“YOU’RE blowing it now son, your’re blowing it”
The date was Sept. 16, 1981, right smack in an era often referred to as the golden age of the welterweight division. The venue: Las Vegas, Nevada. It was a mega-fight that fans had been yearning for the longest time.
Sugar Ray Leonard was 30-1 and was the WBC champion. His opponent Tommy Hearns was undefeated at 32-0 and held the WBA diadem.
Leonard had just avenged his prior loss to bitter rival Roberto Duran. Hearns was ready to launch into superstardom, and a victory over Leonard seemed a sure-fire way to achieve that.
It was billed as a fight with a contrast of styles pitting the boxer (Sugar Ray) against a puncher (Hearns).
Turns out, both fighters took a page off of each other’s playbook in a scintillating match for the ages.
THE FIGHT. Hearns pretty much controlled the first half of the fight, behind his seven-inch reach advantage. Leonard tried hard to utilize his hand speed to unload combinations, but Hearns proved to be difficult, style-wise. The puncher was out-boxing the boxer.
In Round 6 Leonard managed to get in a few hard punches and wobbled Hearns. But in the next few rounds, Hearns regained control of the fight.
Heading into the thirteenth round (they fought 15 rounds back then in championship fights), Leonard’s trainer, the legendary Angelo Dundee, famously yelled: “You’re blowing it now son, you’re blowing it”
Eager to prove his trainer wrong, in the next round Leonard started aggressively.
In the middle of the round he caught Hearns with a big right hand and followed it up with combinations as Hearns tried to hold on for dear life. He managed to pin Hearns along the ropes and the latter almost fell outside the ring apron, but the ref refused to call it a knockdown.
A few seconds later, Leonard once again hurt Hearns, causing the latter to sag against the ropes and prompting the referee to call it a knockdown as time ran out.
In the 14th round, at about the two-minute mark, Leonard hurt Hearns again with a huge right hand. As Hearns retreated, Leonard came forward and cockily raised both hands in victory. He tried to finish off his wounded quarry as he cornered him along the ropes.
Hearns feebly tried to fight back, but after a few more unanswered blows and seeing that Hearns was hurt, the ref called for the denouement of the fight. Leonard would prove that he--the boxer--could outpunch the puncher in Hearns.
The two protagonists would meet again eight years later with Hearns dropping Leonard twice but earning only a controversial draw verdict
LAST ROUND. It’s on a dear friend, Hazel Quiletorio -Ypil, who recently celebrated her birthday. Cheers!