Without a doubt, Thomas “Hitman” Hearns was one of the greatest punchers of the last 50 years in the sport. And most of the boxing world got introduced to him on August 2nd, 1980.
That night in the famed Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit, the local hero, Hearns, was taking on WBA Welterweight Champion “Pipino” Cuevas in a scheduled 15 rounder.
And, in a matter of minutes, the legend of Hearns grew so significantly, that he would become a “mega-star” in the Welterweight, Junior Middleweight and Middleweight divisions for more than 15 years after.
One thing was apparent from the get-go was that Hearns tall, lanky frame served him well, not only in this fight, but many fights to come. This was especially with his use of his jab at a distance and then, his lethal straight right hand after it or if you were willing to try to come at him.
Hearns landed that right hand a couple of times in the first round and Cuevas, who had made nine straight successful defenses, seemed to shake it off. However, in the second round it was obvious that Hearns was going to “get home” with the big punch at some point and probably, soon. And, he eventually did.
When the thunderous right rocked Cuevas, he recoiled with almost a two-step standing straight up. That’s when, Hearns hit him once more with another hard right on the jaw and Cuevas crashed face-first to the canvas.
He barely beat the count, but his cornerman had already come in the ring to stop the fight and any further punishment from Hearns.
The win improved Hearns to 29-0 and he was named “Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year” for 1980. And, it eventually lead to his Welterweight World unification title battle with Sugar Ray Leonard in September of 1981. Leonard very famously was trailing on the scorecards late in a fight that, as Hearns was in control
However, Sugar Ray rallied, hurt Hearns in the 13th round and eventually, staggered him with a barrage of punches along the ropes and stopped him in the 14th round of a TKO for Hearns’ first professional loss.
Hearns would become the first fighter ever to win World titles in five different weight divisions and would go into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.