Tommy Hearns: “I knew my legs were tired and they weren’t gonna let me go the distance, so I was trying to stop Hagler!”

12 Submitted by on Sun, 19 March 2023, 10:41

When is comes to boxing history one of the greatest fights to ever take place was only 3 rounds long. “The fight” took place 36 years ago and featured the middleweight champion, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns in a match that became an all out war. It still to this day is one of the most talked about fights with fans with many calling it the greatest 8 minutes of action they have ever seen. 

In part 2 of my “On The Ropes” I asked him about his encounter with Hagler, and he discussed in detail his thoughts on the fight, how he felt going into it, and why he ultimately chose to fight the way he did. I also talked to Tommy about his rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard, his comeback against Virgil Hill and his problems with Iran Barkley. Here is what Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns had to say.

Jenna J: You stopped Roberto Duran in 2 rounds by KO. How does it feel to be the only person to ever stop him in that way?

Tommy Hearns: It was a great feeling because Roberto is a legend, he was a legend in the lightweight division. He destroyed the lightweight division, nobody in the lightweight division defeated him. I had a chance to fight a legend and I was able to do well against a legend and that made me feel very good.

Jenna J: You were involved in one of the greatest fights in boxing history, your 3 round war with Marvin Hagler. Can you tell me about that fight?

Tommy Hearns: That fight was very, very good for me because I showed people my ability that I have inside and how strong I really was. People really had a great feeling for me because of that. I gave my all to try and win that fight and made some people really proud of that.

Jenna J: Was your plan going into the fight to just go out there and take it to him?

Tommy Hearns: My plan was to go out there and outbox him, and I did not change my plan until the day of the fight. I felt that things had gone well for me in training and all of the sudden I felt like my legs were not there. The day of the fight my legs were not there, so I said, “I’m gonna have to change everything up,” to myself, I didn’t even tell Emanuel.

I told Emanuel when we were at the fight, 15-20 minutes before we went up, I told him what I was gonna do. Emanuel said, “You know how you feel, you know what you gotta do. I believe in you, you go and make it happen.” So I went on in the fight and I started to make things happen. That’s what I did.

Jenna J: You said your legs weren’t there and that’s why you went at him. How long did you really think you could keep up that pace?

Tommy Hearns: I tried to go as long as I possibly could. I didn’t know how long God would allow me to go on, but I wanted to do as much as I possibly could.

Jenna J: You had him cut and it looked like he was hurt. Did you think you were gonna stop him?

Tommy Hearns: I was hoping and praying (laughs). I knew my legs were tired and they weren’t gonna let me go the distance, so I was trying.

Jenna J: How do you feel that people still think of that fight so fondly as one of the greatest fights that they’ve ever seen?

Tommy Hearns: It’s okay that people feel that way, but I don’t feel that way because it wasn’t my greatest performances (laughs). I can’t knock people for how they feel, but I gotta go along with what they say. If they feel it was the best fight they’ve ever seen, then it was the best fight they’ve ever seen. I gotta deal with that.

Jenna J: You were known for rebounding from a tough loss. You ended up winning the light heavyweight title, then you lost it to Iran Barkley and some people felt your career was on the downward side, and then you fight Leonard for a second time. How do you feel about that second fight with Ray Leonard?

Tommy Hearns: I feel that because the fight ended in a draw, I feel that somebody was being cheated in that fight because I was clearly beating him and they called it a draw. I was kind of disappointed because I knew it should not have been a draw, but I’m not a judge, I’m a fighter.

Jenna J: Was there ever talk of a third fight between you and Leonard because of the controversy, or was he done with that?

Tommy Hearns: Oh he was done with that, he was all done. I would have done a third fight but Leonard was not gonna have a third fight.

Jenna J: Not too long after the second fight with Leonard, you and Emanuel Steward parted ways. What happened there between the both of you?

Tommy Hearns: We didn’t really part ways, we just had some difficulties with each other, that’s all. It was just so difficult, it went to the point where we really had to part ways. It was just a point where we needed to clear the air, just sit down and talk with each other, and we did.

Jenna J: Even though you went in another direction, you had some success after that, taking on a then undefeated Virgil Hill. How was it to comeback, and end up winning a light heavyweight title?

Tommy Hearns: Oh Virgil Hill, I’m gonna tell you, Virgil Hill was a very good fighter. I give him a lot of credit because he tried, he really tried when I was in there with him, but I’m just more of a determined fighter, determined to have things the way that I wanted them to be, and Virgil came around at a time where I just refused to be beaten, by anybody! So he had to suffer what was dealt to him.

Jenna J: After you won that title, you had a second fight with Iran Barkley, in which you lost. What was it about Iran Barkley that gave you some much difficulty?

Tommy Hearns: Iran was just such an awkward fighter. He was so awkward and hard to determine what to do to him so it was difficult for me, just really difficult for me.

Jenna J: Tommy, when it’s all said and done, how do you want the boxing fans to remember Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns?

Tommy Hearns: Of course I would like to be remembered as a good fighter that really took on everybody that was out there for me to take on, and just a fighter that wanted to give the fans what they wanted to see, that’s all I wanted to do.



Check out part 1 —>

Written by

12 Responses to "Tommy Hearns: “I knew my legs were tired and they weren’t gonna let me go the distance, so I was trying to stop Hagler!”"
  1. Harold says:

    Hagler-Hearns has always been and likely always will be my favorite fight of all time. You don’t get champions like that these days.

  2. jess says:

    The Hagler-Hearns era is golden for boxing. The top boxers fought one another and no outrageous excuses like what Mayweather Jr, uses in not fighting Pacquiao. If Mayweather retires and not fight Paquiao due to his cowardice, it will be a huge robbery against boxing fans who will spend the rest of their boxing life what could have happen if the two top boxers of today faced each other. On the question, who could be the winner if they fight, the house will be divided on the middle. Before its too late, all boxing sectors must make a move to make the two don their gloves to fight no one else.

    • Tim Ross says:


      If boxing has any chance of staying alive and popular, the best MUST fight the best. No exceptions. All the promoter bullshit has to be put aside and remember what this is about, to find the best fighter.

  3. floydcot says:

    the hitman, in my opinion was the most devastating puncher in his weight class. His fight againts hagler is a true definition of boxing unlike one boxer today who fought like a dancer.

  4. Bill Petersen says:

    Excuse to the max…….. Hearns was bold in claiming he’d KO Hagler inside 3 rds…. He was wrong……… Hagler parked Hearns in round 3

  5. Bill Petersen says:

    Hearns likely did bust a knuckle on his right paw in the opening round on Hagler’s dome, but Hagler’s furious assault to the head and body of Hearns is what likely took Hearns’ legs from under him…. Hearns took a lotta’ punishment from Hagler inside 3 great rds

  6. Hearns had the wrong strategy going into that fight. He should’ve just used his height and reach.

  7. Pedro-Pete Fernandez says:

    The reason why his legs were not right is that he got a lengthy massage while Emanuel was out working another fight beforehand.

  8. Eric Miller says:

    Hearns is not being honest. Hearns strategy stemmed from what Hagler did against Duran, and then what he did against Duran. He put 2 and 2 together, came into the fighting thinking he’d get an early KO vs Hagler, and was badly wrong. If he would have boxed, he had a great chance of winning

  9. Craig Lynch says:

    Love tommy but you dont stop hagler you ?

  10. Ronnie Spicer says:

    If they fought 10 times Hagler would have won them all. He walked right through Tommy’s bombs. Great fight

  11. cupcake 2048 says:

    Great article it is really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. It was really valuable. thanks a lot.