The great Thomas Hearns never wanted to retire from the ring, the task of hanging ’em up proving to be a mighty one for “The Hitman.” It was in fact not all that long ago when Hearns boxed his final fight, this a 2006 stoppage win over Shannon Landberg, the fight playing out in front of a sold-out crowd at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Hearns, who had shocked us by making a 2005 comeback at the age of 46, finally said adios to the ring. But never did Hearns say goodbye to the fans or to the sport he helped make so utterly thrilling.
Hearns’ final numbers read 61-5-1(48) and he held major titles in no less than five weight divisions: welterweight, super-welterweight, middleweight, super-middleweight, light heavyweight.
But when you think of Hearns, chances are your mind will instantly flick the switch that is its vivid memory of the single greatest round in boxing history, this of course the opening round of Hearns’ epic war with Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Those mesmerising three minutes of sheer violence remain capable of sending a fight fan into a state of euphoria all these years later. These two modern day, indeed, all-time greats, tore into each other in terrifyingly thrilling fashion.
The two Kings tested one another’s chin, heart, courage, sheer desire……all inside 180 seconds. Hearns lost that fight, as he also lost his biggest fight, the first classic with Sugar Ray Leonard. But it doesn’t matter; Hearns won over the fans, all of them, Hagler and Leonard’s included.
Today, at age 65, Hearns has so much to remember, to talk about. But it could be that that Hagler fight, the best opening round of all-time in particular, is what fans think about and would love to be able to ask Tommy about if they got a chance to meet him.
Hearns spoke about the Hagler war with The Detroit Free Press a couple of years ago:
“The only thing I remember is that we went at it,” Hearns said of the Hagler slugfest. “There was no joking around. I don’t think we’ve ever been in a fight like that. We didn’t know how to prepare for a fight like that. It really showed that we had something to prove to each other and we did just that. I had the chance to talk to Marvin. I got to hear what Marvin thinks. People thought that I had something bad to say about Ray and Hagler. Hagler and I fought, he defeated me, and that was it. He did a great job. Today, I miss the man. He was a great man.”
Another thing that made Hearns so special was his sportsmanship, his inability to make excuses for a defeat, his inability to not give his opponent respect. Hagler, who of course sadly passed away in March of 2021, had the same respect for Hearns, and together, these two legends went through something a regular person could not even begin to imagine.
Hearns also spoke with UK Boxing News about “The War.”
“I’m definitely proud to have been a part of that fight, for the part I played in it,” Hearns said. “I have a lot of great memories [from that fight]. I worked hard for that fight. I’m happy that a lot of people have a lot of respect for that fight. People say they’re the three greatest rounds in boxing. Let me just say, they’re the three greatest rounds that I ever put out!”
One more thing that so endears Hearns to the fans, is his respect for them, his very real concern that the fans enjoyed his fights. Hearns could stand losing, but he couldn’t stand even the idea of letting his fans down. Thankfully, Hearns never did let us down. Not once.
Raise a glass to Thomas Hearns today, and maybe watch, for the umpteenth time, the single greatest round in boxing history that “The Hitman” will forever be indebted for giving us.