Mr No Complain– the tale of a busted nose– or a big boy did it and didn’t run away!

10 Nov


Good Evening,

The skinny kid stood outside the red brick building on McGraw Street and looked at it for a moment. There was no way he wasn’t going in, but he did pause—just for a second. The building had first opened its doors in 1920 or 1921 depending on which report you choose to believe. Either way it was the oldest civic recreation centre of its kind. By the 1970’s it sat isolated in a run down and dilapidated area of the city– with the building’s claim to any architectural merit long since passed.

All around this building, there was desolation and devastation. Boarded up shops, dilapidated houses, wasteland and all the other signs of inner city dilapidation and neglect were everywhere– yet thousands– literally thousands— were drawn to the red brick entrance. They came from all over. Eventually They would come from Britain, from Russia,  all over America , Mexico — but this kid came from only a bus ride away.

No one dare bring a car here in ordinary circumstances, yet as often as not a gleaming white Rolls Royce convertible would sit outside– signifying that, “The Man” was in residence– and no one would dare touch or interfere with such a car. To do so would be more than their life’s worth— despite the owner being a well spoken, gentle, smiling but authoritative local. He was just “The Man”– and you didn’t touch “The Man’s” car.

On the door there was a sign proclaiming that the price of admission was not $35 dollars as the kid had been told. No, instead the sign said that the price of admission was pain— pain with the promise that for a very few there followed ….. fame. Inside there was a picture of spilt blood and a caption

“ The real price of admission”!

At one time there had been an old fashioned gymnasium with a basketball court in the upper floors but it had fallen into disuse long ago. The groundfloor had some offices and other rooms but by the seventies, no one who came to the building paid any notice to those rooms or that floor at all.

Once inside, these days everyone made their way to the basement instead where they were greeted with a heat that ranged between a steamy 90 – to a roasting 120 degrees. The walls throughout were decorated in the same three colours, gold red and blue— with all the equipment, much of it showing signs of wear and tear, cracks and abrasions — decorated with the same colours.

And everywhere,literally everywhere, there were reminders of the name of the building. The name is on posters, newspaper clippings, pieces of kit, shorts, vests, jackets hanging up, numerous  signs and most notably it is writ large on the skirt of the rooms main feature and the one area that draws the eyes of everyone who comes down here. A Boxing Ring.

The Kid walked down the stairs and introduced himself to those inside, including “The Man”. When he explained his purpose in coming to the building the Kid may not have detected the slight hesitation, the look of scepticism and uncertainty, that his stated intention brought about in others — especially “The Man”.

Nevertheless, he was told to change into his sweats and go to work.

The Man ran his eyes over the boy. He was Skinny— UN- BE- LIEVABLY skinny. Not normal skinny—really skinny—stand him sideways and he disappears skinny. Worse he was tall — like a lamppost with no light at the top.

It is said that every living creature and thing is subject to the Golden ratio — that miracle of genetics and biology which ensures that we are all in proportion, that leaves have a certain number of stems, that the limbs and features of all things correlate to one another.

Well, when this kid entered the world the Golden Ratio Fairy was on a tea break. He had legs like a giant sparrow — stick thin and long –like a giraffe with a body that did not marry up in terms of proportionality.

The Kid said he wanted to box. Indeed he had boxed as an amateur with some success. He had fought 155 times and only lost 8 of those contests. However that was with three two minute rounds, with headgear, and where this kid patted out the outrageously long arms and moved away. Despite all those wins, he had been overlooked for the Olympic team and the guy chosen instead would go on to win the Gold medal. “The man” was not surprised really—this guy was just too skinny, was known not to pack a punch of any meaning and looked as if he was just not cut out for the professional game at all.

“The Man” watched him train and decided enough was enough. He called him into the basement’s one ring, gave him some gloves and put him in with a pro who was not great but not bad. This guy knew how to hold his hands up, plant his feet, and deliver a wallop which would trouble some good guys.He would certainly test this boy’s notion of being a boxer.

“The Man” rang the bell and the two walked into the centre of the ring. There was some pitty patty stuff from the kid with the sparrow legs and the skinny long arms. Stuff that would have scored a point or two on an amateur card, but nothing that was going to deter a pro from marching forward. Suddenly , the other fella slipped inside the long arm and unleashed a right hand — right down the pipe! His leather smashed into the Skinny kid’s face full on, knocking him clean off his feet on to the seat of his pants. The blow was delivered with such force that the kid’s nose was instantly broken with blood and cartilage spurting all over the ring. It had been a fearsome blow and it had resulted in maximum damage to the nose — which was just plain busted. The man was not surprised and suspected that the skinny kid’s declared ambition had just been busted as well.

A seat was produced for the boy to sit on, a cold compress, towels and cloths to wipe up the blood were brought into the ring by onlookers. The other fella retreated to the opposite corner of the ring having expressed his concern but knowing he should stay out of the road.

“The Man” watched as the kid took off one glove and held the compress to his nose. Not a lot was said. He was still watching as the beanpole man/boy put the towel and compress down, and suddenly, without any warning, used his hand to instantly reset his damaged nose —suddenly jerking the bone back into the correct position in an eye wateringly sore manoeuvre. With a shake of his head, the kid put the glove back on, shook his head again, stood up, stared across the ring and said “Ready”!

Watching this, “The Man” inwardly said to himself “ Oh My God! What have we here?”.

What he had, was a skinny bean pole—called Thomas Hearns.

Hearns was born in Grand Junction Tennessee but like “The Man”— Emmanuel Steward —-came to Detroit as a boy. Hearns was just 5 years old. His mother was a single parent with several kids from two marriages– and to say that life was tough for Tommy and his siblings would be an understatement.

He had boxed as an amateur, but the likes of Howard Davis had a better record and could hit harder—and besides others were not so completely out of proportion. It was Davis who would lift Gold at the Olympics instead of Tommy.

Of course the names Hearns, Steward and Kronk would be invariably linked with “The Man” becoming not only Tommy’s trainer, but his mentor and his father figure.

Steward had been no mean boxer himself in the Amateur ranks but had gone on to be an apprentice electrician with the Edison company before taking the job as a part time trainer in the Kronk Recreation Centre which he would later make famous. He created a real team spirit and “Team Kronk” where all the fighters under his charge were supported by one another — all wearing the Gold, Red and Blue Kronk colours. In Detroit, a team Kronk show could sell out the 15,000 seater Joe Louis arena—easily!

Steward’s first world champ was Hilmer Kenty and he would go on to train over 40 World belt holders including Milton McCrory, Lennox Lewis, Vladimir Klitschco, Oscar de La Hoya and many others who would consult him either personally on a permanent basis or on an ad hoc specialist basis. However, he was most closely associated with the skinny kid with the busted nose and the aptitude for self-medication and correctional surgery!

Of course, you cannot mention Hearns without mentioning three other names — Hagler — Leonard and Duran!

I could write a book on Hearns, Hagler, Duran and Leonard– their fights, their rivalry, their friendship and their records– however that has already been done within the pages of the magnificent book by George Kimball—“The 4 kings- Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran– the last great era of boxing. “  If you haven’t read that do yourself a favour and buy it for Christmas—you won’t regret it— even if you are not a fight fan!

I will not hide the fact that of the 4– all of whom I admire greatly for different reasons– Hearns is an easy favourite— for reasons which are mostly to do with his attitude both in, and more importantly, out of the ring.

Hearns had a good amateur record, losing only 8 out of those 155 amateur bouts. Yet the funny thing was he was a boxer– not a hitter. By the time he arrived at the Kronk he was known as a rather awkward, gangly, spindle legged light hitting fighter. Equipped for the points business of three rounds with headgear, but perhaps not quite the type who would make it past the also rans in the professional game.

Steward, however, saw something to work with in the physically freakish Hearns. The boy trained and eventually had a magnificent physique above the waist with shoulders and muscle that were far broader than others in his fighting weight. Steward would turn that width, strength and muscle into sheer raw power with the result that Hearns became the hit man– The Motor City Cobra — whose speed of hand and power of punch was to be absolutely devastating. Bert Sugar — the Runyonesque publisher and editor of Ring magazine — would say that Tommy possessed THE “Go Home” punch in boxing — because once he threw it the opponent, the referee, the judges, the press and the fans were all going home the split second it landed.

It would later be said that Steward began to line up opponents and Tommy would just knock them down.

Yet what perhaps impressed Steward most at that first sighting was the skinny kid’s love for just fighting — broken nose or no broken nose, Hearns loved to fight, and would do so sporting a large and rather engaging if distracting grin!

Statistics and records can tell you all about Hearns in the fight game — yet I believe that in many respects those statistics have been overlooked and are often misinterpreted. Some just don’t see what Hearns statistics actually show when compared to others.

What has been overlooked is this.

Hearns just did not want to fight and make his way up the ranks as a professional and collect a few bucks. Instead he wanted to fight—to fight anyone who was good– really good– without fear or hesitation. Whatsmore he was so freakishly built he would fight at damn near any weight– Light Welter, Welterweight, Light Middle, Middle Weight, Cruiserweight, Light Heavy– Tommy would go up and down the weights in search of a fight against quality all his days. In fact his weight and his physique was such that even Emmanuel Steward was never too sure of what weight Tommy should be at any given time. There are famous occasions, such as the first fight with Leonard, where Steward was convinced that Hearns was far to light!

Not since Henry Armstrong had boxing seen a fighter who would fight at so many weights.

In total, Tommy  would fight as a professional 67 times– the same number of fights as Hagler whose record was 67 fights, 62 wins 3 draws and 2 losses against Hearns 67 fights, 61 wins 5 losses and a draw. Leonard in contrast would only fight 40 times, while Duran– the absolutely incredible Duran — would fight an amazing 119 times!

There are two matters of secondary importance before I get to my main point about Hearns.

The first is the effect that a fight with Hearns had on Hagler, Leonard and  Duran and the second is the effect that Hearns had on himself.

When Leonard met Hearns on 16th September 1981, Hearns entered the ring undefeated having won his previous 32 Fights winning most by spectacular knockouts.  In fact he knocked out his first 17 opponents.

Leonard had fought 31 times suffering his only loss at the hands of Roberto Duran over 15 rounds. Leonard had then reversed that decision in the very next fight — a fight he took because he knew Duran’s habits post fight. Duran had gone on a customary binge and gained some 50 pounds before trying to sweat it off in time for the rematch which took place only 4 months after the first fight. In the return, Leonard did not stand toe to toe with Duran as he had in their first fight where he had been badly hurt. Instead he danced and moved and rocked Duran with solid jabs and combinations before moving off again.

Leonard taunted Duran and eventually,and amazingly,for the first and only time in his life old Hands of Stone — who was fighting in his 74th contest – turned and quit! It was Duran’s first defeat.

There are two things to note about the first Hearns/Leonard fight.

The first is that Emmanuel Steward would later say that he knew that Tommy Hearns could not go 15 rounds! The reason? His weight was wrong. He had over trained and had come into the ring several pounds too light. Steward knew that it took a certain amount of Stamina for The spindly legs to hold up the Hearns Upper Frame and he took the view that Hearns should have trained less, have been heavier thus giving him reserves of energy.

The second is that after this fight, Leonard would only ever box a further 8 times — and most of those were chosen very very carefully indeed, over a very long period, with very tight controls and only for a huge purse.

By the 13th round, Leonard was badly beaten. Hearns had boxed Leonard and had perpetually stuck swift jabs in his face with such force that on this night he would do permanent damage to Ray Leonard’s eye with the result that Leonard would have one more fight after this one before announcing his retirement for the first time. Leonard was told that the damage to his eye inflicted by Hearns was such that he should quit the ring for good. In essence — career over!

However, Hearns couldn’t finish Ray off and prior to that 13th round Angelo Dundee had told Leonard “ You’re blowing it son—you’re blowing it”. Leonard needed a knockout to win.

He came on to Hearns like a man possessed in that 13th round and had Tommy through the Ropes with only the bell saving him. In the 14th, Hearns danced and moved and stuck out his jab, but Manny Steward knew that the tank was empty — and so did Ray Leonard. When he caught up with the dancing Tommy and landed some solid punches it was all over. Leonard had won and Hearns had lost for the first time. Later it would be said that Tommy had never been taught an essential piece of ringcraft. He did not know how to hold on and get a breather. He did not know how to tie up Ray’s arms and force him to spend energy and time getting free allowing Tommy to recover. He had never needed this skill and that lack of nous proved costly.

Yet, it was in this fight that we would first see the other side to Tommy Hearns, and it is a side which Emmanuel Steward would never tire of telling everyone about in later years. The fact is Tommy Hearns just never complained – never – ever — he just said he was beaten by a better fighter on the night , praised his opponent in the press conference, thanked his trainers and his family, hoped everyone enjoyed the fight anyway and went home. He was “ Mr No Complain”!

Many other fighters fell out with managers and trainers after a defeat, about money or whatever. Many others moaned about judges, referees, opponents, low blows or any number of other things. Steward would bang on that after almost 70 fights he had never heard Tommy Hearns complain about anything or anyone — EVER! He just lived to fight — win, lose or draw – to the extent he would fix his own nose with his bare hands if he had too!

While Hearns lost the fight, Leonard had lost much more. He started to see floaters in his damaged eye and the so called “good” eye had ended the fight with a grotesque swelling above it the size of an egg! Eventually he was diagnosed with a detached retina and despite one more defence of his title against a lesser opponent— albeit the No 4 contender which was more or less just a payday with Leonard knocking out his opponent in the 3rd round — Sugar Ray Leonard was forced to retire from the sport on medical grounds which resulted from the fight with Hearns.

Two and a half years later, Leonard having become weary of retiral took another fight against Kevin Howard who in 25 fights had lost 4 and drawn 1. Leonard won a tough fight in the 9th round — but not before Howard had sent him crashing to the floor in the 4th heightening fears for Leonard’s health and sight as his doctors were seriously concerned. Once again Leonard retired — for a period.

In the interim, Hearns got his butt off the canvas and fought anyone who was any good at all. He heeded Steward’s advice and moved up in weight and took on all comers ,  winning the WBC Super Welterweight (154 lb) title from boxing legend and three-time world champion Wilfredo Benítez (44-1-1) in New Orleans in December 1982, and defended that title against European Champion Luigi Minchillo (42-1) (W 12), no.1 contender Fred Hutchings (29-1) (KO 3) and no 1 contender Mark Medal (26-2) (TKO 8).

In the Midst of this run of fights, Hearns had met Duran who after the binge and the defeat by Leonard had resumed his normal bullying hands of stone style against the likes of Minchillo- who he beat in 10 rounds. Benitez and Britain’s Kirkland Lang  both beat Duran on points, before Duran went on a three bout run of victories against Jimmy Batten, Davey Moore and Pipino Cuevas the former Light Welter champion whose 4 year reign had been ended by Hearns. The horrific beating of the previously undefeated Moore brought Duran his third World title on his 32nd Birthday. Mercifully Moore was spared further punishment after the 8th round.

These fights brought Duran before Marvin Hagler for 15 rounds. This is a fight which Hagler won, but up until the 12th round all 3 judges had Duran in front and Hagler was told by the corner that he needed all three rounds or a knockout to win. This was November 1983.  With the fight being at Middleweight, Duran was able to retain his light middleweight crown that he had won from Moore the previous June as that was not on the line as Roberto moved up a weight. Hagler came on incredibly strongly in those three rounds and snatched the decision from the Panama Legend..

Duran’s next fight would be just over 6 months later and he would lose the world light middleweight title the moment that he stepped into the ring as the fight was not sanctioned by the WBA. Standing in the opposite corner that night was Thomas Hearns.

This was to be Duran’s 83rd contest in a career which had seen him lose only 5 times with all of those losses being on points other than the defeat where he simply turned his back on Leonard. What was to happen that night at Ceasar’s Palace was not foreseen by anyone — even Emmanuel Steward – with the possible exception of Tommy Hearns.

With a blistering display of sheer power punching, Roberto Duran was knocked out — clean unconscious out — in a frenetic two rounds. This was the first time that anyone had been able to do this with Duran and in a way it signalled to all and sundry that Duran was not the stone built wall that everyone had seen for over a decade. He could be hurt and that night he was — badly!

Hearns delivered Bert Sugar’s “Go Home” Punch and the video footage shows that Duran was clearly knocked unconscious by the sheer power of Hearns’ fist long before he hit the canvass. It was a punch that produced audible gasps from the crowd and the watching commentators.

The result was that Hearns retained the WBC Light middleweight title, however and more importantly Roberto Duran would not fight anyone for another year and half, and he would not contend another title fight for another 5 years. Like Leonard, the fight with Hearns would result in Tommy’s opponent leaving the ring for a prolonged time and would indicate a watershed in his career. Bert Sugar said that whilst it was a great night for Tommy Hearns it was a sad night for boxing because he predicted a legend had died and that Duran would never recover. Bert wasn’t quite right. Duran would be back but Hearns had done real damage. Again, post fight, Hearns went on about how much of a Legend Duran was, how he had thrown a great punch and that he hoped Duran would be back.

Following his victory over Duran in November 1983, Hagler woukld knock out the hard hitting Argentinian Juan Roldan in the 10th round in March 1984 in Las Vegas, and he would return to the Madison Square Garden ring for a 3rd round knockout of tough Mustafa Hamsho on 19th October of the same year. Hagler had given Roldan a brutal beating and it should be noted that over his seven year reign as champion, Duran was the first fighter to go the distance with Marvellous Marvin.

Now you should know that by this time, Marvellous Marvin was Hagler’s real name. He had changed it by deed poll to ensure that commentators and others used the marvellous part as he constantly felt that he did not get enough recognition. Hagler was bitter that he had been getting paid a fraction of the money that Leonard would collect for fights even when Leonard held no title and Marvin was a world champ. This was to have a profound effect on Marvin – he really felt bitter.

Hagler had marked up 50 professional contests before he actually won a world title, although he had been robbed of a clear victory against Vito Antuofermo before winning the title from Alan Minter who had in turn beaten the Italian. In fact, Hagler had been told to turn and face the cameras by referee Mills Lane at the end of the first fight with Antuofermo, with Lane explaining what he should do when the ref lifted his hand in victory. Mills Lane was a district court judge as well as a referee but he sure read the jury wrong that night. The judges announced the fight as a draw meaning Antuofermo kept his title and Marvin kept his chip on the shoulder.

Since winning the title, Hagler had crushed all before him in 10 defences including fights against Duran, Antuofermo, Mustafa Hamsho (Twice), Willie “the caveman” Lee, Tony Sibson, Roldan and others.

At one time, Hagler had consulted Emmanuel Steward, and later Steward revealed that Hagler had taken the view that Hearns could outbox him, could hit harder than him and was in general a better fighter — except that Hagler had a fierce determination and inner resolve when it came to winning. He did not like to get beaten and had spent years trying to get the recognition that he thought he deserved. Hagler coveted the record of 14 successful defences of the Middleweight crown — a record that was held by Carlos Monzon.

Having ran out of decent opposition at the lower weights, Hearns agreed to meet Marvelous Marvin at Middleweight.

It is with this fight that the Hearns story which I started out with begins to take some shape.

The night before the fight, Hearns had a massage against the strict instructions of Emmanuel Steward. Manny was always concerned about the strength of Tommy’s legs as opposed to his chin which some said was weak. Those spindly legs had to hold up the ever heavier Hearns frame — a frame which had now moved up from Welterweight, through Light Middleweight to full Middleweight.

To say that Steward was furious about the massage would be an understatement. Massaging the legs is against any boxing trainer’s manual before a fight. It tightens muscles and falsely moves the muscles about. It weakens the legs.

Further, he instructed Hearns to box. To stick the jab into Hagler’s face ramrod straight and move. He wanted his man to hit Hagler repeatedly from distance, not to get close or stand toe to toe which was Marvin’s strength, and from there occasionally unleash his devastating power. Hagler was a traditionally slow starter and Steward wanted to punish Hagler over the early rounds and make him move —tire him out and make him sluggish. He did not want Hagler to get in close where he could do his most effective work and damage. Tommy’s long arms did not lend themselves to close in fighting. He had to get the arms back and clear in order to punch and he could not do this inside as effectively as a man with shorter arms. Further, to unleash his devastating power Tommy had to plant his legs firm. He could not throw his punches with power on weak legs — hence Steward’s concern over the sparrow legs. He had had the same thought when he first saw Tommy — what about those legs?

