‘Hitman’ Hearns Wants One Last Ill-Advised Fight

Remember Thomas Hearns? Two-time fighter of the year? Won titles in six different weight classes? Remember his historic bout with Marvin Hagler in 1985? I don’t. I was 1 year old.

Tommy Hearns

(”I hope I don’t brain my damage.”)

That was a long time ago. So maybe it isn’t the best idea for Tommy to make a comeback now. But that’s exactly what the 50-year-old wants. “I want to do it. … I will do it,” he says. And he probably will, with boxing’s sorry state. And we will get to watch another legend do irreparable harm to his body and brain, just for one last shot at glory.


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.

This is a man who’s had too many fights but still wants more. It’s understandable that he wants to recapture the feeling of fame, but it’s incomprehensible that someone who’s already on a steady decline would willingly make things worse. Doctors tell us that brain damage worsens exponentially if someone already showing signs of trauma takes more blows.

But that’s not dissuading Hearns.

“The more I think about it, the more I want to fight,” says Hearns, an eight-time world champion in six weight classes. “It’s always on my mind. Manny knows how I feel about boxing — to have one final bout.”

Manny — longtime trainer Emanuel Steward — is the voice of sanity here. He’s dead set against this. But the advice of a trusted friend may not be enough.

“If Manny doesn’t agree with me, I’ll go around and make it happen myself,” Hearns said. “It’s got to happen … to complete my career … have one final title fight. I respect what Manny thinks, but I have my thoughts. Everyone has a right to make a decision when he or she is finished. When God gives you a blessing, you have to use it through. God has this plan. It’s all in the plan.”

Make no mistake, this “comeback” will happen. If no state boxing commission is sadistic enough to sanction it, I’m sure some European or Asian country will. And Hearns will take on a scrub opponent. He might win, he might lose, but he’ll be punched repeatedly, accelerating his decline and shortening his life. And boxing will be the worse for it.