Is Hearns v Hill II On Itís Way?

03.02.06 - By James Slater: As crazy as it sounds, Tommy Hearnsí latest comeback, at the age of forty seven, may actually lead to a world title fight. The reason I believe this is a possibility is due to the recent success of another fighting veteran, Virgil Hill. Hill annexed the WBA cruiserweight title just over a week ago with a great (for his age) points win over Valery Brudov. Iím certain that within hours of this result the thought at the forefront of Thomas Hearnsí mind was a rematch with Virgil.. Letís face it, itís a match up that both guys would find plenty to like about. There are three reasons Tommy would entertain such a fight; number one, heís already beaten Hill, number two, he wouldnít be going up against a murderous puncher and number three it would be a chance to fight for a respected and recognised title. As for Virgil, he would like the fight for one overwhelming reason - it would be an opportunity to get revenge over the very first man to have defeated him.

Ok, maybe Iím guilty of looking at things in a positive light only. The fact remains that I, like practically everyone else, would simply prefer Tommy to retire. But if a rematch between these two does come off, then at least Tommy will be matched as evenly as is possible. He would be facing another senior, who at forty two is only five years the younger man. This is a lot better than the ageing ďHitmanĒ being in the ring with some young stud, intent on destroying all in his path. As Iíve said, Hill is no huge puncher. And the fact that Tommy has already beaten Hill cannot be underestimated.

This would very likely give him a psychological advantage going in. Remember, he was a big underdog before their first encounter but Hearns defied the odds. Iím convinced he will feel he can do so against Virgil again. Of course, if Tommy loses in one of his rust removing tune-ups, such as the one he will have this Saturday, then all bets are off. But if he is matched only against the likes of John Long and Shannon Landberg, then he should be allowed to get some momentum going without any hiccups.

Hill would no doubt be installed as a big favourite once again should a rematch materialise, and though on paper he is only five years younger, he is much the fresher man thanks to having fought in far less punishing fights than Hearns. But the chance at revenge will very likely be a tempting proposition for him and he has said he would like one more fight only before walking away ďon his own terms.Ē If an offer is made that is acceptable to both men, I feel a rematch is a very strong possibility.

The first fight was almost fifteen years ago. Itís strange, but it doesnít feel that long ago to me. This fight was Tommyís last truly impressive performance but going into the fight most experts predicted a fate similar to the one Ray Leonard had been subjected to against Terry Norris, only weeks before Hearns v Hill. The reason was, most thought Tommy was a shot fighter. He hadnít looked good in his last title fight; a defence of his WBO super middleweight belt against Michael Olijade. Tommyís legs were going every which way in the late rounds, due to fatigue more than anything else. He didnít figure to be any better off up at light heavyweight, certainly not against the undefeated Virgil Hill. The defending and undefeated champ wanted his first win over a big name opponent and the experts decided he would have no trouble getting it over the worn out Hearns.

Introduced as representing The V.I.P boxing club from Venice, California, Tommy was dressed in the unfamiliar colour of turquoise. It was now up to ďThe HitmanĒ to prove he could win a world title without Emmanuel Stewardís help. Alex Shearer was the main man in the corner tonight due to a temporary parting between Hearns and the Kronk master trainer. Hill was known as a fighter with pure boxing ability whereas Hearns could either be a boxer or a puncher. In this bout he chose to be the latter and a fight between two talented boxers followed.

Tommyís jab was his key punch. He set everything up with his sharp left hand and a very tentative Hill let him dictate the early rounds. Virgil had Freddie Roach in his corner and he was instructed between rounds to back Hearns up. He was giving his challenger way too much respect though and Hearns built a commanding lead points wise. There were bursts of action throughout, usually thanks to Hearns, but it was mostly a chess match. It wasnít a dull fight by any means though and it was a surprise to many to see how crisp and fresh Tommy looked. If he could keep it up in the second half of the fight, he would almost certainly be back at the very top of the sport he so loves.

By the sixth round, Hillís left eye was showing some swelling. Hearns was completely unmarked. Tommy enjoyed a great sixth session, as he opened up in the last minute of the round, letting his hands fly in a very effective and dominating fashion. Hill looked shocked and at the end of the round Roach gave him a severe talking to. ďThe HitmanĒ looked to be in total charge. Virgil carried on gamely and he did enough to prevent the fight becoming, ďThe Thomas Hearns showĒ; something heíd felt the pre-fight press conference had turned into when he was angered by Tommy being afforded all the attention. Virgil didnít seem to know enough though, and Tommy was taking him to school. The doubts heard before about Tommyís legs werenít being justified, he really was moving well and his punches clicked all night. His blows hurt Hill on many occasions throughout and a great right hand in particular hurt him in the ninth. His legs did some involuntary dancing and it looked as though heíd go. Virgil clearly had some toughness however, and he survived. Strangely, Tommy took the tenth round off, allowing Hill to come back some. This was a dangerous thing to do; who ever knows how the judges are scoring things? Ferdie Pacheco, doing commentary, had it close going onto the last round, he had Hearns up slightly. Tommy managed to dominate the last three minutes however, landing another stinging right hand to impress the three men that mattered. And then the final bell rang.

Tommy was smiling as he waited confirmation of the win he was sure heíd get. Virgil, on the other hand, looked quite dejected. They both knew who had done enough to claim an honest victory. Jimmy Lennon Jnr, read out the score cards and news of Tommyís triumph by unanimous decision was met with ecstatic cheering. He had done it! He was now a six time world champion. Tommy was over the moon. In the post fight interview with Pacheco he praised Hill as a fine boxer and thanked God for being in his corner. He also mentioned his grandpa, who he said was a hundred and eight years old! It was a joyous scene and Tommy was rightfully celebrating a superb, odds defying comeback.

The question now is, can Tommy pull off something similar in 2006? It might not be as far fetched as it sounds. If he can get off to a good start again by pumping his still quick jab into Hillís face, then just maybe Virgil will start having flashbacks from 1991 and once again let Hearns dictate, while going somewhat into a shell. Donít forget, Hill is no spring chicken either and he could grow very old over night. I personally donít want to see a return fight, itís just that Iím such a huge and unashamedly biased fan of Hearns. Iím trying to look at the most positive scenario for him in his unlikely comeback. What I would definitely say though, is that I wouldnít put my house against Hearns, at the very least, being competitive against Virgil, should another meeting take place.

I have a very strong feeling that should Tommy keep winning, then we will be seeing the final fight of his, and Virgil Hillís career - against one another; later this year.

Hearns v Hill II. You read it here first!

Article posted on 04.02.2006

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