Looking Back – Thomas Hearns Vs Roberto Duran

Thomas Hearns vs Roberto Duran

This is supplemental material to our podcast series The Fabulous Four. Our fifth episode, up tomorrow, discusses this fight in heavy detail.

The Stage

June 15, 1984

Thomas Hearns: 38-1 with 30 KOs, WBC Light Middleweight champion
Roberto Duran: 77-5 with 57 KOs

Duan: Duran has that listless look he had in New Orleans. The fire from his three previous fights just isn’t there in this one. Where is the menace? There’s a belief that a boxer will alway know himself when he’s cut corners in preparation. They can pull the wool over the people’s eyes, but they can’t fool themselves. I think we’ve seen that throughout Roberto’s career. When the groundwork hasn’t been done, it shows up in his demeanor on fight night.

Tommy’s got that subzero stare. Steward believes this was the best camp of his career and that’s reflected in his focus. He looks in terrific shape next to the bloated Duran. They introduce him once more as The Hitman, a name he hadn’t been using while he struggled to find KOs. Another sure sign of his returning confidence.

The size difference is almost cartoonish. You’re not often going to see an 11 inch reach difference in a championship fight; especially when it’s going against a fighter whose dropping back down in weight. It’s ridiculous to think Thomas Hearns was ever able to make welterweight.

The Fight

Round One

Duan: Duran struggles with his footwork early losing his grip on the canvas a couple of times. Hearns’ approach in the opening 90 seconds gives no indication of what’s about to unfold. He’s thinking, he’s measured and he’s patient. Once he finds the first right though, he just goes to town on it. The speed on the shot is full on scary. He had just sparred daily with Mark Breland who would win welterweight gold in LA a couple of months after this bout. Those sessions made Tommy razor sharp – at least equal to how he was in the Leonard fight if not better.

The uppercut lands and cuts up Duran. It takes away what’s left of his composure. Hearns decoys the jab and walks Roberto onto a crushing right that puts him down. The fight is done there. He beats the count but is shaky on his legs. Many refs today would have stopped him on his feet when he failed to defend Hearns’ follow up. Padilla lets it go and Roberto is on the floor again before long. He’s up fast and this time the bell will keep him in the contest. He retreats to the corner; it’s just not his one.

GG: Duran is reacting strongly to the jab. He’s definitely trying to avoid it. Hearns’ length is so apparent. Duran doesn’t look comfortable, but he’s still hanging in there. Duran threw a right hand that looked awesome, but he didn’t quite get enough of it and Tommy just shook it off. Hearns cut him, all while staying in his comfortable distance. He threw a jab out there toward the body with no intention of it even landing and then blasted him with a perfect right hand. Duran went down, got up, and then went down again. This looks badly for Duran. Hearns also cut Duran over his eye before the knockdowns.

Duan’s score: 10-7 Hearns
GG’s score: 10-7 Hearns

Round Two

Duan: This fight puts pay to the idea Duran was a quitter after No Mas. It was only ever ending one way at this point and he still refused to let Spada stop it. What’s more is he came out on the attack to start round 2. He did his best to get close and rough up Hearns, but the physical difference is just too much. Once Tommy finds his range again, he’s back to slinging off those lightning fast combinations. He’s taking Roberto apart in there. What is the ref waiting for? Duran is only fighting on instinct. The last right hand which switches out the lights, Duran should have never been asked to take. Again, he was caught watching the jab and never saw the finishing blow coming. Spada was in the ring as soon as the punch landed and the ref called it without a count. It was for my money the best single shot of Tommy Hearns’ career.

GG: That’s the best single shot of the Four Kings so far. Just a blistering right hand, though, Duran was never getting his hands up to block it. He was already wobbly and still not all the way back from the beating in the first round.

Aftermath

Duan: That was the only true KO loss in Duran’s 119 fight pro career. It’s the only true wipeout in the Fabulous Four series, and it’s also the only fight Tommy won. It’s a big one though for his legacy. You compare it to how Leonard and Hagler dealt with Duran and it tells you just how good The Hitman was when he was on. Placed side by side with his near misses: the shootout with Hagler and the Leonard fight he had control over. You can see he was right up there with all of those guys. On this night though, it looked like he was on a different level to any of them. At the time it must have felt like Leonard had dodged a bullet and Hagler was in for some serious trouble.

GG: Was this maybe the best single dominant performances of the Four Kings? I think it might be. Thomas Hearns obliterated the guy who gave Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler fits.

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