To be the best you’ve got to beat the best, and beat them Thomas "The Hitman” Hearns did across an astonishing five weight classes in one of the deepest eras in boxing history. And if he didn’t beat them, he at least gave his opponent the fight of his life.
The Hitman was already a champion at 147 pounds when he met Sugar Ray Leonard in a fight for the ages in a unification bout at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1981.
Hearns was ahead of Leonard, thanks in no small part to his devastating right hand, into the 12th round. Leonard’s eye was nearly closed, but he rallied in the 13th and stopped Hearns in the 14th.
It would take eight years for the rematch, but the fight lived up to the hype. The two titans battled to a draw, though in later years Leonard admitted he thought Hearns won the fight.
If the first Leonard fight established Hearns as a star, it was his 1985 brawl with Marvin Hagler at 160 pounds that made him a legend.
Unfortunately for The Hitman, he broke his right hand in the early going, and was overwhelmed by Hagler in the third round.
Hearns would ultimately emerge as a champion at 147, 154, 160, 168 and 175 pounds, and mixed it up with the best of his generation—from Leonard and Hagler to Roberto Duran and Wilfred Benitez.
Hearns, a native of Detroit, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.