Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Thomas Hearns vs. Roberto Duran

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June 15, 1984 saw thousands of fans pack the outdoor arena at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV. The attraction pitted WBC World Super Welterweight Champion, Thomas Hearns (38-1, 32 KOs) defending his title against the always tough and rugged Roberto Duran (77-5, 58 KOs).

As the fighters made their way to the ring, the sun had begun to sink in the 90 degree western sky. First came Duran, decked in dark blue attire.

Duran had won three of his last four, losing his last fight just seven months before to “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler by 15-round unanimous decision.

Hearns, who was known as ‘The Motor City Cobra”, was on a six fight winning streak that included a title winning performance against Wilfred Benitez.

His only loss, in September of 1981, came on one of the more legendary nights in boxing history against his arch nemesis, Sugar Ray Leonard.

As ring announcer Chuck Hull began the introductions, the crowd roared as he first introduced, “The man with the hands of stone, Roberto Duran!”

Hull next introduced the champion, “No longer the motor city cobra, he has returned as the Hitman, Thomas Hearns!” Again, the crowd roared.

Referee Carlos Padilla provided the instructions at center ring and both fighters returned to their corner. CBS Sports was ringside for the fight and had Tim Ryan and Gil Glancy ready to call the action.

The bell sounded for Round 1 and the two fighters got the action started quickly. Hearns, wearing the Kronk Gym gold and red, immediately began throwing his long left jab.

The height difference was glaring from the outset as Hearns held an 11-inch reach advantage. Duran was bouncing, smiling at Hearns, throwing his own left jab and trying to get inside to launch combinations.

Early on in the action, Clancy pointed out, “Duran is making a mistake by standing straight up, Tim.” Hearns continued to push forward and Duran punched back throwing just one punch at a time.

Duran was trying to attack the body of Hearns. As he did, Hearns countered him with a sweeping left hook that backed him off.

With a minute to go in the opening round, blood appeared around the left eye of Duran. He immediately began to look tentative. Sensing this, Hearns went on the attack, jabbing to the body, then the head, and then began unloading power punches on Duran.

At the split second Duran wiped at his left eye, Hearns dropped his trademark right hand sending Duran to the canvas with 30 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

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Duran rose to his feet, again smiling at Hearns.

After Padilla finished the eight count, Duran motioned at Hearns, waving him back in from his neutral corner. Hearns obliged and attacked Duran with a series of rights and lefts.

As Duran banged back, a Hearns uppercut to the body lifted Duran off his feet and again dropped him with just seconds remaining in the round. As he rose again, the bell sounded to end the action.

As Hearns smiled and walked to his corner, Duran smiled back and walked to a neutral corner.

Ryan exclaimed, “Duran went to the wrong corner! He went to the neutral corner! Duran is in deep trouble!” His corner quickly tracked him down and guided him to his corner.

Emanuel Steward, Hearns’ longtime trainer, sensed the end was near. He calmly told Hearns that Duran was ready to go and to finish him off.

As Round 2 began, the two greeted each other by exchanging heavy punches.  Duran landed a solid right hand flush on the face of Hearns. Hearns fired back and immediately drove Duran into the ropes.

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Padilla was now looking at the action very closely as Hearns was teeing off on Duran. As Duran’s back was against the ropes, he covered up, trying desperately to fight back. He had landed his best punch just seconds ago and Hearns didn’t so much as flinch.

Duran then grabbed and held, holding on for dear life. Ryan, who called a great fight and was trying desperately to keep up with the furious action, pointed out, “He finally grabs Hearns!”

The excitement in Clancy’s voiced matched that of Ryan. He again pointed out that Duran was standing too tall.  “He’s still straight up in the air, Tim!”

At that moment, at exactly the two minute mark of the second round, with the crowd on its feet, down came the hammer.

Just as Clancy pointed out that Duran was standing straight up, Hearns landed a devastating, picture perfect right hand that thudded on Duran’s chin.

He crumbled face first to the mat. As Padilla began the count it was quickly apparent that he was not going to get up. Duran’s corner rushed into the ring as Clancy charged, “The fight’s over Tim!”

Hearns obliterated Duran inside of two rounds to retain his WBC Super Middleweight crown.

The Aftermath

After the festivities of fight night in Vegas, Hearns joined Brent Musburger on CBS Sports Sunday with Hagler joining via satellite from Boston.

The two sparred verbally about their highly anticipated match that was now just months away. Hearns did meet Hagler, losing in what many call the greatest three rounds in history.

The first round in and of itself was perhaps the greatest three minutes in boxing history. Hearns continued his career and fought into 2006, fighting Iran Barkley twice, rematching Leonard, and eventually won the Light Heavyweight title via unanimous decision against Virgil Hill.

Hearns was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.

After Hearns, just five years later, Duran lifted the Middleweight crown from Iran Barkley. Duran fought into 2001. He clashed with Vinny Paz and Hector Camacho twice.  He also secured a rubber match with Leonard and was thoroughly beaten.

Duran was also inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in June of 2007.

Vegas was again the destination point where champions met and drama unfolded.  On this clear and beautiful evening, that drama unfolded quickly as Hearns showed he had his own hands of stone.

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