Thomas "Hitman" Hearns was born on October 18, 1958 and is a legendary boxer who won eight world titles in six different weight divisions. Nicknamed the "Motor City Cobra" and more famously "Hitman", Hearns became the first boxer in history to win world titles in four divisions, then become the first fighter in history to win 5 world titles in 5 divisions.>>> Get Up Close with the Hitman
Thomas “Hitman” Hearns was born October 18, 1958 and is a retired American boxer. Nicknamed the “Motor City Cobra” and more famously “Hitman”, Hearns became the first boxer in history to win world titles in four divisions. He would also become the first fighter in history to win five world titles in five different divisions. Hearns was named Ring Magazine fighter of the year in 1980 and 1984 and is best known for his fights with Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran.
Hearns began his professional boxing career in Detroit, Michigan, under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward in 1977.
He won six world titles in five weight classes during his pro career, defeating future boxing hall of famers such as Pipino Cuevas, Wilfred Benítez, Virgil Hill and Roberto Durán. Hearns started his career by knocking out his first 17 opponents. In 1980, Hearns carried his 28-0 record into a world title match against Mexico’s Pipino Cuevas. Hearns ended Cuevas’s 4-year reign by beating him by TKO in the second round. Hearns was voted “Fighter of the Year” by Ring Magazine in 1980.
In 1981, Hearns the WBA champion, with a 32-0 record (30 KOs), fought WBC champion Sugar Ray Leonard (30-1) to unify the World welterweight championship in a bout dubbed “The Showdown”. In this legendary fight, Hearns suffered his first professional defeat when Leonard stopped him in the 14th round. In the 13th round, Leonard, behind on points on all 3 judges scorecards, needed a knockout to win. He came on strong and put Hearns through the ropes at the end of the round. Hearns was dazed, totally out of gas and received a count but was saved by the bell. Leonard, with his left eye shut and time running out, resumed his attack in the 14th. Hearns started the round boxing and moving, but after staggering Hearns with an overhand right, Leonard pinned Hearns against the ropes. After another combination to the body and head, referee Davey Pearl stopped the fight. Hearns and Leonard banked a combined 17 million dollars for the fight, making it the largest purse in sports history. The following year, Leonard retired due to a detached retina caused by Hearns jab, and there would be no rematch until 1989.
Hearns moved up in weight and won the WBC super welterweight (154lb) title from boxing legend and three-time world champion Wilfred Benítez (44-1-1) in New Orleans in December 1982, and defended that title against European champion Luigi Minchillo (42-1) (W 12), Roberto Durán (KO 2), no.1 contender Fred Hutchings (29-1) (KO 3), and #1 contender Mark Medal (26-2) (TKO 8). During his reign at this weight, the 2 round destruction of the legendary Roberto Durán, in which he became the first boxer to KO Duran, is seen as his pinnacle achievement, earning him his second Ring Magazine “Fighter of the Year” award in 1984.
During his time as super welterweight champion, Hearns also ventured into the middleweight division, losing a legendary battle to Undisputed champion Marvin Hagler in 1985. Billed “The Fight”, (later known as The War), this Superbout is commonly known as the 3 greatest rounds in history. The legendary battle elevated both fighters to superstar status. Hearns was able to stun Hagler soon after the opening bell, but he subsequently broke his right hand in the first round. He did, however, manage to open a deep cut over Hagler’s nose that caused the ring doctor to consider a stoppage. The fight, however, was allowed to continue at this point, with the ringside commentators remarking on the fact that, “the last thing Hagler wants or needs is for this fight to be stopped on a cut.” The battle did go back and forth some, but Hearns was unable to capitalize on his early successes against Hagler, and the hand injury ultimately contributed to his undoing. After the injury, he was unable to throw the type of devastating right hand power punches for which he was known. As a result he began to use lateral movement and a good jab to keep Hagler at bay as best he could under the circumstances. This tactic worked fairly well, but in the third round a smiling Hearns turned his back on Hagler after an exchange. This grave mistake allowed Hagler to trap Hearns on the ropes, where a crushing right hand by Hagler knocked Hearns down. Hearns beat the count but was totally gone and the referee stopped the fight. Despite the loss, Hearns garnered a tremendous amount of respect from fans and boxing aficionados alike. Considering the popularity of the fight and the level of competition a rematch would seem to be a foregone conclusion.
Hearns quickly made amends by dispatching undefeated rising star James “Black Gold” Shuler with a devastating first round knockout in 1986. Two weeks after the fight, Shuler was killed in a motorcycle accident. Hearns presented the NABF championship belt to Shuler’s family at his funeral, saying he deserved to keep the belt as he had held it longer than Hearns.
Other notable world title fights included the 6 knockdowns of three-time world champion Dennis Andries to win the WBC light heavyweight title in March 1987, his four-round destruction of the feared Juan Roldán (63-2) later that year to claim the WBC middleweight title, his TKO “Ring Magazine 1988 upset of the year” loss to Iran Barkley in his first defense of that same title, and his win against James “the Heat” Kinchen (44-3) for the newly created WBO super middleweight title.
Hearns had to wait until 1989 for a rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard, this time for Leonard’s WBC super middleweight title. This was Hearns’s sixth Superfight, a fight which much of the public believed Hearns won, flooring Leonard in both the 3rd and 11th rounds. However, the judges scored the fight a controversial draw. Leonard later admitted that Hearns had beat him and that he was gifted the draw, stating the fighters were 1-1 in his book.
1991 would see one last great performance by the aging Hitman as he challenged the undefeated WBA light heavyweight champion Virgil Hill. In Hill’s 11th defense of the title, Hearns would return to his amateur roots and outbox the champion to win a convincing decision and add a sixth world title to his illustrious career.
Hearns’ family is a fixture on the Detroit sports scene. His mother, Lois Hearns, is a fight promoter. Their company, “Hearns Entertainment”, has promoted many cards, including the Mike Tyson-Andrew Golota bout in 2000. His son Ronald Hearns is also a boxer, and has fought on the undercard of his father’s last couple of fights. He currently lives in Southfield, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit)