1980sHBOLarry MerchantSugar Ray LeonardSuper Middleweight ChampsSuper Middleweight Title FightsThomas Hearns

Boxing – WBC Super Middleweight Title – Sugar Ray Leonard VS Thomas Hearns II


Following “The Showdown” (Leonard / Hearns Fight 1)….Sugar Ray defended the undisputed world welterweight championship once by knocking out Bruce Finch in the third round….then he retired after having surgery to repair a detached retina in his left eye. Hearns moved up in weight and outpointed Wilfred Benitez to win the WBC light-middleweight title in 1982….then two and a half years later….he challenged Marvelous Marvin Hagler for the undisputed world middleweight championship….losing by a knockout in the third round of a very exciting fight….followed by a 10th round TKO of Dennis Andries to win the WBC light heavyweight title.

Leonard made a one-fight comeback in 1984….when he stopped Kevin Howard in nine rounds….however, Leonard suffered the first knockdown of his career and was so disappointed in his performance that he once again retired after the fight.  In 1987, Leonard came back again to fight  Hagler for the middleweight championship….when as a huge underdog….Sugar Ray defeated Hagler by a twelve-round split decision…..which in this Chiweenie Sportsphile’s opinion….represented the only time in Sugar Ray Leonard’s career…..that he should not have won this fight …cuz as you know….I come from the position that the challenger always has to clearly take the champion’s belt…..anyway, the following month, Leonard retired again.

Hearns knocked out Juan Roldan in four rounds in late 1987 to win the vacant WBC middleweight title….thus becoming the first boxer to win world titles in four weight divisions…..then Hearns lost the title in his next fight by suffering a third-round knockout against Iran Barkley.  Hitman returned to win the inaugural WBO super-middleweight title against James Kinchen by a majority decision on 4 November 1988….becoming the first boxer to win world titles in five weight divisions. Three days later, Leonard knocked out Don Lalonde in nine rounds to win both Lalonde’s WBC light-heavyweight title and the vacant WBC super-middleweight title.

After almost eight years….this Leonard vs Hearns rematch finally happened…..as it was promoted as “The War” between Leonard (35-1 with 25 KOs) and Hearns (46-3 with 38 KOs)….so, they met on June 12, 1989 at Caesar’s Palace in a scheduled twelve-rounder for the WBC & WBO super-middleweight titles. The closed circuit commentary was provided by Tim Ryan, Gil Clancy and Marvelous Marvin Hagler……and by live HBO television broadcast as seen in this video herewith broadcasters Barry Tompkins and Larry Merchant.

Hearns ruled the opening two rounds by out-boxing Sugar Ray….dropping him with a right cross in the third round,….but in typical Leonard style, he came back and battered Hearns around the ring throughout the fifth round.  At the end of the round, Hearns’ trainer Emanuel Steward exclaimed to him….”This is what makes a great fighter!”….to which Hearns hurt Leonard early in the 7th round….but punched himself out going for the knockout. With Hearns fatigued, Leonard came back and had a strong finish to the round. Rounds nine and ten were good rounds for Leonard and Tommy looked tired….that is when his trainer, Emanuel Steward, provided what turned out to be inspirational advice by saying…. “Throw the right hand Tommy. That’s what’ll get you home. If you want to win the fight, let it go!”….leading to the eleventh round when Hearns landed three booming rights….sending Leonard down for the second time in the fight…..and knowing he needed a big finish….Leonard fought furiously in the 12th and had a big final round.

The judges scored the fight a draw….meaning that both boxers retained their respective titles. Judge Jerry Roth scored the fight 113-112 for Hearns, Judge Tom Kazmarek scored it 113-112 for Leonard, and Judge Dalby Shirley scored it 112-112….wotj Shirley being the only judge to give Leonard a 10-8 margin in the twelfth….for had he scored it 10-9 as his two colleagues did,…Hearns would have won by a split decision.

The decision was soundly booed, as most felt that Hearns had won.  Eventually, Leonard admitted that Hearns deserved the decision. There was talk of a third fight, but it never happened. Leonard had his attorney, Mike Trainer, pursue a third fight, but Hearns said that he could no longer make the weight and was returning to light-heavyweight.

Regardless, both fights between these two legends of the golden age of boxing were epic battles of will and strength…..with a huge portion of God given talent mixed in…..providing any boxing fan with a thrill of a fight that is easy to watch over and over.

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