By Frank Lotierzo
One fought undisputed Middleweight Champion Marvin Hagler. In fact Roberto Duran was at the time the only fighter to go the distance with Hagler as Champion, something only Sugar Ray Leonard would accomplish four years after Duran. The other fighter was trying to get into position to challenge Hagler for the Middleweight Championship. Thomas Hearns was a two division Champ at the time. He won the Welterweight title with a stunning knockout over Pipino Cuevas, and won the Junior Middleweight title with a 15 round majority decision over Wilfred Benitez.
Entering his bout with Hearns, Duran had won titles at Lightweight, Welterweight, and Junior Middleweight and had a gaudy 77-5 record. In his last fight before facing Hearns, Duran lost a close unanimous decision to undisputed Middleweight Champ Marvin Hagler over 15 rounds. In fact Duran was so competitive with Hagler that he only lost by one point on two cards and two points on another. He was actually ahead on two of the three cards after the 13th round. After fighting Hagler, Duran received much high praise for the fight he put up, because most Boxing experts had predicted a Hagler blowout going into the fight.
Thomas Hearns 38-1 was also on somewhat of a roll going into the Duran fight. Since losing to Sugar Ray Leonard, Hearns was 6-0. At this time Hearns was still trying to somehow resurrect his reputation as a great fighter, something that lost some of it's glow after being defeated by Leonard. The win over Benitez looked good, but Leonard had already defeated Benitez three years earlier. Although Hearns won a clear cut decision over Wilfred, he didn't look dominant or outstanding in the process. Now with Duran up next, Hearns had something to shot for.
Duran was the Nemesis of Hearns' conqueror Sugar Ray Leonard. Roberto handed Ray his first defeat back in June of 1980. In the rematch, Sugar Ray got Duran to say "No Mas", but the fight left a bad taste on the pallet of many Boxing fans. So Hearns viewed Duran as being the perfect fighter to restore his name against.
After all, Duran defeated Leonard, and gave Hagler life an death in his last fight. Hearns knew that Leonard and Hagler were the two fighters of his era that he was being measured against. What would be better than setting himself apart from Leonard and Hagler than a convincing win over Duran, something neither Leonard or Hagler had accomplished at that time. Plus, Duran was a big name again based off his title winning effort over WBA Junior Middleweight Champ Davey Moore and his showing against Hagler.
Most figured that if Duran could hang tough for 15 rounds with Hagler, what could Hearns do to him. On top of that, Hagler never shook Duran once over those 15 rounds. This gave those who were pulling for Duran hope. The only problem with that theory was that Hearns hit much harder than Hagler did. Going the distance with Hagler was certainly no guarantee that Duran could last the limit with "The Hitman" Hearns.
The Hearns-Duran clash of June 15th 1984 offered a compelling style contrast. In Duran you had an unrelenting swarmer who was a tremendous puncher at Lightweight, but lost some of his punch as he moved up in weight. One thing about Duran that was often overlooked was the fact that he was very tough to hit cleanly. Although he applied constant pressure on his opponents, he had tremendous head movement and was a master at the head feint which caused many of his opponents to miss with their power shots.
On the other hand, Thomas Hearns was a tall long boxer-puncher who carried knockout power in both his left-hook and his right hand. The Hearns power was truly tried an tested, and he showed in his previous fights with Leonard and Benitez that he was also an outstanding boxer. The question wasn't whether or not Hearns could catch Duran, it was how would his punch effect him.
Remember, other than Estaban De Jesus back in 1972 and 1974, no other fighter had ever put Duran down or really had him shook or on shaky legs. The thing that looked good for Hearns was the fact that the last time he fought a big time pressure fighter, he looked sensational. In his Welterweight title fight versus Champion Pipino Cuevas, Hearns never looked more devastating. Hearns KO'd Cuevas with a straight right hand in the second round that landed with the accuracy and power of a lazar guided missile.
The prize for the victor in the Hearns-Duran fight was a future date with 5 year undisputed Middleweight Champ Marvin Hagler. For Duran, beating Hearns meant getting another shot at Hagler. Duran was very much in his previous fight with Hagler and wanted another shot to claim a title in his fourth division. For Hearns, a fight with Hagler represented a chance for him to erase the bitter defeat at the hands of Sugar Ray Leonard three years earlier.
Right before the bell for the first round the anticipation was high. This fight had two big names who were both all-time greats with contrasting styles and everything riding on the outcome. Would Duran get another crack at Hagler, or would Hearns earn the right to meet Hagler in a Super-fight?
It wasn't even a minute into the first round before it became painfully obvious that Hearns was just too much for Duran physically. Hearns' long reach proved to be a nightmare for Duran to try and penetrate. On top of that Hearns owned the faster hands and Duran just didn't have any answers. The first round was all Hearns and you could see his confidence grow. Hearns sensed that Duran had no answers for his speed, reach, and power and opened up. During the round Hearns just missed landing a couple of those lazer guided right hands that did Cuevas in.
The second round was a repeat of the first, only Hearns increased his punch out-put. The fight was all Hearns and it became apparent that it was just a matter of time. The fight ended when Hearns backed Duran against the ropes because he was trying to get away. Duran wasn't even trying to score when the fight ended, he was just trying to avoid the bombs that Hearns was throwing at him. The end came in spectacular fashion when Hearns landed a right hand on the chin of Duran in the second round that echoed a thud that must have been heard around the World. Duran was hit so hard that he was out and fell face forward. You know when you see a fighter go down face forward, he's out! Although it became obvious early in the fight that Duran wasn't going to win, it was still a shock to see him get devastated so badly. This was something that was hard to believe despite seeing it. Duran had never been close to being stopped in his career, yet their he was on the canvas out of it.
To this day the Hearns KO of Duran is one of the most devastating one punch knockouts that I've ever seen. I'll never forget the night the great Roberto Duran was hit so hard that he went face down. A year later Hearns would fight Hagler for the title and get stopped in the third round in one of the greatest fights ever. Five years later Duran would win the Middleweight title, his fourth, from Iran Barkley. The ironic thing about that is Barkley stopped Hearns eight months prior to capture the title. Hearns and Duran both had some big wins after their fight. However, I'll never forget the night Thomas Hearns knocked out Roberto Duran with a right hand shot that had to be heard around the world.