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Boxing's Fab Four Part Six: Hearns vs Duran

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

15th June 1984, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

WBC light-middleweight Title

Thomas Hearns Vs Roberto Duran

After tasting his first professional defeat at the hands of 'Sugar' Ray Leonard in September 1981, Thomas Hearns won a decision over Ernie Singletary three months later. By the end of 1982 he positioned himself to get a crack at WBC light middleweight champion Wilfred Benitez.

The champion beat Maurice Hope to claim the title in May 1981 and at the beginning of 1982 he successfully defended the belt for the second time with a points win over Roberto Duran. In December that very year Benitez faced Thomas Hearns in his third defence.

The challenger had a point deducted in round four for pulling the champion's head down. A right hand from the 'Hit Man' knocked the Puerto Rican down in the fifth. In round eight, Hearns damaged his right hand on Benitez's head, and had to box the remainder of the bout one-handed.

In the ninth, the champion scored a phantom knockdown; he missed with a left, but Hearns fell when the Puerto Rican stood on the challenger's boot. the referee ruled it as a knockdown. Hearns out-boxed the master boxer over the next five rounds to become a two-weight world champion by taking a majority decision.

He then stepped up to middleweight and outpointed Murray Sutherland over ten rounds and finally made the first defence of his WBC light-middleweight title with a points victory over Italy's Luigi Minchillo, in February 1984.

Hearns took the initiative

Roberto Duran came into the fight with Thomas Hearns without his WBA light-middleweight belt, as the governing body stripped him for taking this bout instead of facing their top contender Mike McCallum. The Jamaican took the vacant WBA crown in October 1984, outpointing Irishman Sean Mannion by a fifteen round unanimous decision.

The contest was originally set to take place in the Bahamas, but due to a shortage of available hotel rooms the contest was moved to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Duran, who atoned for his 'No mas' against Leonard by beating Davey Moore for the WBA light-middleweight belt and going the full fifteen rounds last time out against Marvin Hagler, usually dances around the ring when he enters it to try and intimidate his opponent, against Hearns he simply sat on his stool as he waited for the champion.

All the advantages were with Hearns, who was installed as a two-to-one favourite. At twenty-five-years-old, he was seven years younger than Duran (who was going to celebrate his thirty-third birthday the following day). He was slightly heavier, he was six inches (15 cm) taller and enjoyed a reach advantage of twelve inches (30 cm).

Straight away the Panamanian was on the back foot trying to find a way inside the gangly, powerful champion's reach. Duran, who was presenting a straight up target, was having trouble with his footing, as he found the canvas slippy. The left hand from the champion had caused a cut on his left eye.

Duran was under pressure from the start

With just over 30 seconds of the opening round to go, a lead-right put the challenger down for the third time in his career. He got up, but he was badly shaken. Hearns came forward looking to finish his man there and then. Duran, who seemed bothered by the cut had no choice but to go to the ropes, calling Hearns in. They traded lefts and Duran was down again.

He made it to his feet and when Carlos Padilla allowed the action to continue the bell sounded. They touched gloves, but Duran headed back to the neutral corner instead of his own post. His trainer had to rush over to get him back to receive some treatment for the eye.

They touched gloves to start the second round. Duran was still on shaky legs, but he was throwing punches with intent. Hearns had all the power as he hurt the challenger with a string of punches. Duran, offering no head movement and an open target was simply punched to the ropes. He held on, gaining a brief respite from the referee, but it was only a matter of time before he was on the ropes again.

The fight was over

Duran was wide open and seemed to fighting on instinct, when exactly 60 seconds into the second round a right detonated on the challenger's jaw, He was out. Hearns stepped back, as he watched Duran fall face first to the canvas like a felled tree.

It was all over for him, the referee didn't bother to count. Hearns' prediction of knocking his man out in round two was visualised, as he made defence number two of his WBC light-middleweight title.

"Marvin Hagler must be shaking like a leaf on a tree," said the victor.

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