Thomas Hearns alias The Hitman or the Motor City Cobra was part of the fabulous four, who gave boxing fans more than they bargained for. He was as resilient as he was merciless.
The first person to win world titles in four weight divisions in 1987, Hearns would retire as a man who won world titles in five weight classes (welterweight, light middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight).
Born on October 18, 1958 in Memphis, Tennessee, Hearns would grow up in Detroit, and take up boxing as early as 10. Having worked the amateur circuit coming away with 155 wins and eight losses, he turned professional in 1977.
Possessing a powerful right hand, Hearns knocked out each of his first 13 professional opponents by the third round, quickly recording his first major world title bout in 1980 and becoming a World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion by neutralizing José (“Pipino”) Cuevas in the second round.
At 6 feet 1 inch, Hearns was slender and had a good reach. His 1981 grueling 14-round fight against Sugar Ray Leonard and 1985 brutal fight against Marvelous Marvin Hagler are viewed by boxing experts and fans alike as compelling bouts in the sport’s history.
Hearns was named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1980 and 1984; the latter following his knockout of Roberto Durán. He is ranked number 18 on The Ring’s list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.
In 1981, Hearns was the WBA Champion, with a 32–0 record (30 KOs), fought WBC Champion Sugar Ray Leonard (30–1) to unify the World Welterweight Championship in a bout dubbed “The Showdown.” In this fight, Hearns suffered his first professional defeat when Leonard stopped him in the 14th round.
Hearns and Leonard banked a combined 17 million dollars for the fight, making it the largest purse in sports history at the time. Although Hearns lost, his ferocious punches took a toll on Leonard who announced retirement from the sport the following year due to a detached retina. The rematch came later on in 1989.
On the line was Sugar Ray Leonard’s WBC super-middleweight title and Hearns’ WBO title. This was Hearns’s sixth Superfight, a fight which much of the public believed Hearns won, flooring Leonard in both the 3rd and 11th rounds. However, the judges scored the fight a controversial draw.
Hearns ended his career in 2006 with a record of 61 wins (48 by knockout), five losses, and one draw. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.
Due to personal financial issues, Hearns was forced to auction off his possessions at The Auction Block of Detroit, Michigan, on April 3, 2010. He owed a $448,000 tax debt. The event at the Auction Block in Detroit featured a 1957 Chevy, three boats, a three-wheeled motorcycle and boxing memorabilia.
Hearns also served as a Reserve Police Officer with the Detroit Police Department.