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Looking Back – Sugar Ray Leonard Vs Thomas Hearns II Scorecard

Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns II
Duan and GG are back tomorrow with a new Fabulous Four podcast on the second Sugar Ray Leonard vs Tommy Hearns fight. Here, they score the fight before the podcast.

This is supplemental material to our podcast series The Fabulous Four. Our seventh episode (and first of season two), up tomorrow, discusses this fight in heavy detail.

The Stage

June 12, 1989

Sugar Ray Leonard: 34-1 with 24 KOs; WBC Super Middleweight champion
Thomas Hearns: 46-3 with 39 KOs; WBO Super Middleweight champion

Duan: A little bit of history here as the Fabulous Four steps into a new division. When Leonard and Hearns fought for the first time, it was to unify titles at welterweight. Eight years on and we’re up at the newly popularized super middleweight class with both men now five-weight world champions.

This is each man’s first fight since winning championships at 168 within a few days of each other in November of 88. Hearns defeated James Kinchen on November 4th to be awarded the title of the newly formed WBO, while Leonard outpointed Donny Lalonde just three days later to become the WBC’s first 168 pound champion. While this contest takes place in the super middleweight division, both men were closer to the middleweight limit.

The Fight

Round One

Duan: It’s apparent immediately that Leonard has lost the fleet of foot we saw in Hagler fight. His movement is far more laboured and cumbersome with the additional weight and older legs. The hand speed is still good, but he now stands flat-footed and you can see he’s trying to walk Tommy onto a big power shot right away. Hearns starts off well with the jab and is able to use it to control the action early, until Ray shifts focus and starts targeting the body to open up the shots upstairs later in the round. Difficult one to call.

GG: It’s quite the contrast from their fight 8 years prior when both looked like babies compared to the men in their early-to-mid 30s now. Hearns established the jab early while Leonard didn’t do much but feint and throw punches that really had no chance of landing. Hearns looks uncomfortable though, as if he doesn’t trust his body.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-9 Hearns

Round Two

Duan: You see Leonard being literally lifted back to his feet by his corner to start the round. I guess that shows how worried they are about their man going 12. It’s Leonard’s body work vs Hearns’ jab again in the second. It’s a mirrored image of the opening session with Ray leading off first with looping shots to the midsection and then Tommy taking over midway through the round as he becomes more active with the jab. He connects with a big right just before the bell, his best shot of the fight so far, which clinches it on my card.

GG: Leonard is trying to land from long distances. Hearns is still patient, maybe to a fault. He’s throwing the jab every once in awhile, but only really landed a nice right hand when Leonard turned southpaw for the last 10 seconds of the round.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Hearns
GG’s score: 10-9 Hearns

Round Three

Duan: After a tentative first couple, we’re seeing the intensity pick up in the third. Even though these are two very different fighters than when they first shared a ring, Leonard’s having all the same problems he had in 1981. He’s finding Tommy’s physical attributes a nuisance, he doesn’t have an answer to the jab and he’s misjudging the distance and getting caught out. You can see that Ray has strategized targeting the body as a way to take those things away from Hearns but right now it’s not working and he’s coming off second best. Hearns brought him into a straight right which staggered him. Moments later he follows up with another one which cuffs the back of Leonard’s head and sends him over. When they restart, Tommy is hunting a finish and Ray is in desperate trouble. We see more of Leonard’s trickery as he steps up to Tommy fighting fire with fire and does enough to convince The Hitman to stand down.

GG: Leonard got cute and Hearns made him pay with an overhand right hand that stopped him in his tracks. He then followed up with an overhand right that kind of hooked the back of Leonard’s head and he went down. Leonard didn’t really look hurt and fought back decently.

Duan’s score: 10-8 Hearns
GG’s score: 10-8 Hearns

Round Four

Duan: High risk, high reward round from Leonard in the fourth. After nearly being taken out in the previous session, he spends most of this round in punching range. He’s putting himself in the line of fire and he’s taking some shots by doing so, but he is also having his best success of the fight so far. He mostly uses the left as a decoy and leads with the power hand, getting through around the side of Tommy’s guard, both to the head and body. What he had been doing wasn’t working. Here he stopped the rot and got himself back in the fight.