However what took place on the evening of April 15th 1985 would not follow the plan thought through by Steward with 4 things conspiring to ensure that it would never be so. This fight has been called “The War” and is said to have brought about the greatest 8 minutes of boxing history inside the ring. The first round has been repeatedly declared as the greatest boxing round ever.

I recall lying in my bed listening to the build-up and the live commentary on the radio. The tension was absolutely electric but no matter how exciting the build-up, nothing would prepare the spectator, the listener, the commentator, the referee, the corner men  and perhaps even the fighters for the next three minutes.

For a start the first of the 4 things that would ruin Steward’s plans came into play straight from the bell, and that was that Hagler rushed into action and immediately started attacking. Hearns found that there would be no opportunity to stick and jab as instructed. Pretty quickly the second domino would fall. Instead of keeping Hagler at distance, Hearns, on the back of his utter destruction of Duran, decided to stand and trade with Hagler and hit him with heavy bombs in an all out war! To the astonishment of all, and I do mean all, Tommy just stood there looking to hit Hagler with the “ Go home” punch—— and hit him he did.

Hagler would later say that he had never been hit so hard in his life. He had only ever been knocked off his feet once against Roldan and that was a knockdown which was clearly a slip yet was counted against him. No one had actually shifted Hagler off his feet before or visibly hurt him.  However in this fight, in this round, Tommy Hearns was to throw a punch with such force that Hagler would feel it numb him all the way down to his ankles. It would be one of a number that would split Hagler’s bald head wide open with a four inch cut which would see blood streaming down Hagler’s nose. It would rock Hagler more than he had even been rocked by any fighter before that moment, and it would be a punch that would cost Tommy Hearns the fight— because he broke his hand throwing it!!!

Commentators say that once they saw that Hagler could withstand the power of Hearns’ right hand they knew that Hagler would win. I don’t buy that, because it is one thing to be hit with one such punch but it is another thing altogether to be hit with such a punch more than once in a short space of time or as part of a right left right combination. That was never going to happen in this fight. Hearns had a habit of slamming blistering punches to the Kidney’s — punches which would literally numb the opposition meaning that they could not keep their hands up, leaving the head area exposed to the “Go Home” blow or blows.

With his hand broken, Hearns could do no such thing in this fight.

That first round was the greatest in Boxing History. Both men unleashed shots which would have buried virtually all others within the category — possibly all others in the two categories above as well.

However, by deciding to stand and have a war, Tommy Hearns himself was the fourth element that ensured Emmanuel Steward’s fight plan was not to be. Hagler’s fast start would have worn off, Hearn’s legs may have loosened up over a few rounds, but a fighter who chooses to stand and war with the likes of Marvin Hagler with a broken hand is living on borrowed time — and Hearns knew it.

When he came back to the corner after that first tumultuous 3 minutes, Hearns announced that he had broken his hand. The contest was effectively over at that point as without his biggest weapon Hearns could not stop Hagler. So what to do? He could try and box for the next 14 rounds, stick out the thunderous left and move and get on his bike. Steward asked him if he wanted the fight stopped because of the hand, but Tommy Hearns was having none of it.

The second round could never live up to the first, but equally Hearns played no stick and run tactic although he did jab more and did try to strike from distance, only now the right hand was no longer the razor straight weapon of destruction, instead it was swung in an arc in a sort of clubbing motion. Further, Hearns later revealed that he had absolutely no legs under him at all by the second round, the first round having sapped him of all energy. He stumbled when trying to throw some punches or move around the ring- so much so- that it was commented on at ringside by Ray Leonard who said he suddenly didn’t like the way Tommy was moving. He could see the same evidence as he saw in his fight with Hearns namely that Tommy had just about shot his bolt unless he could get a rest and recover—— and with Marvellous Marvin that wasn’t likely.

Whether Hagler realised that Hearns had damaged his hand is irrelevant because he just kept coming forward and meeting the Hearns left head on with the result that in the third round the cut on his head just became wider and wider with more and more blood flowing down to his shorts.

When referee Richard Steele — who would later say he had never seen such intensity in a fight — took Hagler to the corner to be examined by a doctor there was serious concern that the fight might be stopped. Hagler took the view that unless he got Hearns out of there– and quickly– then his reign as champion would end within maybe the next six boxing minutes. Even if Hearns had tied his right hand behind his back, Hagler could not afford the possibility of Hearns pounding him with the left and moving out of reach leaving Marvin with an ever reducing sight line. Tommy had to go! Now!

By the third round Hearns knew that he was a spent fighter and it is here that one of the strangest moments in boxing occurs. Hagler is scoring against the wounded Hearns who is now without one right hand and two legs. Hearns at one stage issues a huge wide grin towards the blood soaked Hagler, almost like an unspoken invitation to come on in, and starts to turn away from the Champion who catches Tommy side on with a clubbing blow rocking him almost off his feet. With Hearns on the ropes, Hagler weighs in to finish the job leaving him down and out on the floor.  Unbelievably Hearns attempted to get up but referee Richard Steele had seen enough and the fight was over.

While the groggy Hearns was helped back on to his stool, the battered and very bloodied Hagler was paraded around the ring by his friends and helpers in triumph. This was the culmination of Hagler’s career. This was the moment where he gained the respect that he had so long craved and never felt he received. He had been fighting not only Hearns but also all his own demons and detractors, the boxing establishment which he felt never gave him recognition, a press which did not fully recognise him as a true champion — and anyone else that came to mind.

In his mind, Hagler just had to win for his career to mean anything.

Prior to the fight there had been a 20 city press conference and promotional circus where the two fighters traded the usual spats to drum up some interest. Except this had been no usual two fighters. Hearns was a quiet guy, a respectful guy and didn’t much like to trash talk the press up and Hagler was virtually silent and was a real recluse. However, the two did their promotional duty and then got down to the fight of all fights.

But what happened when it was all over?

Well there is the thing. If you watch the video tape you see the two meet in the centre of the ring. Hearns, having recovered his senses, Hagler having wiped the blood off his face and paraded the belts and so on. The Victor meeting the Vanquished for a brief moment is traditional in boxing, yet I believe that this was no traditional tap of the wrists and saying well done.

For a start the meeting goes on too long to be cursory, and as can be seen from the footage both boxers sport huge grins extending to laughter. Not just superficial laughter but real honest belly laughter at some point that they — and only they– could share.

It is here and in this area — this out of the ring and away from the fighting itself arena — that I now reach the conclusion that Hearns has no real equal as a man of boxing.

When he lost to Leonard, Hearns genuinely felt that he had let the Kronk gym and all of Detroit down — something which is absolutely untrue. However that is how Hearns felt and he openly said it and apologised to one and all.

Steward would later say of Hearns “ he just never complained — about anything!” He never complained about his defeats, he never stated he hated anyone, he never had a big ego or felt that he was more important than anyone else or deserved any particular respect. He just loved to box — loved to fight even — as long as it was against someone good and that the boxers put on a good show.

