Thomas Hearns - The comeback continues...unfortunately

17.01.06 - By James Slater: Over Five months have passed since the legendary "Hitman", Thomas Hearns made the shocking decision to return to the ring at the advanced age of forty six. After his win over the little known John Long, Hearns declared how this victory was just the start and how he intended to keep fighting for a whole lot longer. I can safely assume I wasn't the only person who was disheartened by those words, not to mention worried. However, after the Long fight nothing else happened for the rest of 2005. Had Tommy returned to his senses? I dearly hoped so. The thought of such an awesome fighting machine getting beaten by some nondescript guy who would've been unworthy even of providing adequate sparring for "The Hitman" in the days of his prime sent an absolute shiver down my spine.

But then, last week, on Friday the thirteenth of all days, the news broke that I hoped would not. Tommy's comeback will indeed continue. He is scheduled to box one Shannon Landberg on February the 4th this year. A decent fighter on the club circuit, Landberg has a respectable 58-10-3 (26) record and also has a couple of names on his record; Markus Beyer out pointed him over ten and Mads Larsen stopped him in four.. At this point in his life ANY fight is a dangerous proposition for Hearns but, as was the case with Long, Landberg looks to be as safely picked an adversary as possible. He has been inactive as of late, last fighting in November of 2003( a two round win) and his KO percentage is not one indicative of a murderous puncher. Still, I just wish Tommy would hang 'em up.

Tommy is without doubt my number one boxing idol. Some of my most treasured memories are of his epic battles with men named Hagler, Leonard, Duran, Benitez and Roldan. Win lose or draw, Hearns always electrified me and made my heart pound in a way nothing else ever has. These moments were from a special time and from a fabulous boxing era. Who can ever forget the intensity of the three round war with Marvellous Marvin? Or the drama of the two historic super-fights with Sugar Ray? Tommy was an absolutely fearless puncher who always gave everything he had in the ring. He should indeed go down as one of the most consistently exciting fighters of all-time.

But, of course, there was also the other Thomas Hearns, "The Motor City Cobra". An exceptional boxer who had superb skills other than the ability to render a man senseless. This mastering of the sweet science enabled him to out-box such pure boxers as Ray Leonard, Wilfred Benitez and, at the latter end of his glory days, Virgil Hill. Tommy almost had every attribute a fighter could ever need- speed, power, stamina, heart and nerve. Almost every attribute. The one department in which Tommy was lacking was chin. I have never gone along with the view some have that he was totally "chinny", Lord, the bombs he took from Hagler in that wild first round and the vicious brawl he was sucked into by Iran Barkley in their second fight prove his chin wasn't all that bad. But every fighter has at least one weakness and his beard was Tommy's.

If anything this vulnerability made one marvel at the sheer fearlessness of Hearns all the more. That he was prepared to go in and war with the men he did knowing his chin could let him down at any moment, and yet still either win or at least put the other man through hell before finally going down, all guns blazing, is the mark of an amazingly gutsy and admirable fighting man.

And it is this hard and well earned reputation that "The Hitman" is putting at jeopardy by deciding to carry on with his comeback idea. His legacy is gold covered and I cannot bare the idea of it being even slightly tarnished by this ill advised and self deluded attempt at capturing even more glory. I shudder at the thought of him being badly hurt or embarrassed in a fight. It can't happen! Not to Tommy. Never has there been a more classy and dignified boxer. Mr Hearns is a special person. Everyone should know the story of what happened at the funeral of James Schuler.

This promising young fighter's life had been cruelly cut short by a motorbike accident just days after his bout with Tommy. James had been the defending NABF middleweight champion and Tommy, in one of his most impressive wins, KO'd Schuler in a single devastating round to take the title. Now, at the funeral, Tommy paid his respects and then placed the title belt on James' coffin, saying how he had it longer than himself and was therefore entitled to it. An incredibly honourable and touching act by "The Hitman." A class above indeed. This is just one of the many selfless acts this fine human being has performed. I know of no person who wishes him any bad fortune, he is well liked by everyone, be it his peers or his millions of fans.

I suffer from being somewhat selfish when I contemplate Tommy's future. It's not just a case of me not wanting him to get hurt, it is also my not wanting any memories I have of my favourite sportsman ever, to be bad ones. I want to retain the ability to reminisce joyfully on my hero and this is why I profoundly hope he has a reality check soon and gets the comeback bug firmly out of his system without coming to any grief whatsoever. If this is as things do transpire then at least he will go out a winner, with his health intact. The meaningless comeback fights will soon fade from memory and the magic from his great days will be allowed to stay as the dominating images that are conjured up whenever his name is mentioned.

Please, call it a day Tommy, you have nothing at all left to prove. Enjoy the rest of your life basking in the reputation of living legend, knowing how well loved and admired you are the world over.

And let my memories of you continue to be nothing but treasured ones.

Article posted on 17.01.2006

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