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Bam on boxing: Thomas Hearns

BAM on Boxing

Legends Part 1 of 4

If you attended the Aug. 10 boxing card at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center, you may have seen one of the greatest Puerto Rican fighters of all-time, Wilfredo Gomez, who was there. More ring legends are on their way to the Sands on Thursday evening, Sept. 26: Thomas Hearns, Earnie Shavers, Gerry Cooney and Larry Holmes will be ringside. This may be your chance to meet and greet.

Let’s talk about Hearns, one of my favorites!

Hearns, known as the Detroit Hitman, was the first boxer in history to win world titles in four weight classes, then the first to do it in five different weight classes.

Hearns started with iconic trainer Emmanuel Steward in 1977 in Detroit’s soon-to-be legendary Kronk gym, one of boxing’s most historic gyms, which was in operation from 1920 to 2006. Steward was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997. Hearns was one of the 41 world champions that Steward guided.

Steward took Hearns (155-8 amateur record) and transformed him into a heavy-hitting pro who retired with a record of 61-5-1, 48K0s.

Hearns was known for his classic fights with Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler. Hearns (WBA champ) faced Leonard (WBC champ) for the first time on Sept. 16, 1981, Hearns lost by K0 in the 14th round after leading on the scorecards. Their rematch also was historic. The two fighters met again June 12, 1989, even though Hearns (WBO champ) had Leonard (WBC champ) down in the third and 11th rounds, the 12-round fight went to a decision and was scored a draw, one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history.

Hearns met Hagler April 15, 1985 in one of the most well-known brawls in boxing history even though it lasted only three rounds with Hagler winning in defense of his undisputed middleweight title. This match elevated these two fighters to super-star status. Both fighters gained from the experience. This is the war to which all future brawls have been compared.

How many Philly fight fans know that Hearns fought in Philadelphia on April 3, 1979, at the Spectrum? Hearns was scheduled to fight the co-feature bout against Alfonso Hayman, a Philadelphia native. There were a couple of other well-known Philadelphia fighters on that undercard—future world bantamweight champ Jeff Chandler, another Hall-of-Famer, and middleweight slugger Curtis Parker.

J Russell Peltz promoted the show and he gave me some insider information I would like to share with you! Hearns was not meant to be the main event that night, super featherweight Hall-of-Famer Bobby Chacon was. When Peltz got the call that Chacon pulled out 10 days before the fight, he moved Hearns to the main event against Hayman. The card also was moved from March 20 to April 3.

Steward (trainer/manager) and Hearns must not have been too happy to be moved to the main-event without a pay increase. Although Steward was friendly with Peltz, Steward had his lawyer reach out to Peltz and insist on a higher purse now that Hearns would be fighting in the main event. With no other option, Peltz agreed.

After Hearns had scored a 10-round decision over Hayman—the first time as a pro Hearns was forced to go the distance—Steward went to collect the purse, only to learn Hearns was getting the original purse of $5,000.00, not the agreed-upon $7,500.00. Steward had not insisted on a new contract with the new figure. When Steward appealed to Commissioner Howard McCall, he got a rude awakening. Steward added that Hearns was supposed to be given a certain brand of boxing gloves and The Spectrum was to play certain music when Hearns entered the ring. When Steward pointed this out to McCall by showing him the original contract, he sealed his fate. McCall told Steward that since he (Steward) was using the original contract in his argument, Hearns would receive the $5,000.00 purse since that was the figure stipulated in the contract Steward was using as his evidence.

Peltz realized that Hearns and Steward would not be returning to Philadelphia any time soon, but it was also the night that he learned that boxing is a business. If it ever made sense for Hearns to fight in Philadelphia again, he would have been back.

If you visit the Hitman’s website you can look through videos and highlights of some of these fights along with others:

Don’t forget Hearns will be at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center on Thursday evening, Sept. 26, where hometown welterweight Ronald Cruz boxes Alberto Morales, of Miami, FL, in the 10-round main event of a seven-fight card which begins at 8pm.

The author is a Temple University graduate who is now a part of Peltz Boxing. Follow us on twitter @Peltzboxing and BAM @BAMboxinginc

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