In the dressing room after the Hagler fight the first question he asked Emmanuel Steward was “ Was it a good fight? Did the crowd enjoy it and get their money’s worth?” — that was his first concern.

When asked to comment on his busted hand in the press conference, Hearns admitted it was busted but then dismissed the injury as if it was of no consequence. He got beat, Hagler won, he didn’t know how Hagler had stayed on his feet and simply kept repeating that Hagler was indeed marvellous and was a truly great champion. He refused to accept that the busted hand was a factor in the loss — that, he explained later, would sound like an excuse!  He would later ask Marvin what he was ” taking” to stay on his feet. Marvin would answer “ I couldn’t go down, man—just couldn’t go down! Couldn’t afford to go down!”.

Years later, the two would do a televised blow by blow commentary on the fight of all fights. If nothing else, that transmission is a testimony to the nobility of certain boxers if not boxing itself. There is an immoral strain that runs through the notion of fat cats paying fortunes to see two dumb guys knocking seven bells out of one another for their entertainment.Yet there is a real dignity and sense of camaraderie listening to two guys who have seen it, done it and worn the T shirt,— and in this instance it is the guy who lost who comes out as just remarkable. ” Your head is that hard– its a weapon!”. ” Man, I was gone at this point– there was nothing there!”

Hagler of course took the glory, but just like Duran and Leonard the fight with Hearns would change Hagler’s  course. He would fight only twice more. The first fight was almost a year later. Hagler would take on the unbeaten No 1 contender — the former Olympic silver medallist John “the beast” Mugabi who had gone 26 fights without defeat. Whilst Hagler would win after 11 brutal rounds, he was clearly slower, more flat footed, easier to hit and now more of a slugger than the slick punching machine of yore. It was as if the hate, the drive, the chip on the shoulder had been spent and disappeared with the Hearns fight and while the body had trained ,the will and determination displayed in previous fights had not turned up. This performance convinced Leonard he could beat Hagler.

His final fight of course was the fight against Leonard where he lost a controversial decision on points.

Sugar Ray had allegedly been retired for three years, though what was not known then was that he had actually trained by having three full blown competitive fights behind closed doors with good opponents, complete with referees, judges and all. Further, as part of the deal, Leonard insisted on a 24 x 24 ft ring and on 12 inch gloves. Further he insisted that the fight be over 12 rounds instead of 15. The signs were clear, Leonard was going to stick and move. There would be no war a la Hearns. Whatsmore Sugar Ray had watched Hagler get older and in his opinion slower– with the result that he thought he could beat him if he boxed clever!

Opinion is split on that fight. Hugh McIlvanney is one of those who is of the view that Leonard flattered to deceive. He was showy in parts, lazy or tired in others. Hagler appeared to be the more positive and aggressive, with crisper and heavier punches which hurt Ray.  Leonard held on as he grew more and more tired. Referee Richard Steele warned Leonard on more than 30 occasions for holding on, but never deducted a single point — something which many commentators said was unheard of.

Leonard was alleged to have been flashy rather than effective and as such, in the eyes of some, the decision to award Leonard the fight was wholly wrong.

Others like Jimmy Murray,  the legendary LA Times journalist, thought that Ray was the clear winner, with Marvin being made to look slow and cumbersome — nothing like the warrior who faced Hearns!

For Hagler, it was the final straw. He would never put on a pair of gloves again and Leonard gave up the titles he had won and immediately lapsed back into retirement.

This then left Hearns kicking his heels around anywhere from the Middleweight division up to the light Heavyweight division with Hagler never considering, or wanting, any kind of rematch and Leonard either retired or only prepared to fight Hagler in a rematch— yet again for big bucks. There is clear evidence that Ray fought Hagler because he thought he was passed his best and could beat him. He was not so keen on standing in the same ring as Thomas Hearns – at that stage.

So what was Hearns to do? Well after the war against Hagler he took the rest of 1985 off. By that I mean he did not engage in any competitive fights but he maintained his training regime. He was still the WBA  Super Welterweight Champion but in March 1986 he fought the undefeated James “Black Gold” Shuler for the North American Middleweight Title. Shuler was undefeated in 22 fights winning 16 of those contests by knockout. Shuler was considered a real rising star in the Middleweight division with a good record and a good punch—and the commentators took the view that at 6’1” Shuler was far from an easy opponent for Tommy. Hearns had only fought once before at the weight and that was the three round war against Hagler — and the question was could Hearns actually cut the mustard at this weight?

The question was answered in one minute and thirteen seconds of the first round, in which Hearns absolutely demolished Shuler with Jabs, body punches and a devastating right hand knockout blow which caused Shula’s legs to buckle and his eyes to close. Yet again Tommy had delivered the “Go Home” with instant results.

The young man recovered, and while he had lost the fight he used the money he had earned against Hearns to buy a motorcycle. Two weeks after the Hearns fight, James Shula tragically died when he crashed the Motorbike in his Native Philadelphia. His family were a little surprised to find an unexpected mourner at his funeral. Without any pomp or ceremony, Tommy Hearns turned up to pay his respects, and quietly presented Shula’s family with the NABC Middleweight belt he had won from Shula two weeks before. He argued that Shula had worn it longer than Hearns and that no matter who had won what on fight night, Shula had deserved to be remembered as champion and to keep the belt. I understand that when it was pointed out that the belt actually belonged to the NABC and was not Tommy’s to give, Hearns suggested that should anyone come and ask for the belt back, then they should be directed to come and see him so that he could express his—- opinion— on the subject. I believe nobody ever took the matter further!

Hearns would go on to fight at all sorts of weights. He defeated Mark Medal at light middleweight, Doug De Witt at middleweight; He won the WBA Light heavyweight title from Denis Andries, before dropping down to Middleweight to claim the Middleweight title from Juan Roldan — all before the end of 1987 when Hagler fought Leonard and both retired from the scene.

He lost the middleweight title unexpectedly to Iran Barklay before beating James “The heat” Kinchen for the NABF and the WBO Super Middleweight titles. Kinchen had suffered only 3 defeats in 44 fights. By this time Hearns was the only man to have held world titles at 4 different weights and the Super Middleweight title would make that 5 titles at 5 weights.

Some 7 months later, Hearns would meet Leonard again some 8 years and 17 fights after their first encounter. This would be 2 and a bit years after Leonard had fought Hagler and would only be Ray’s 5th fight since beating Tommy all those years earlier.

On November 7, 1988, Leonard had made another comeback, facing Don Lalonde at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. They fought for Lalonde’s WBC Light Heavyweight Championship and the newly created WBC Super Middleweight Championship, which meant that Lalonde had to make 168 lbs. Many were critical of Leonard for stipulating that his opponent — a natural 175 pounder — should weigh less than his usual fighting weight, weakening him. The newly created Super Middleweight division gave Leonard the opportunity to win a world title in yet another weight class.

Lalonde, 31–2 with 26 knockouts, was guaranteed at least $6 million and Leonard was guaranteed over $10 million. Leonard eventually won in the 9th round but not before LaLonde had knocked him down for the second time in his career. Afterwards, Leonard immediately vacated the Light Heavyweight title but kept the super middleweight belt.

