On This Day: Thomas Hearns Has His Final Fight – and “The Hitman” goes out with a win

Tough clubfighter Shannon Landberg of Indiana holds a footnote in boxing history: that of being the final ring opponent of the legendary Thomas Hearns. It was this day in February of 2006 when Hearns, amazingly still fighting at the age of 47, pounded out a tenth-round stoppage win over a 58-10-3 Landberg. There was a star-studded audience on hand at a sold-out Palace at Auburn Hills, as so many of Hearns’ fights enjoyed, yet a whole lot had changed since Tommy’s glory days of the 1980s to the early 1990s.

Evander Holyfield and Aretha Franklin might have been in attendance but Emanuel Steward was not; at least the Kronk guru was not working the corner of his most famous fighter. Hearns had come back, shockingly, in 2005, this after a five-year inactive spell (one everyone thought was permanent) but Steward was not willing to work with him. Why Tommy still had the urge to box, he alone knew.

Over 15,000 saw boxing history of a kind, in Hearns’ final ring appearance, and though he was nothing like the lethal puncher/superb boxer he had been over so many years, Hearns at least went out with a win – and a stoppage win at that. Landberg, 40 years old himself and fighting for the first time since November of 2003, was exhausted and reduced to reeling around the ring in the tenth, this prompting the termination of the bout. Hearns had been well ahead on all three cards at the time of the light-heavyweight stoppage that improved his ring record to 61-5-1(48).

At the time of the fight of 13 years ago, there was talk that Hearns, if victorious, would fight on, with names Iran Barkley (in what would have been a third fight between he and Hearns), Virgil Hill (a proposed rematch) and Donny Lalonde being bandied around as opponents. It’s almost certainly a good thing all of these fights fell through.

Hearns, perhaps more than any other great fighter, found it so incredibly hard to walk away, to say goodbye to boxing. A pro since 1977, Hearns had, by the time of the Landberg swansong, been fighting for almost three decades. It showed. Hearns, braver than brave, fought them all: big punchers, rough and tough warriors, slick operators, you name it. And he had always given his all. Against Landberg, his second comeback foe (having stopped a guy named John Long the previous summer) Hearns was still trying to do so.

Again, at least Hearns went out with a win.

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