Thomas Hearns Vs Roberto Duran
June 15, 1984
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Caesar’s Palace
Although my father and I were huge Roberto Duran fans, Thomas Hearns was our favorite fighter. We also both knew that Duran had absolutely no shot at beating the “Motor City Cobra.” Hearns had a seven inch height and one foot reach advantage. There was no conceivable way that Duran could repeat his incredible performances against Davey Moore and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He needed a Jesus Christ miracle in order to just be competitive. That hot night in the Las Vegas desert there would be no divine intervention.
Going into the fight, Hearns was the WBC 154-pound world champion and Duran the WBA champion. Unfortunately, the fight was not a unification title fight as the WBA stripped Duran for his refusal to fight their number one contender, Mike McCallum. I never understood this as McCallum was under Emmanuel Steward’s tutelage like Hearns was. This fight would lead to a breakup between McCallum and Steward. Despite the WBA stripping Duran of the title, everyone in boxing agreed that this would be the crowning of the real world junior middleweight champion. When the night was over, there wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind who the true 154-pound champion was.
That night my father took me to Madison Square Garden to watch the fight on closed circuit, almost exactly a year to the day that Duran had knocked out Moore in resurrecting his career. The MSG crowd was overwhelmingly rooting for Duran and my father, being completely intoxicated by the ring walks, was taunting all the Duran fans around us. I tried to calm him down but Pop wouldn’t shut up. He even coaxed three Duran fans into betting him 50 dollars that Duran would win. They had a better chance of winning the lottery.
Round one saw exactly what Pop and I expected to happen. Hearns came out fighting Duran the same way he fought Pipino Cuevas four years earlier, pumping his left jab and walking Duran down. He dropped Duran twice in the opening stanza and when the round ended Duran walked towards the wrong corner. Pop and I were laughing outrageously at everyone around us. By this point, I was so excited by what my idol was doing in the ring that I no longer cared what the Duran fans thought. After round one, they had become very silent.
The second round was more of the same with Hearns battering a helpless Duran. Less than a minute into the round, Hearns landed a spectacular right cross that resulted in the Panamanian legend falling face first to the canvas. Referee Carlos Padilla immediately waved off the fight and Duran’s handlers had to pick Duran’s lifeless body off the canvas. The three men who bet my father threw the money at him and ran off. On our subway ride home Pop and I were laughing our asses off about the fools he suckered in to betting him.
At the time, Duran, a day before his 33rd birthday, seemed all but finished. Of course he wasn’t and in a future article I will go into depth about that incredible comeback. Hearns would not only go on to have the greatest reign of any 154-pound champion, he would fight Hagler in an iconic fight 10 months later.