Recalling The Night Tommy Hearns Won The WBC 154 Pound Championship

tommy hearns12.06.07 - By James Slater: After his heartbreaking loss to “Sugar” Ray Leonard, his first ever as a professional, Tommy Hearns regrouped with decent wins over Ernie Singletary, Marcos Geraldo and Jeff McCracken. With revenge over Leonard uppermost in his mind, Tommy set his sights on winning another world title.

He moved up seven pounds and challenged the incredibly talented Puerto Rican, Wilfred Benitez, for his WBC light middleweight title. Winning this would prove that Tommy was still one of the finest fighters in the world and that he had suffered no ill effects as a result of the Leonard defeat. The fight was set for December the 3rd 1982 at the Super Dome in New Orleans.

Since HIS loss to Ray Leonard, also his only as a pro, Benitez had won six straight - including a KO win over Maurice Hope in the fight that had earned him his light middleweight world championship. Wilfred had also beaten the legendary Roberto Duran, while defending his belt. This had been truly excellent form and going into the fight with Hearns the experts were divided as to the outcome.

Tommy Opted to use his fine and often underrated boxing skills as opposed to going for a quick KO. He respected Benitez’s uncommon defensive abilities and used his height and reach to good effect. Wilfred’s nickname was “El Radar” and at times he really did seem to be able to anticipate punches before they were even thrown. Whilst being pinned on the ropes or in a corner is normally a dangerous place to be during a fight, Benitez was often right at home there. He had frustrated many opponents who, when thinking they had him right where they wanted him, could only hit fresh air. He also possessed underrated punching power and an incredibly big heart.

Some, however, accused him of having crazy and eccentric qualities and this seems accurate when one considers his training habits. For some of his fights it was claimed that he only prepared for seven to ten days - despite the calibre of the opponent he was scheduled to face. Wilfred had childlike qualities for sure and depending on your view he was either a nutcase or a genius. There has certainly never been anyone like him, before or since.

In the fight with Tommy Benitez’s radar must have been faulty because he took a number of hard, flush shots to the head. Again seeking refuge in his usually comfortable position of having his back to the ropes, his head movement was no way near as sharp as it had been and Hearns was tagging him frequently. This is not to say it was all one way traffic. The bout was evenly fought in many of the rounds and both men scored knockdowns. Benitez, typically, refuted the validity of his trip to the floor. Hearns himself may have failed to do as expected - namely go for the KO win - due to injuring his wrist during this portion of the action. The fight was close but watching it one had the opinion that Tommy was the man generally in charge, as he landed the cleaner and harder punches.

It went to the fifteenth and final round and at the end both men thought they had won. The judges’ scores were surprising in that two of the three favoured Hearns overwhelmingly, while the other had the fight a draw. This card was possibly the more accurate, the victory Tommy got was not deserving to be of the huge margin two of the officials had it as. He had done enough though and the majority decision gave him his second world title. Tommy was as happy as he could be.

His great career had a lot, lot more in store for the approval of the historians’ yet, though. Indeed, there were to be another three weight classes conquered. Floyd Mayweather currently holds Tommy’s old title, of course. It will be interesting to see if “Pretty Boy” can go one better than “The Hitman” and win recognised world championships in six separate weight divisions.

As good as Floyd is, I’d bet against it.

Article posted on 13.06.2007

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