Hearns vs. Leonard: The Lowdown on the Showdown

What Shalit Be?

The Tommy Hearns-Sugar Ray Leonard showdown is supposed to be a close fight. Sports Illustrated and Inside Sports pick Leonard. Sports magazine and the New York Daily News side with Hearns. When Ring Magazine, "The Bible of Boxing," polled 37 experts for the views of the fight, the result was 13 for Leonard, 12 for Hearns and 12 toss-ups. Get the picture?

It will be close until the first round.

When the two fighters stroll into the center of the 20 foot square ring, the fight will quickly become a mismatch. Thomas Hearns will destroy Sugar Ray Leonard.

August 2, 1980: Tommy Hearns wants the WBA welterweight championship. He is fighting Pipino Ceuvas, a Roberto Duran-style fighter. A Hearns jab snaps Ceuvas's head back. Again. Again. Again. Ceuvas throws a combination. It misses by a foot.

The biggest factor in Wednesday's fight will be Hearn's incredible 78-inch reach. Leonard's reach is being advertised as 74 inches, but that is simply a promoter's lie. Sugar Ray's reach, in the past, has been 70 inches, even. Today it is 70 inches. That puts Leonard at an eight-inch reach disadvantage. To the uninitiated, fighting with an eight-inch disadvantage is like trying to hit a home run in the major leagues with a whiffle-ball bat.

It is Leonard-Duran I. Second round. The fighters are in the center of the ring. Leonard lands a combination to Duran's body and backs off. On the way out, Duran lands a solid left hook to the side of Leonard's head. Leonard fights the next four rounds in a daze.

Leonard's plan, in fact his only chance, is to move, move, move, and get inside, throw some body shots to wear Hearns down and then retreat. Somewhere along the line he's going to get hit, however, and Hearns hits twice as hard as Duran. When Leonard tries to come in, he'll be met by Hearn's left, jab, a powerful accurate weapon. When Leonard is inside, Hearns will hook to the body. On the way out, Leonard will be caught with right hands. At some point, Leonard will have to trade punches with Hearns.

Back to the Hearns-Cuevas fight. Still the first round. Hearns is pummeling Cuevas on the ropes. The announcer notices Cuevas's courage, saying, "If Cuevas shows Hearns that he can take this kind of punishment, it could turn to his advantage." Angelo Dundee, Leonard's trainer and a guest commentator: "Yeah, but that kind of punishment don't do nobody no good."

That kind of punishment ended in Cuevas getting knocked out in the second round. Look for a similar situation in Wednesday's fight. It should go something like this:

The fight begins. Hearns is anxious and misses a big right hand. Just when everyone thinks Leonard is going to make Hearns look bad, Thomas settles down and starts connecting with his jab. The fight ends there. Leonard tries everything in an attempt to avoid Hearns' punches while landing some of his own. But every time he closes in, Hearns nails him. A left hook stuns Leonard. A right puts him down. No one will ever count ten over Sugar Ray, who rises. Ten Hearns punches later, the fight is stopped. The clock shows 1:58 of the sixth round.