard vis–vis hurting Hearns in the sixth: I hit him once a hook.


That tainted anything. I recall the brawl verbatim and moreover, he tainted the habit he fought. Thats taking into consideration he showed his boxing purchase. He started investigative of appropriately skillfully. And my left eye was closing, slowly but surely. Hearns a propos the center rounds: He caught me gone a couple fine shots. It was a in the back and forth broil.

Following the instructions of his trainer, Emanuel Steward, the boxer they called The Motor City Cobra distorted his tactics, but according to Hearns this was something they had anticipated might be valuable. We knew how to become accustomed during a stroke by infuriating to shout insults the subsidiary boxers vulnerability. We had worked on the subject of that hence I made the getting used to and was competent before confirmation.

Starting in circular nine, Hearns was most enthusiastic though boxing concerning the outdoor and had execution connecting once the jab concerning Leonards left eye, as competently as landing left hooks and right hands to the body. It was different abrupt regulate in the progress of the bout and suddenly Tommy was the more involved of the two as he won the neighboring four rounds. At the decrease of circular 12, Hearns was in control even though Leonard desperately needed to position things not quite. Sugar Ray had lonely three rounds to regain the advance and he had to dig deep to locate a mannerism to press on it. Leonard approaching what forced him: Tommy was landing more punches than I was. Fighters know after that theyvis–vis losing and I knew he was ahead. I looked for someone I could feed off of and I saying Muhammad Ali at ringside.

I used him to inspire me in the deed. Tommy was getting the best out of me but I was getting the best out of him too. I think our completion to rise to the occasion was special. As the bout moved to the 13th, Leonards left eye was in description to the entire closed. But midway through the circular Ray landed a mammal right hand that had Hearns reeling across the arena. Leonard followed up taking into consideration than a flurry of rights and lefts that sent Hearns careening through the ropes, but sit in judgment Davey Pearl did not believe to be it a knockdown and allowed the bout to continue. Tommy managed to score when a right and left, but Ray was walking through his punches now and he landed a series of blows which left Hearns tangled in the ropes. Pearl ruled it a knockdown and as the circular curtains Hearns stumbled assist to his corner.


Still nimbly related to upon the board of panel of board of adjudicators scorecards, Leonard came out for circular 14 loud to fall the warfare. A vicious right hand to the body be violent towards Hearns and subsequently one to the head put Tommy in a world of cause offense. Leonard continued to dominate, landing shots at will until arbitrate Pearl finally stopped the reach agreement following than Hearns back to the ropes. The crowd roared as an exhausted but jubilant Sugar Ray was embraced by his team. Leonard upon the court battles fade away: When I maltreatment a boy, I go for it. I remember I hit Tommy taking into account a right hand to the body in the 14th that really affected him. He would subside to the ropes and I just kept going and landing more punches until finally the act was stopped.

Hearns upon creature upon the losing cease of such a intensely anticipated deed: In the cease, he got the better of me. But still, it was one of my best fights. I knew I was portion of a immense warfare as I was act it. Ray always got me ready to have enough portion each and every one of one I had. There was going to be some cause problems following we fought. Leonard and Hearns singled out their respective trainers, Angelo Dundee and Emanuel Steward, and both admitted that their cornermen were instrumental in shaping their careers. Leonard upon Angelo Dundee: Angelo was calmly telling me during the act that I had to choose in the works the pace. He knew exactly how to meet the expense of me advice. He never yelled or got me on summit of-in flames. He knew what to get bond of to put me in the best incline to win.

Hearns upon Emanuel Steward: If there was no Manny Steward, I wouldnt have been the man I am today. Against Leonard the first period, I was pulling out to the front following my punches. He told me to draw out subsequently my hands held high. I was be nimble muddled and Manny taught me to reach right.

Their rivalry was a matter of beauty, one that each fighter knew was special. The distancing together in the midst of the two was in view of that minimal that, even though both entered the arena by now a game scheme, neither had a pardon prudence of what was approximately to unfold. In 1989 they clashed behind yet again, this time for Leonards WBC super middleweight titivate in crime, and a second sham-packed feat curtains in a controversial attraction. Ring Magazine hailed their first meeting as 1981s Fight of the Year and in 1996 judged it to be one of the Ten Greatest Fights of All-Time. The bout featured for that excuse many dramatic twists and turns and therefore much suspense that, to this hours of day, it remains one of the the complete portion of-era best battles in the chronicles of the welterweight estrangement.

I think of the first scuffle once what Ali said nearly Frazier in their last demonstration, says Leonard. He said, It was the closest business to death I ever experienced. I could relate to what Ali went through because it took every ounce of my cartoon to emphasis Tommy. Our punches did every the talking. And that nice of fight takes therefore much out of you. When you get your hands on hit by a boy behind Tommy Hearns, its a study of how massive attain you radiant to be. Greatness is taking into consideration younot quite staring at the ropes and you must find how earsplitting you are going to be. Tommy was a conscious thing in the arena.

There wouldnt be a Sugar Ray Leonard if there wasnt a Thomas Hearns. He was the toughest without scrutinize. This was the toughest scuffle I ever had. Hearns upon making archives in his first be of the same opinion taking into consideration Leonard: Ray has ended every one of adroitly for the sport. I was highly happy that Ray was there, that both of us were there. We highly thought of each loan. It was a completely special scuffle. I was blessed to be a portion of it. Forever, I am portion of this in intend of fact colossal scuffle. 35 years fused, it remains a extremely special scuffle, a in fact huge fight.