50-Year-Old Hearns Plans to Fight Again

He’ll forever be the Motor City Cobra and the one true Hit Man (sorry, Ricky Hatton). He was one of the most thrilling fighters of his generation, and he fought in a handful of the greatest, most iconic fights of the last 30 years. The image of his lanky frame unleashing a wild, slashing right hand with impossible torque and fury is the visual definition of “knockout punch” in the collective memory of many a boxing fan. When Thomas Hearns knocked dudes out, they went down like they’d been shot in the face. ↵

↵But that was then. Hearns is now 50 years old, and he carries with him the undeniable vestiges of his hard life in the ring. He movements are slow and his speech even slower, often slurring and difficult to understand. And it’s not hard to see why. One need only recall the eight minutes he spent trading bombs with Marvin Hagler to comprehend the situation. ↵

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↵What is hard to comprehend, however, is the fact that Hearns is considering fighting again. He recently told the Detroit Free Press that the promise of a final bout is always on his mind. “I want to do it,” Hearns said. “I will do it ... I’ve had plenty of calls from Europe to come over there and fight.” ↵

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↵Emanuel Steward, the Hall-of-Fame trainer so closely linked with Hearns’ career, is strongly opposed to the idea. But Hearns says he doesn’t care, that’s he’ll go ahead and fight with or without Manny. ↵

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↵Someone, hopefully, can protect Tommy from himself and put a stop to this notion before it goes too far. At the Pacquiao/De La Hoya fight in December, I saw Hearns working the crowd at ringside, taking one picture after another with adoring fans, exchanging hugs and mutual admiration with Gary Sheffield. He clearly still loves to bask in the spotlight, and yearns for the big stage one more time. ↵

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↵But Hearns’ current state is much exacerbated by how many trips he made back to the ring after his mental condition already had begun to deteriorate. His last fight was only two years ago, a farce of a fight with Shannon Landberg at the Palace at Auburn Hills (one might have called it “The Absence of Malice at the Palace”). ↵

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↵Doctors tell us that brain damage is inevitable in the boxing profession, but that this damage exponentially worsens if a fighter continues to take shots to the head after he’s evincing serious signs of long-term brain trauma. This is why Ali is where he’s at today. Ferdie Pacheco, the famous fight doctor associated with Ali, has said that he thinks that Ali might have come out relatively okay if he’d quit after the Rumble in the Jungle with Foreman in 1974. We wouldn’t have seen the Thrilla in Manila, of course, but we’d still have a healthy Louisville Lip, a fair trade to be sure. ↵

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↵For myself, I consider Hearns a national treasure on the order of Ali, an icon of my youth. I sincerely hope that someone can persuade him that, at the age of 50, enough is enough. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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