Fighters can, if they are fashioned from enough of the precious stuff, achieve greatness in a multitude of ways. For some, the long domination of a weight-class confirms their specialness. For others, an astonishing comeback does the job. For others still, the winning of multiple world titles in multiple weight divisions gives them the seal of approval.
Which brings us to Thomas Hearns, an incredibly gifted and laborious fighter who was arguably the first ‘multi-weight king.’ The first multi-weight world ruler. Hearns, who was blessed with almost freakish-for-his-weight physical dimensions – when had we seen a 6’2” welterweight! – could have played it safe and settled for world domination at 147 and 154 pounds. But no, “The Hitman,” or, if you prefer, “The Motor City Cobra,” wanted more and he got it.
All the way from 147 to 175, Hearns won world titles, and legit ones, let’s be clear; even though at the time of his winning the WBO super middleweight strap, the fledgling weight division/governing body was, well, fledgling.
Hearns did it way before Floyd Mayweather, way before Oscar De La Hoya, Hearns was even ahead of his greatest and most intense rival, Sugar Ray Leonard, when it came to making a habit of winning belts at different weights. Some fight fans might prefer the ‘I’ll stamp my authority on this weight division and I ain’t going anywhere’ approach of, say, a Marvin Hagler, to the winning of a belt after a brief campaign at weight after weight. And it’s true, both things, both accomplishments, require discipline and a whole lot of hard work.
Today, one of the biggest moans and groans is the fact that there are TOO MANY world titles up for grabs, and therefore a lesser fighter can get his or her hands on one, or on multiple titles. Understood. Yet in his day, Hearns (if we forget the WBO belt he won) had only three titles to go for, in fact just two prior to 1983, this when Hearns had won belts at two weights: welterweight and super-welter.
It was still a most special thing when Hearns won word titles at four weights, this in October of 1987, his achievement seeing him make history. Today, the more belts, the more watered down the winning of a numerous amount of them is.
But Hearns was doing it when nobody else was.
Hearns made a habit of going both up and down the weights in the search for greatness. It should be remembered that what is now commonplace was once quite rare. The fact that he ruled the world at 147, 154, 160, 168, and 175 (this ignoring the lesser belts Tommy won at cruiserweight) is another reason we should never forget Hearns’ greatness.
Not that any real fight fan would ever be suitably uneducated so as to commit such a crime.
It was, by the way, 36 years ago today when Hearns turned the tougher than tough Dennis Andries into a human yo-yo in taking his light heavyweight title. This being Tommy’s third ascension to the throne.