Thomas Hearns, Tommy to his friends – and we fight fans will always be Hearns’ friends – made a sudden impact type explosion on the welterweight division on this day back in 1980; this the first weight class “The Hitman” would terrorise. At just 21 years of age, the lanky and lethal Detroit warrior shocked the world (the use of these three words so overused today, yet so, so accurately used when describing what Hearns did on August 2, 1980) when he utterly and frighteningly destroyed Pipino Cuevas inside just two rounds to take the WBA belt.
Hearns, the underdog in the fight that was held at The Joe Louis Arena in The Motor City, made an utter and complete mockery of any and all odds against him. And of the feared Cuevas’ reputation. Pipino was making the 12th – yes, the 12th – defence of his title, and he had made a habit of smashing his challengers, of breaking some of their bones and sending them to the A and E department of the closest hospital.
But Hearns was a fighter the kind of which the Mexican killer had never before ran into. Hearns had come up the hard way: his sneakers often stolen, his skinny, unassuming self often bullied, the young Hearns found his way to Emanuel Steward and his welcoming if equally hellish, no easy way out Kronk Gym. The rest is history. The Hearns story became a part of history on this day 42 years ago.
Hearns had nothing to fear against Cuevas, despite what so many people said to the contrary. Hearns, facing a man who could give it out as well as take it in equal measure (Cuevas never having tasted the canvas at this point in his career), began the fight as he meant it to end – quickly. Tommy’s superb left jab soon found its mark. Hearns followed up the jab with a left hook or two, and the defending champion was wobbled more than once in the opening session.
Then, in round two, Hearns’ soon to be globally known, revered and feared right hand exploded on Cuevas’ jaw. Hearns landed his nuclear weapon, and Cuevas’ body lurched in a peculiar manner, this only inviting the challenger in to land more damage. Hearns duly obliged, this in a flash, and another right hand the type of which the 147 pound division had never before boasted crashed into Cuevas’ head. Cuevas fell face-first on the mat, with all of his ability, his reputation, and his chance of fighting on drained from him.
Cuevas did get up, much to his enormous credit, but his corner had seen enough and the fight was over with. Hearns was the new KO King, he was the new welterweight king. But a certain Sugar Ray Leonard was waiting.
Yet on this night, Hearns was all-but overwhelmed with compliments, with statements of how the welterweight division had never before witnessed as destructive and as frightening a coronation. How could any man live with Hearns’ astonishing punching power!