Hearns was the reigning WBO Super Middleweight Champion..

These two were now a fully laden suitcase heavier than at their first meeting. Over 20lbs heavier. Ray Leonard came into the ring in a red and gold coloured suit which looked as if it had been pumped up with air like the Michelin man. Ray himself was pumped up looking most odd—almost freakish.

Hearns was certainly heavier, with his massive upper body muscle still perched on those long legs.

In the commentary booth was Marvin Hagler, who would provide a knowledgeable although undoubtedly biased commentary — clearly favouring Hearns. He would point out, that a puncher has an optimum weight at which to fight, and he doubted whether or not either of these guys were at the proper weight and so concluded they did not have the same power at this weight. He almost sort of poo poo’d the fight altogether wondering what we were all doing still watching these two after all these years?

The fight however would prove to be a far better fight than expected going the distance with no shortage of action. It would be scored a draw despite the fact that Hearns twice knocked Ray down in the 3rd and the 11th rounds. Leonard had fallen out with Angelo Dundee by this time, but was still told he needed a knock out to win and he went with it and for it. He landed some big blows on Tommy and hurt him and yet again Steward’s concern about the Hearns legs was to be justified.

In the Commentary Box Marvin Hagler and others are heard to say “ Tommy can’t get a leg under him”- meaning that Hearns could literally not move those long legs under his frame and gain any stability at all. In the corner, Steward is heard telling Tommy that “ He has to go – This round” meaning that Ray was tired but also that Tommy had to deliver the “ Go Home” because in truth with those dodgy legs it was time for Tommy to go home too.

However, by this time Hearns had learnt a lesson or two and when Leonard hit him he leaned into Sugar Ray and held on. He tied up his arms, got a breather and tired Ray out in a wrestle. It was ugly but effective and Hagler is heard to say that Tommy had learned to hold on — at long last!

Eventually, to everyone’s astonishment the final bell came — and even more astonishingly the judges scored the fight a draw. Even Ray Leonard would eventually concede that Hearns had clearly won.

Yet again however, the immediate post fight interview was astonishing. Whilst still in the ring it is put to both fighters, standing side by side, that Hearns must have won and be disappointed with the draw? Hearns refuses to be drawn, says who is he to argue with the judges, and adds that he is just glad it was a good fight! He says Ray is a great champion and so on and at all times refuses to say that he won. Ray Leonard argues that he was worth a draw. Then they are asked about a rematch?

The two look at one another and Ray asks Hearns “ Are you talking about a re-match?” Sporting the customary huge grin Hearns replies “ We should go home and think about it and then decide”.

Again Steward would later comment that this was a remarkable Hearns interview. He had every right to be livid at the judges and had every excuse to rant and rave. However, true to form he found that Tommy just never complained, went home, saw his family and then began training again. Whatsmore, Hearns’ brother had been arrested on suspicion of murder following an incident in Detroit only days before the fight — and this had taken up a considerable amount of Tommy’s time immediately before the fight and caused a huge amount of distress. However Hearns had insisted that there be no mention of it as a cause for either losing or not being at his best or as having any consequence at all in terms of the fight itself.

However, after the fight he did want to go home to that family like he always did.

Hearns would go on to outpoint the dangerous Michael Olajide just over a year later in a unanimous decision. It would be his 51 st fight.

Meanwhile, Leonard would retire,come back and retire again. He would fight Duran for a third time in a fight that was booed throughout for being  so thoroughly boring  and non eventful that many left the arena before the end. Duran opened up a cut above Leonard’s eye towards the end and had the fight had any longer to go then it would have surely been stopped. Both men received an absolutely huge purse — to the annoyance of many!

After receiving a beating from Hector Camacho on 1st March 1997 Leonard would finally hang up the gloves for good after 40 official contests. His 39th contest had been over 5 years previously — a loss to Terry Norris in February 1991 which saw Norris knock Leonard down and hurt him badly.

In his later years, Ray had had troubles,— divorce, cocaine addiction and to an extent an inability to cope away from the limelight. His comeback fights all commanded huge fees with him stipulating the weight, the ring size and very carefully choosing his opponents.

Meanwhile, in his 54th Fight, Tommy Hearns would once again throw himself against the best that there was around. This time his opponent was Virgil Hill, The Undefeated  WBA Light Heavyweight Champion who was so dominant at this weight that he was making his 11th straight defence!  Hearns would return to his amateur roots and outbox the champion to win a convincing decision and add a sixth world title to his illustrious career.

Whilst he would inexplicably lose this title on a split decision to Iran Barklay, Tommy continued on and won the vacant NABF Cruiserweight  title against Dan Ward,  and on 31st March 1995 he delivered the “Go Home” to Lenny LaPaglia in the first round to win the WBU Cruiserweight title in front of his native Detroit crowd. Over the next 5 years he would add a few more knockouts and two unanimous decisions in the course of adding the IBO Cruiserweight  title to his collection. Whilst this was not the most prestigious belt nor against the very best opponents, to win it you still had to achieve a more than decent standard, and again he regularly delivered the coup de grace with that right hand.

Then on the 8th of April 2000, in the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Tommy Hearns had to retire from a fight injured. He went over on one of his spindly ankles and could not continue. He had not been hit, the legs could just no longer get under that Frame in fight condition. The legs told him it was time to go.

5 years later, he did a Ray Leonard and came out of retirement much against the advice of just about everyone. He scored two knockouts in the later rounds of two fights.

Manny Steward, his friend, mentor, trainer and father figure had simply refused to be in his corner any longer. He refused to take a dollar and begged Tommy to hang up the gloves saying the race was run. Steward – remembering the kid that fixed the busted nose with his bare hands sitting on a stool in the corner of the ring at the Kronk –  knew that he could not stop Hearns fighting, but he wanted no part of it and told Tommy so in words of one syllable. Together with Tommy’s son he made it plain that he did not want to see Tommy hurt by younger guys. He wished Tommy well in whatever he decided but stated clearly he would not train him anymore.

Over the years, Hearns would pester Leonard and Hagler for fights, turning up with his huge grin and signed letters of intent at Boxing shows and dinners. There was never any malice or sense of revenge or wanting to rewrite history. It was just that Hearns loved to fight.. and fight against the best. Yes there was to be money involved but he did not need the money he just wanted to fight….. for the fun of it!

Leonard would be recorded as saying “ I love Tommy, but the only thing I want to hit is a golf ball” and so he was out.

By this time, Hagler and Hearns had become firm friends . Hagler had lost all interest in fighting– most of all in fighting Tommy Hearns! When Steward opened a Kronk Gym in London the guests invited to open it were Hagler and Hearns. Hagler was always more prone towards Tommy than Sugar Ray. “ At least Tommy came to fight” he would say and later he would say that “The Brain” – Leonard – only came to run and collect a cheque, thus making  a clear difference between the two.

