Boxing's Fab Four Part Nine: Leonard Vs Hearns II

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

12th June 1989, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

WBC Super-Middleweight Titles

Ray Leonard  Vs Thomas Hearns 

Thomas Hearns, eleven months after being involved in an eight minute war with Marvin Hagler, stepped through the ropes to take on NABF middleweight champion James Shuler. The champion was also ranked number one by the WBC, but Hearns needed just one-minute and 13 seconds to claim the title. Unfortunately Shuler was killed in a motorcycle accident ten days after his knockout defeat.

On 23rd June 1986 Hearns boiled down to the light-middleweight division for the final time to defend his WBC championship against Mark Medal, winning by an eighth round TKO. In the October he put his NABF middleweight crown on the line against Doug DeWitt, successfully holding on to the belt with a twelve round unanimous points decision.

In March 1987 Hearns made an audacious challenge to WBC light-heavyweight champion Dennis Andries. The champion was making his second defence of the title and both men scaled in at 173½ (78.70 KG). The challenger brought his power up to the division with him, flattening Andries four times in round six, once in the ninth and finally in the tenth to become a three-weight world champion.

With Sugar Ray Leonard retiring in May 1987, the WBC middleweight championship was left vacant. In October that year Hearns faced Argentinian Juan Domingo Roldan for the homeless strap. Hearns' power resurfaced again, knocking his man down twice in the opening round and once in the second.

Roldan did expose Hearns' frailties as he rocked the 'HitMan' early in round four, but towards the end of the round a right cross put the belt firmly around his waist. The victory meant Hearns was the first boxer to win world titles in four different weight divisions.

At the start of June 1988 Hearns made the first defence of his middleweight belt in Las Vegas against Iran 'The Blade' Barkley. The champion was landing at will for the first two rounds, cutting the challenger's lip and above both eyes. The champion worked the body in the third, but with a minute remaining 'The Blade' caught the champion with a big right. Another right put Hearns down as he was falling.

The 'Hit Man' barely beat Richard Steele's count, but he was allowed to continue as another attack from the challenger put Hearns through the ropes, ending his reign and inflicting defeat number three on Hearns' resume.

Hearns' left was a potent weapon

On 04th November that same year Hearns picked up his fifth weight world title by outpointing James Kinchen for the vacant WBO super-middleweight championship. The World Boxing Organisation was hardly recognised and Hearns' inaugural victory was deemed as nothing more than a paper title. Still the new champion had to hold on for dear life as he suffered another knockdown in round four as he clung on to win by scores of 115-112, 114-112 and 114 apiece.

Nineteen months after his controversial points victory over Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Ray Leonard stepped back into the ring once again. His opponent was WBC light-heavyweight champion Donny Lalonde. Leonard also persuaded the WBC to put their newly formed super-middleweight title on the line.

Lalonde had to face Leonard as a super-middleweight, forcing the naturally bigger Canadian to boil down so Leonard had the chance to become the first man to win recognised world titles in five different weight divisions. (Hearns had beaten him to it with his victory over James Kinchen three days before Leonard-Lalonde on 07th November 1988.)

Leonard was caught off balance by a Lalonde right, which put the challenger down. His title hopes looked as if they had been dealt as serious blow as the light-heavyweight champion staged a ferocious attack in round nine, throwing thirty-one straight punches. Fortunately for Leonard they lacked power and the Canadian paused and Leonard sprang into to action.

The challenger administered a savage beating before dropping him heavily with a left hook. The champion got up, but he was a spent force