GG: This is one of the first times that Leonard just looks like the lesser guy in the ring. He looks like he’s trying to solve a puzzle that’s perplexing him. But he picked it up here which is much needed. He’s leading the exchanges and taking things to Hearns. Hearns took his foot off the gas pedal a bit.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-9 Leonard

Round Five

Duan: Tommy starts the fifth well and is looking to press his advantage again when he over commits on a shot and Ray catches him with a beautiful overhand right-left hook combo which takes everything from him. From that point on, the round is just a survival mission. Leonard is teeing off. Tommy can’t get his wheels back beneath him and he is a sitting duck to Leonard’s attack. He somehow makes the bell without being put over or stopped.

GG: Hearns landed the best punch of the first 1:20 of the round, but then just like that, Leonard throws a sweeping left and nearly puts Tommy on his butt. He backs up against the ropes and Leonard is on a mission to get the fight stopped. Hearns is taking a lot of punishment. Late in the round, both guys are landing and both guys are tired.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-8 Leonard

Round Six

Duan: A great recovery from Hearns during the break doesn’t allow Leonard to capitalise on his momentum from the previous session. It’s possible Ray punched himself out a little bit because they fall back into the default pattern of this fight with Tommy being the more active and more effective with the jab. There’s not the power behind it that there was in the first few rounds, but with Leonard doing very little of note, it’s enough to take the round.

GG: This is a hard round to score. Leonard was able to slip a lot of Hearns shots. Hearns tried to keep that jab out there, but Sugar Ray landed the better shots of the round. He also came alive late in the round, like he did against Hagler.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Hearns
GG’s score: 10-9 Leonard

Round Seven

Duan: Amazing stamina shown by both men in this one. Tommy has got his strength back and he’s just punching holes in Leonard early in the round. He looks to be only one good clean shot away from finishing it for the first two minutes as he works over Ray repeatedly. Then when Hearns starts to flag, Leonard comes back strong to finish the round, trying to steal it away from him late like he did so often in the Hagler fight. Another classic from the two greats.

GG: Hearns blasted Leonard and continued his pursuit. It’s pretty amazing Ray didn’t go down. Hearns was all over him. But Leonard got his wind back and scored on his own, but that was before Hearns backed him up yet again. Leonard came alive yet again with about 40 seconds left to try and steal the round. I think Hearns still gets it.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Hearns
GG’s score: 10-9 Hearns

Round Eight

Duan: This was a less-cultured round. Both guys are just trying to suck it up and get through on spirit. There’s lot of missing, a lot of loose shots, with each combatant taking turns of forcing out punches. I think the work Ray did overall was probably cleaner and better but there wasn’t enough of it. Each had his moments but there were just more from Hearns.

GG: After so many solid rounds in a row, this was a much slower round. Hearns did most of the stalking. Leonard had spurts of action, but Hearns controlled the round.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Hearns
GG’s score: 10-9 Hearns

Round Nine

Duan: With the tanks emptying, there’s a lot less space to be found and we’re starting to see more of an inside fight. This suits Leonard who seems stronger in close and is able to find a home for his body shots – two of which at least were flagrantly low. The round was hanging in the balance in the last 30 second, and as you would expect, Ray snatched it. He connected with a short right hand which completely spun Tommy’s head and had him in trouble for the second time in the fight.

GG: I had Leonard winning a close round in which he landed the only real sort-of clean punches of the round. Tommy still controlled the ring, but late in the round, Leonard caught Tommy with another left that staggered him. He just didn’t have the time left in the round to follow up.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-9 Leonard

Round Ten

Duan: Urgency from Ray to start the 10th. He knows this fight is slipping from his grasp and he’s looking to build on the breakthrough he had at the end of the last round. He begins fast but when he sees Hearns has recuperated, he curtails his attack and instead reverts back to the slow breakdown tactics, scoring to the body and putting points in the bank.