In the boxing world, among the fighters and commentators, everyone loves Tommy Hearns. Having fallen just short in the ring against Hagler and Leonard, he is credited with a number of great qualities that are rarely found even amongst the greatest in the fight game.

The first is that he got up. He might not have gotten up against Hagler or Leonard within the count of ten, but there was never any danger of him being a shot fighter or one whose ego or sense of self importance prevented him coming back. Further, he was not a ring bully who once beaten would never be the same again. Unike Liston or Tyson or others of that ilk Hearns always got up, came back and got on with the next fight as long as it was against someone good. No huge rings, pay cheques or bums of the month required.

He loved to fight! Oh he could box, stick out a jab and move, but he was inclined to stand and unleash in a war, always knowing that it was bomb or be bombed. He had the murderous right hand, balanced on the spindly and most unstable of legs. It was either good night from me or good night from him. That was one of his measures of greatness – he knew he could be beaten and was never afraid of that.

He fought everyone there was to fight over 6 properly recognised weights, fighting numerous hall of famers, and others who held belts galore. There were no bums of the month for Tommy Hearns. No easy pay cheques.

He altered or greatly affected the careers of Hagler, Leonard and Duran- none of the three was the same again after fighting Hearns whether he won or lost.

But most of all , Tommy Hearns is the fighter’s fighter for many because he was such an ordinary Joe – always humble, always complimentary, never complaining and always taking responsibility for what he said and did. With no disrespect to Sugar Ray, in his later years he fell out with trainers, corner men, wives and himself. He was flashy, almost arrogant sounding at times– possibly hiding the troubles he had encountered as a child. He blamed eventual defeats on all sorts of things. This doesn’t mean he was not a great fighter — he is just not the same as Tommy Hearns — and I personally prefer and admire the Hearns model more.

Hearns was once asked where he thought he should be rated in the all time ratings of Weletrweights or middleweights or any weights? Typically he replied by saying he was just happy to be rated anywhere! No one had to rate him in any position at all, so if someone had thought him good enough to achieve any kind of rating or merit —- then that was good enough for him!

Hearns found real solace and stability in his family. He had a huge boxing entourage. He was the boy from the neighbourhood who looked out for everyone and who made it plain that after the razmatazz of a fight he wanted to go home to the same family and friends that he always had.

A few years ago, Hearns ran into financial difficulties with the IRS chasing him for $250,000 which Tommy did not have. The matter was made public and the Press appeared asking him what he was going to do?

In Tommy’s world the answer was simple. He said this was his fault. There were no financial advisers to blame, no managers, no scrounging family relatives or whatever. He didn’t want a benefit dinner to raise funds, he didn’t want time to pay, he didn’t want sympathy. No, he said he would sell his vintage Chevy and his 45 ft yacht at auction and simply pay his taxes. End of story!

Mr No Complain.

Hearns appears at boxing shows and does personal appearances but he does not have the showbiz razzmatazz of Leonard or even Hagler. The nose is well busted by this time and no amount of pushing, pulling or snapping by its owner or any qualified doctor is ever going to correct it or cure his boxer’s speech which is slightly punchy—- although he has a clear command of all his faculties, and has retained that wide eyed grin and sense of humour.

At a recent showtime, he and Leonard went to greet a veteran commentator together as they always do. The guy refers to them as the last two great champions — out of Hagler’s hearing of course — and says that neither the Pacman nor “any of these other bums” would stand a chance with either. And he means it.

Emmanuel Steward died a couple of weeks ago. He had been training Klitschco, had become unwell and underwent surgery and died. The Old Kronk gym has long since closed and Steward had moved the gym down to new shopfront premises in Detroit.

After his death, a 54 year old Millionaire with a busted nose came down to the gym and despite a degree of worldwide fame and celebrity he was treated with complete and utter disdain by everyone else there, and virtually ignored other than to have the michael taken out of him about his slightly punchy speech and how he is an old man and can’t catch the younger “kids”.

Yet all these years later he is now “The Man”. Not because he trains boxers (he openly admits he does not have that talent) but because he is recognised as a truly great fighter. That doesn’t mean he is no longer one of the guys and can’t be ribbed mercilessly.

Tommy Hearns just laughs and unleashes his “Go Home” grin — he would have it no other way!

In my head I can hear Michael Buffer— the Boxing announcer— after he has told everyone “let’s get ready to Ruuuuummmmbble——-”

“ In the Red corner, Fighting out of the World Famous Kronk Gym, wearing the Gold Red and Blue colours of team Kronk , from Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, weighing who knows what and standing at 6ft 1 inches, he is the 8 time Champion of the World at Welterweight,— Super Welterweight,— Light Middlewight,— Middleweight, —Super Middleweight,—- Cruiserweight and —light Heavyweight, with a record of 65 victories with 48 by big KO, 5 losses and 1 draw; he is the motor city cobra, the Detroit Hit man, The International Boxing hall of famer— Thomas— The Hit Man — Hearns!”

At one time, the Mayor of Detroit asked Tommy to drop the “ Hit Man” name as it might reflect badly on Detroit and so the Motor City Cobra name came into being instead. Later, there was a change of Mayor to someone who was less easily offended or worried about the reputation of Detroit being affected by the nickname of a boxer and this saw the return of the “hit man” name. That is the way it is with Tommy Hearns! He doesn’t want to offend even if it means changing his name. No Complaints!

Then again I hear Emmanuelle Steward and Bert Sugar

“ Everyone loves Tommy Hearns —just everybody. He never complains —never. He is always humble, always respectful, always with a big smile. I remember seeing him as a skinny kid being dumped on his ass and then straightening his own nose — and thinking “ Oh my God—what do we have here?”

What we have is a hell of a fighter — but more importantly one hell of a nice guy!


10 Responses to “Mr No Complain– the tale of a busted nose– or a big boy did it and didn’t run away!”

  1. zoyler November 10, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Thanks for a fantastic read

  2. Damo November 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Thanks so much for your effort on this- I’m off to search You Tube for some Hearn’s footage! Didn’t know anything about him and I have been educated!

  3. jacuzzi61 November 11, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    Been reading your “stuff” on various sites and have enjoyed immensely.Just discovered this yesterday through a link on CQN and catching up on what you’ve blogged and i love it! Then this-its brilliant and i like your “hidden” disdain of sugar ray,never my favourate of the 4 kings-hearns & durant everytime-keep up the excellent work and dont neglect your other sites we need you!!

    • Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan November 11, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      Thankyou for your kind comments. This started with the piece on Lance Armstrong which was far too long for CQN or TSFM etc– but I always try and post the link on CQN etc so keep an eye out.

      Tommy Hearns did a promotional tour a couple of years ago now with a very rotund Duran — great camaraderie yet Duran speaks not a word of English.

      Sugar Ray became very manipulative, very false, very ingenuous– more so to Hagler than anyone else. He deliberately waited till Hagler was at the end of his time and more importantly the end of his desire and did everything to get inside his head. I am not saying that it is not a legitimate tactic, just that Ray was only interested in minimal risk and the big purse every time.

