Hearns vs. Duran - Still “The Hitman’s” Greatest Hit - Over Twenty Years Later

01.02.06 - By James Slater: This weekend Thomas Hearns will engage in the second bout of his latest comeback. He may well win, and he may well do so by KO. But surely, at his advanced age, the comeback is destined not to go very far. Tommy’s great days were back in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s and the fighting prowess he had in his possession then will remain a thing of the past, to be seen only when one slides a tape of “The Hitman’s” career highlights into the VCR. Which brings me to the subject of this piece - THE performance of Hearns’ great career.

Tommy’s finest win was achieved while fighting at his best weight and this produced his finest KO. He never lost as a light middleweight and those who saw his complete destruction of Roberto Duran were witness to a flawless fighting machine. On the day of this fight, in June 1984, A boxing legend reached his very peak. This KO victory was the quintessential Thomas Hearns!

The late, great Chuck Hull informed us that Tommy wanted to be known as “The Motor City Cobra” no longer, he was returning as Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns! In the opposite corner stood Duran, “Hands of stone”, as his nickname proclaimed, and after the introductions were done an intense stare down ensued.

In his previous fight Roberto had gone the full fifteen rounds with Marvellous Marvin Hagler, losing a close decision. His fight record was an incredible 77 wins with only five defeats. He had never been KO’d and the only man to ever floor him was Esteban De Jesus, back in Roberto’s lightweight days. (Duran was beaten inside the distance, in the infamous “No Mas” fight with Ray Leonard, but he was never floored in this bout) He was as tough as they come and as he stood face to face with Hearns he wore the familiar snarl he used to intimidate opponents. He showed no fear, making the developments to come all the more shocking.

They came out at the opening bell and in a show of mutual respect touched gloves. A surprise after the intensity of the stare down. Duran tried to get to Hearns’ body but he was soon in trouble. He was backed up to the ropes as Hearns fired in some fast rights and uppercuts. Roberto was cut with less than two minutes gone and then, with less than thirty seconds to go, a crushing right hand to the side of the head dumped him on the canvas. Tommy was looking absolutely awesome and he tore into Duran as soon as the action resumed. He let loose with an array of super fast punches and decked “Hands of stone” for a second time, with a left on this occasion. Duran was still beckoning Hearns in just prior to this but he looked to be doing so purely on instinct, he was being slaughtered! The bell rang, saving Roberto from the ultimate humiliation of a first round KO loss. He was so groggy he walked to the wrong corner! There was no way he could come back from this. Hearns had predicted a quick win and he was living up to his word. Duran’s reputation meant absolutely nothing to him, such was his complete belief in the lethalness of his hands.

Round two started and again they touched gloves. Hearns then went back to what he was doing in the first round and the end came with brutally swift efficiency. Forced to the ropes again, Duran tried his best to fight back but it was a helpless cause. Then the punch landed. THE punch of Hearns’ career. A right hand blow that was nothing short of chilling. A perfectly
timed and delivered sledgehammer thudded into Duran’s head and he pitched forwards and crashed face down on the mat. He was totally out. This punch may well have been the most perfect right hand ever thrown. It produced a KO that would grace any boxer’s highlight reel. This remarkable example of his adeptness at destruction sent shockwaves through the boxing world and from then on all fighters, whether light middleweights, or fully fledged middleweights, would have to be aware of the fact that if they made one mistake while in the ring with Tommy, it could be the end of them.

And Tommy, of course, went on to fight an epic with one of the greatest ever middleweights in Marvellous Marvin Hagler, the following year. Surely, EVERYONE who calls themselves a boxing fan will know everything about this incredible fight already!

As for Duran, he was to stage a remarkable comeback in 1989, with a great win over middleweight champ Iran Barkley. And right throughout the rest of his long fighting days he was never again to be knocked cold in the fashion he had been by Hearns. Up until his very last fight, in 2001, he was never again counted out. He was stopped, yes, by Pat Lawler - TKO 6 and by William Joppy - TKO 3, when an old man, way past his best. But he was never subject to the treatment he received from Thomas Hearns back in June of ’84.

The KO Tommy scored over Duran was truly one for the ages. This is the moment the historians, along with Hearns’ many fans, produce as evidence of his all-time-greatness. He never looked better, before or after. He’s certainly not going to come close to doing so now and, hopefully, the comeback will soon end.

Indeed, if anyone wishes to see “The Hitman” score a great KO these days, then they must do so via their fight film library. In this regard, Hearns’ fans will never be let down!

Article posted on 01.02.2006

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