Far and away my favorite fighter of “The Four Kings,” Thomas Hearns gave us so many great, great fights. Win or lose, Hearns gave his all and in doing so he gave us drama, raw excitement and boxing brilliance. In short, it was a thrill whenever Hearns engaged in one of his many big fights.
On this day back in 1987, Hearns, a little under 30 years of age, made the move up to light-heavyweight. Having already ruled the world at welterweight and light-middleweight, Hearns’ goal was to make history by becoming the first ever four weight world champion. Hearns faced Britain’s Dennis Andries in Detroit 34 years ago today.
Hearns planned to snatch Andries’ WBC light-heavyweight title and then drop back down to middleweight to achieve his goal.
Andries was raw and often clumsy but he was tough and he was of course a bigger man than Hearns. What happened inside The Cobo Arena proved exciting and at times quite shocking.
Hearns was coming off a tough and bloody decision win over Doug DeWitt. Hearns had been cut quite badly around the eyes in that middleweight clash and his withering punching power had failed to put a dent in DeWitt.
Andries had won the WBC belt by decisioning J.B Williams in a pretty dull affair. Now, having retained the belt with a stoppage win over countryman Tony Sibson, “The Hackney Rock” was facing a living legend. Andries, however, had no fear.
Hearns looked good at the new weight, both strong and fast. Hearns soon showed he had very much carried his power up with him. In the sixth round, Hearns administered the most ruthless and punishing battering of his career.
Unleashing his devastating right hand, Hearns turned the defending champion into a yo-yo. Four times, 33 year old Andries was sent crashing to the mat, the fight somehow, quite disgracefully, allowed to go on.
The often criticised three-knockdown rule was never more badly needed. The ageing referee, who shall remain nameless, was seemingly content to stand back and watch Hearns kill Andries. It was shocking stuff.
Even more shocking, though, was the fact Andries survived to hear the bell to end the round. How, he alone knows. Hearns was a mile ahead on points and his lead increased further in the ninth, when he scored another knockdown.
Andries, exhausted and battered, if not prepared to quit, was down again in the tenth round and then, finally, as Andries staggered to a corner, the ref stopped it. Hearns was now a three-weight king.
The respective futures of both men proved incredibly interesting. Hearns duly dropped back down to 160, where he smashed Juan Domingo Roldan to win the WBC crown, his four-weight goal accomplished.
Andries, meanwhile, paid a visit to The Kronk Gym and asked, maybe even begged, Emanuel Steward to teach him how to fight.
Hearns’ master trainer agreed and the boxing world soon witnessed one of the most courageous and admirable comebacks of modern day boxing history.
Andries, with Steward’s help and guidance, became a fine fighter; one good enough to bounce back and become light-heavyweight champion all over again; this when in his mid-30s (some say older).
Hearns, years after his destruction of Andries, was honest enough and classy enough to say he was “glad I fought Dennis before he really learned how to fight.” A lesser man would never have fought again after suffering the beating Andries suffered at the hands of Hearns 34 years ago.