Boxing's Fab Four Part Four: Leonard Vs Hearns I

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

16th September 1981, Caesars Palace, Outdoor Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada,

WBC & WBA Welterweight Unification Bout

(Undisputed Title)

Ray Leonard (WBC Champion) Vs Thomas Hearns (WBA Champion)

Thomas Hearns, the freakishly tall welterweight, who wasn't much of a puncher in the amateur ranks, blasted out seventeen opponents on the bounce in a two year period. The first man to take him the distance was the former USA Pennsylvania State welterweight champion Alfonso Hayman. Hearns won every single round in the ten rounder, but failed to knock the tough Philadelphia fighter off his feet.

Seven fights later Hearns was matched with middleweight Mike Colbert, where he had to negate the full ten rounds for only the second time in his career as he went 24-0. Two fights later he stopped Angel Espada in four rounds for the vacant USBA welterweight championship.

The 'Hit Man' continued to knockout his opponents and was pitted against WBA welterweight champion Pipino Cuevas. The champion, hailing from Mexico, took the crown from Angel Espada in July 1976 with a second round TKO.

Cuevas was making the twelfth defence against Hearns and the man from Detroit needed just two rounds to win the title. The new champion made four successful defences, all stoppages on his way to meeting WBC welterweight champion 'Sugar' Ray Leonard.

Since beating Roberto Duran in the infamous 'No Mas' contest, Leonard defended the belt for the first time with a tenth round technical knockout of Larry Bonds. He then became a two-weight world champion when he defeated WBA light-middleweight champion Ayub Kalule.

On the same night Leonard became a double weight champion, Hearns defended his welterweight championship with a fourth round TKO over Pablo Baez, to go 32-0 with thirty kayos, setting up the big money unification welterweight match-up.

The excitement of the crowd was spilling around the arena as they expected Hearns to come out bombing. The WBA champion did take the centre of the ring, working behind his long left jab, as Leonard moved around, offering lots of lateral movement. The WBC champion did land a good right at the halfway mark, but it was the 'Hit Man' that was the aggressor.

There was a minor altercation as Hearns landed a few shots on the bell, with Leonard pushing his opponent's head, but Hearns retaliated with a soft right and Leonard showboated by faking his legs had turned to jelly.

Leonard looked relaxed as he sat on his corner stool and stated "He's throwing bombs already."

"Don't worry about it." Angelo Dundee replied. "Out box him. Out smart him. Cut him off."

Hearns had even more success with the jab as the WBC champion skipped around the ring, not offering much in an offensive capacity. Leonard also had to take a glancing right hand, Hearns' best punch of the fight so far. Leonard did land a solid left hook in the closing stages of round two, but it wasn't enough to cancel out Hearns' good work so far.

Leonard was still darting around as Hearns chased him having success with both the left and right. Leonard looked to throw some more punches, but missed widely with a lead right and a follow up left hook. The pair traded for the first time with the seconds ticking away to end round three, as Leonard returned to his corner, raising his arms aloft.