      Hearns’ Hero was Ali– and Ali fought everyone and his greatest asset over the years was that he could take a punch— By god he could take a punch!

      Hearns fought anyone at any weight– even though he himself was– in my opinion—- NEVER at his own natural weight.

      I normally don’t like the idea of a “created” boxer or fighter– but Hearns was so spectacularly out of kilter in his proportions that you could not but help admire his sheer desire to fight– not just box— but to fight.

      In video footage compare the width of his legs to those of Hagler— and that is with those legs built up in training.

      One of the great attributes– if not the greatest— is the ability and the desire to get up off the floor. Many great fighters are only great when they are on an unbeaten run. Once someone knocks them down, beats them or knocks them out– then they lose their way- or their desire– to carry on. They don’t like being beaten, lose their air of invincibility and the ability to intimidate and bully— and so they fall away or immediately disappear. Liston, Tyson, Naseem Ahmed, and even George Foreman for a period. Inside their head they have been beaten– and are beaten.

      Hearns– after two spectatcular defeats— got up, shrugged it off and battled on against really good guys coming up, and against the top guys at ever heavier weights– knowing that the heavier the opponent the more likely it would be that the “Go Home” punch would be less effective at the heavier weight– and knowing for sure that these guys would hit heavier than say a Welterweight– and all the while he still stood on his spindles!!

      It was far more likely that Tommy would take a beating as he went up the weights– his physical make up made sure of that. Yet– in he went.

      With no disrespect to Marvin– he stoically stuck at the weight which suited him best– and cleaned up.

      Ray– moved about the weights for a payday– but only on a very few occasions over a long period and did everything he could to fix the fight in his favour– size of ring, weight of opponent, gloves and so on.

      Duran– had to move up from Lightweight– he was never going to stay at that weight naturally— but did not go too far up the weights at the height of his career and was clearly less effective at a heavier weight against far bigger men— by which time many were far younger than him too.

      Anyway, Glad you enjoyed– I enjoyed just going over some old footage, doing some reading and remembering listening to Hearns and Hagler– barely able to believe the excitement coming from the commentators. If you can get your hands on the BBC commentary then it is worth a listen– just the best live radio broadcast there has ever been in sport– absolutely incredible!



  4. Lubo Larsson November 14, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    BRTH ~

    Thanks for a hugely enjoyable read. Rarely follow the boxing these days but loved the era you write about here. It’s reminded me to check out ‘The Four Kings’ which I recall reading a very positive review of when it was published. It’ll have wait to wait to be read right enough, in a queue of Celtic related books and other assorted stuff that I’m working my way through.

    I loved these four boxers (like you) for different reasons. I didn’t realise SRL was so manipulative as I just had him down as the flashy showman. His series of fights with Duran was incredible – I can still recall the astonishing “No Mas, no mas” moment by old ‘stone hand’s. Interestingly, a friend was involved in the ‘An Audience With Sugar Ray
    Leonard’ at Celtic Park a few years and spent some quality time with Ray and spoke very well of him.

    I loved Hearns and Hagler for their heart and their hunger – your piece has made me want to read more on the ‘Hit man’.

    I’m going to get the ‘Four Kings’ and check out some of the fight footage on you tube – so thanks for reawakening my interest in what was, for me, the last great era of boxing and the only thing that came close to those magnificent Ali fights.

    I read a boxing piece yesterday which might be of interest to you – Its about the infamous Ali Vs Marciano computer fight in 1969. I’ve posted the link below

    I hope you enjoy it.

    Lubo Larsson


  5. kingsnake November 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    That was beautiful.

    p.s. Never did like Ray Leonard. (I refuse to disrespect “Sugar” Ray Robinson by dirtying his name with Leonard’s …)

  6. camnod August 28, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

    As a lover of the noble art of boxing, the boxers mentioned and in comments are truly awesome fighters from and around that generation. I’m surprised that one of the best pound for pound boxer namely our own Ken Buchanan not mentioned, a truly brilliant scientific fighter winning his world title on the other side of the Atlantic fighting the great Ismael Laguna. He lost title against Duran on fouling and a low punch. Duran would never give him another shot at the title as he recognised the brilliant and durable Ken Buchanan had the skill and science to beat him. “No mas” cry might have been heard a lot earlier had Ken Buchanan been given the rematch he deserved than it was from an exasperated Duran when he fought the truly brilliant Sugar R Leonard. Ken Buchanan with the tartan pants as described affectionately by our American friends the best of the best.

    • Jim McGinley August 28, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

      Thankyou for that comment and your observation on Buchanan.

      Interestingly, I have a little knowledge of the great Ken’s supposed attitude after the fight with Duran. In my opinion, Buchanan feared no one and rightly so because of his brilliance in the ring. However, my family were involved in arranging the travel plans for Ken when he went to Japan and the States and there was a comment accredited to him after the Duran fight while staying at the Grossingers Hotel and Country Club which was a favoured retreat for many boxers. Immediately after the fight Ken was alleged to have said privately that there was no way he would fight Duran again because he had bruises everywhere including his ankles! He implied that Duran was far stronger and yes dirtier than he had anticipated and as such was not keen to return to the ring with him.

      Ken Buchanan is a much underrated Scottish sporting hero (not unlike Peter Keenan and Jackie Paterson) and his demolition of Jim Watt at the St Andrews Sporting Club is as good a marker as any as to his prowess and movement in the ring. Watt lost heavily to Alexis Arguello many years later, but having shown up John H Stracey while sparring and going on to win a world title himself, he would never face another opponent who had the ability to systematically run him ragged and take him apart in the way that Buchanan did. Glad you enjoyed and thanks for getting in touch.

      • camnod August 28, 2017 at 7:20 pm #

        I acknowledge you being privy to alleged after fight comment from Ken and your family’s participation, I would have probably said same in the immediate post fight cool down time. The tactics, let’s say, Duran got away with during the fight was criminal and would not happen on Buchanans home patch.
        Incidentally I happened to have been in conversation with the successful Scottish amateur boxer Tom Imrie on a number of occasions when we were earning extra money stewarding Fairleys joint on Leith Walk and other venues and he often said that Buchanan was screaming for another shot. Evidence suggests Duran’s handlers and others done their damnedest to avoid him. Ken Buchanan in the fighters hall of fame.
        In my opinion should have been Knighted ahead of present day recipients. Just my opinion as at the time, I’m sure, anyone familiar to that period, it was a time of great and hungry fighters and proud to have witnessed our very own world champion Ken Buchanan.

      • Jim McGinley August 28, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

        Running out for the normal Monday night drink.

        Tom Imrie — what a story he had to tell and what a left hand. Braver than the bravest brave as well!

        His Commonwealth Games story should be a film!!

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Fact and Fiction - stories about people,places ,sport, the arts and history -- designed to entertain the reader---- and the writer!

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

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