The young boy who would grow up to become Thomas ‘Hit Man’ Hearns, a 7-time world champion boxer, had a humble childhood in the streets of Detroit. Despite being born in Memphis (on October 18th, 1958), Hearns’ family moved to Detroit soon after his birth. He developed an obvious talent for boxing at an early age and soon started an impressive amateur career. As a welterweight, Hearns was unusually tall, standing at 6’1" and had relatively long arms. This seemed to give him an advantage over his opponents and he went on to win 147 of his 155 amateur fights.
1977 brought his first real success as a boxer, as he beat Bobby Joe Young to become the National Amateur Athletic Union Light Welterweight Champion. Later in the year, Hearns became the National Golden Gloves Light Welterweight Champion. Despite this success, the one downside for the boxer was his low ratio of knockouts. Hearns had only 11 knockouts during his career as an amateur boxer. However, this was soon to change.
Hearns’ widespread success in 1977, set him on the road to becoming professional and later in the year, he officially began his professional career as a boxer. Emanuel Steward was the man responsible for coaching the young boxer and Hearns began to improve rapidly. Soon after turning professional, Hearns adopted the nickname, the ‘Hit Man’, due to a new-found punching ability. He learned how to turn his long arms and broad back to his advantage, in order to outstrip others in his weight class.
Thomas Hearns had only a few years to wait before his continually improving game brought real success. In 1980, a run of 28 successive victories led the boxer to a World Boxing Association championship fight, against Pipino Cuevas. This match, held on the 2nd of August in Mexico, saw Hearns knock out Cuevas in only the second round. This title win was soon followed by a recognition of Hearns’ status as a rising star, when he was named the Fighter of the Year.
The following year saw one of the most eagerly anticipated boxing matches of all time. ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard awaited Thomas Hearns in Las Vegas to decide who would win the world title. The media and fans alike were desperate to see who would be victorious in this clash of boxing styles. By now, Hearns’ boxing style was notorious for being aggressive and his devastating right hand was widely renowned. Conversely, Leonard’s style consisted of an ability to inflict speedy and unexpected punches upon his opponent. It was Hearns who started brightly and by the end of round 12, he had built up a significant lead over Leonard. However, this marked a turning point in the match, as a revigorated Leonard went on to devastate Hearns’ hopes of the world title, with a magnificent 13th and 14th round performance.
Despite this defeat, it was Leonard who suffered after the match. Whilst Hearns would go on to win more world championships and experience success in different weight classes, Leonard was forced to retire after discovering he had developed a detached retina as a result of Hearns’ fierce punching ability.
Hearns was victorious in 1982, beating Wilfred Benitez to win the WBC super welterweight championship. Two years later, he was named Fighter of the Year once again after winning the WBA version of the title. This success led Hearns to change weight classes and in 1985, he competed against Marvin Hagler in a middleweight championship fight. Unfortunately, he was defeated by Hagler but this did not dent his confidence. Rather, Hearns went on to knock out Dennis Andries to win the title of WBC light heavyweight champion, in 1987. During the same year, he also stole the WBC middleweight title away from Juan Roldan. This victory had its consequences, though, as the WBC stripped Hearns of his welterweight championship. James Kinchen now stood in the way of Hearns and a fifth championship title. Competing in the new super middleweight division, Hearns managed to overcome the challenge of Kinchen to fulfil his ambition of a fifth championship.
1989 brought a rematch with ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard (who had briefly come out of retirement). Las Vegas was once again the location of the fight and just as much interest surrounded it. Hearns knocked Leonard down twice but Leonard proved to be resilient and the match ended in a controversial draw. Many spectators believed that the victory should have gone to Thomas Hearns. However, both boxers were encouraged by this match to fight on into the 1990s, despite the fact that they would be competing against far younger boxers. Hearns decided to start fighting exclusively as a light heavyweight in 1991. Later that year, he was victorious in the WBA championship.
Thomas Hearns won his seventh championship in early 1994, after knocking out Dan Ward in the first-round of their NABF cruiserweight title match. At this point in his career, Hearns was beginning to slow down and faced increasing competition from younger boxers. However, in 1999, he managed to win the IBO version of the title. After losing this title to Uriah Grant in 2000, Thomas Hearns decided to retire from his beloved sport.
Thomas Hearns and his family remain heavily involved with boxing. His mother is a famous fight promoter and his son is a rising boxer, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father.
- Total fights: 67
- Number of wins: 61
- Number of wins by KO: 48
- Number of losses: 5
- Number of draws: 1
- First boxer ever to win 4 world titles in 4 weight classes
- First boxer to win a welterweight world title and then win a super middleweight world title
- First boxer to win a welterweight world title and then win a light-heavyweight world title
- First boxer to win a welterweight world title and then win a cruiserweight world title
- First ever winner of the WBO World Super Middleweight Title