ON THIS DAY, in glitzy Las Vegas, “Hitman” Thomas Hearns made boxing history by becoming the first man in the sport to win world titles in four different weight classes. Hearns met Argentine slugger Juan Domingo Roldan at The Las Vegas Hilton and the prize was the vacant WBC middleweight crown.
Ten facts about the fight:
HEARNS, 44-2 and Roldan, 65-3-2 were fighting for the title that had been vacated when Sugar Ray Leonard had retired (for the time being) after shocking Marvelous Marvin Hagler six months earlier. Hearns was 29 years old at the time of the October 29 clash with Roldan, a year older.
BOTH Hearns and Roldan had been in with the mighty Hagler: Hearns coming up short in an epic three-round war for the ages, Roldan lasting into the 10th round. Roldan is credited in the history books with scoring a knockdown over Hagler, the only one of the southpaw great’s long career. However, almost every observer apart from referee Tony Perez felt Hagler had merely slipped in the opening round of his win over the man from Cordoba.
HEARNS was a significant betting favourite going into the fight with Roldan and he almost won in a blur – decking his rival twice in the opening round with his famous right hand and putting Roldan down again with a left in the second.
BUT Roldan showed real heart to hang in there and then return fire, taking Tommy’s bombs and then coming back with a hard left hand of his own in the fourth round. The punch tagged Hearns’ somewhat shaky chin, causing the Detroit legend’s legs to briefly wobble.
THAT fourth was all action. Hearns grabbed and held as the crisis passed and then closed the show in spectacular fashion with a huge right hand that left Roldan flat on his face.
AFTER the history-making victory, Hearns – who had now won world titles at welterweight, light-middleweight, middleweight and light-heavyweight – was congratulated in the ring by Hagler who had been co-commentating on the terrific action. “Take real good care of my belt until I come back, if I come back,” a smiling Hagler told a beaming Hearns. “That’s another of my wishes, Marvin,” Tommy told Hagler, in trying to set up a return of their incredible 1985 war.
INSTEAD of getting a return with Hagler, Hearns would make his first defence against the tough but crude Iran Barkley. What happened in June 1989, with Hearns succumbing to a stunning KO loss in the third round when a bloody and desperate Barkley caught lightning in a bottle, shocked the boxing world. Roldan would box just three more times after losing to Hearns: winning two and then retiring in late 1988 after being stopped in the eighth by IBF middleweight boss Michael Nunn.
MANY years after his big win over Roldan, Hearns was to state that “The Hammer,” as Roldan was known, gave him one of the toughest fights of his career: “He really was The Hammer,” Hearns said. “I thought I hit hard, but he really hit me hard!”
ON the undercard that night, IBF light-heavyweight champ Bobby Czyz lost his title to “Prince” Charles Williams when he was forced to remain on his stool after the ninth-round of a brutal encounter. These two would meet again in 1989, with Williams again retiring Czyz on his stool, this time after 10.
IN becoming a four-weight king with the win over Roldan, Hearns had achieved something fellow greats such as Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello and Henry Armstrong had previously attempted to do but had failed (although Duran would go on to win his fourth world title, the middleweight crown, in 1989).
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