GG: Hearns looks uneven to start the round. Leonard threw a jab that barely landed and Hearns fell backward like it was a big shot. Leonard did enough to take the round, including hitting Tommy flush with another left hand. Tommy looked to be holding on a bit that round.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-9 Leonard

Round Eleven

Duan: Leonard is sent out for a knockout. He tries to bull-rush Hearns at the bell but is stopped by the official. He then puts himself in the pocket and looks for a firefight. This time he gets burned as Hearns lands with three huge consecutive right hands which put him back on the canvas. When Ray gets back to his feet, there’s a very different look to him than we’ve ever seen previously. He looks defeated. Even when he was losing his way against Duran in Montreal, you could see belief. In this one, it’s more desperation. He tries again to fight back like he did in the third to deter the Hearns onslaught and it keeps him in the contest once again. Talk about heart and courage.

GG: Leonard got lazy. Hearns was throwing long punches and Leonard was just out of dodge. But rather than moving to get out of the way, he was leaning and got caught and went down again. As he did when he was put down the first time, Leonard is coming back and standing right in front of him.

Duan’s score: 10-8 Hearns
GG’s score: 10-8 Hearns

Round Twelve

Duan: It’s what we saw in this round which makes Ray Leonard, Ray Leonard. The will to win and the ability to battle back from the brink where others couldn’t. After throwing caution to the wind in the 11th and nearly being taken apart, he comes out and goes for broke again in the 12th. This time it almost works for him. Hearns who has fought a near flawless fight, correcting all the mistakes he made in their first encounter, nearly throws it all away in the final round. Buoyed on by the strong 11th, he engages Leonard and looks to close out the show. This give Ray all the opening he needs to land with his best punches of the fight. Once he has Tommy buzzed, he doesn’t let up throwing whatever he has left at rescuing the fight. He runs out of time. The bell sounds without Hearns taking a count.

GG: Surprisingly, Hearns is super active, throwing lots of right hands. Leonard catches him with a right hand and then two others and Hearns is back against the ropes. Leonard lands another left hook that pushes Hearns back. Leonard looks like he’s going to finish Hearns. He has him in the corner and Hearns looks like he’s almost done. But unlike the first fight, where he didn’t hold at all, he’s holding Leonard and stopping his momentum. Hearns has nothing left. Leonard has little left.

Duan’s score: 10-9 Leonard
GG’s score: 10-9 Leonard

Duan’s final Thomas Hearns Vs Sugar Ray Leonard scorecard: 114-112 Hearns
GG’s final Thomas Hearns Vs Sugar Ray Leonard scorecard: 113-112 Hearns

The judges’ scorecards were 113-112 Hearns, 113-112 Leonard, and 112-112.


GG: Leonard would say that the judges gifted him the draw after the fact, acknowledging that Tommy was the better man on this night. Hearns didn’t seem so bothered by the decision as deep down, he knew he exorcised the Leonard demon on this night.

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2 thoughts on “Looking Back – Sugar Ray Leonard Vs Thomas Hearns II Scorecard

  1. You guys only have Hearns winning because you failed to give 10-8 round to Leonard in 5 and 12. Those were some ferocious beatings he put on Hearns, notice how the poor guy sounds punch drunk now, it’s because of beatings like that. Got beat to within an inch of his life, but hey he didn’t fall down so 10-9. I’m annoyed by that.

    Then compare Leonard’s flash knockdowns from which he recovered very well. You could even make an argument for 10-9 in round 11. Leonard got up and won the rest of the round.

    I don’t care what Leonard said after the fight, he’s wrong. He landed more punches and did more damage. Score it fairly and it’s a draw or narrow win for Leonard. Also, score the first fight properly and it’s even before the KO instead of having Hearns way out in front.

  2. You get a 10-8 round in the Must Scoring system for a knockdown, period, so both of the rounds where Tommy scored the knockdowns are correctly scored 10-8. Leonard ended the 11th strong, but not enough to make it 10-9. Leonard def dominated the 5th & 12th, and you can go 10-8 for Ray in those rounds even if Tommy wasn’t knocked down, it’s just not how the scoring system works, which is clearly flawed anyway. Ray had his moments, but he hit the canvas twice and Tommy didn’t. If your able to drop your opponent, and you can stay on your feet, you are supposed to be rewarded for it, period. So to have two rounds for Leonard 10-8 without a knockdown just doesn’t work. A draw is fine, but a 1-2 point win for Tommy is also correct based on the scoring system. You could argue several rounds were even as well. Tough to argue Ray winning this fight though. He stays off the canvas, then different story, he would have won this won.

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