They known as it “World Struggle II,” an odd if not barely offensive billing, however the logic was plain. In 1980, no division in boxing mattered extra or impressed higher pleasure than the welterweights. It was as if a lot expertise had assembled itself within the 147 pound weight class that it reached vital mass and exploded in a collection of terrific match-ups. Carlos Palomino, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Pipino Cuevas, Sugar Ray Leonard, Randy Shields, Thomas Hearns — the depth of the division embarrassed most others. Lower than two months earlier than, Leonard and Duran had fought in Montreal, galvanizing the eye of the sports activities world like no struggle had in years. That was “World Struggle I”; the promoters of Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns vs Jose “Pipino” Cuevas have been hoping for the same box-office bonanza.
And Hearns vs Cuevas was an enormous struggle, no query, proven on closed-circuit telecast all through North America, though the combatants weren’t as well-known to mainstream sports activities followers as Duran and Leonard. However inside boxing circles, the reputations of those two energy punchers loomed simply as giant. For true followers of the struggle sport, this match-up was hotly anticipated as they knew it was a tilt destined to not go the space.
Hearns — younger, undefeated, a hero to the folks of Detroit, Michigan — had been a extremely profitable beginner boxer, however not like Leonard, had didn’t make the Olympic group. However many in boxing now seen him as an much more spectacular expertise than Sugar Ray. He had chewed up the division, knocking out one contender after one other, stunning anybody who had seen him compete as an beginner.
Up to now, Hearns had been a cautious boxer, utilizing his lengthy arms and nimble ft to stay and transfer. It was coach Emanuel Steward of the Kronk Fitness center who modified Hearns’ model, exhibiting him the way to use his freakish 6’1″ peak and 78″ attain, akin to that of a heavyweight, to generate unbelievable energy, particularly with the precise hand. Steward taught Hearns about slightly factor known as leverage and as soon as Tommy acquired the hold of it, his opponents ran for canopy and the followers in Detroit began calling him “The Hitman.”
Mexico’s Pipino Cuevas had been WBA welterweight champion for 4 years, and the mere point out of his title impressed a furrowing of brows. He was not simply revered, however legitimately feared. Preventing professionally since he was solely fourteen, he had by no means been knocked down, and had defended his title eleven instances, ten by knockout. His punching energy was legendary. His left hook didn’t simply damage his opponents or knock them out; it despatched them to the hospital. Angel Espada: damaged jaw; Billy Backus: fractured orbital bone; Harold Weston: damaged jaw and damaged ribs. Merely put, Cuevas was one of the harmful welterweights who had ever lived.
Now Leonard had misplaced to Duran, and followers have been questioning if one other younger American expertise was about to lose to a different fearsome, hard-punching Latino champion. The struggle was held in Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in entrance of a fervent crowd, everybody there to see one among their very own make it. Nobody left disillusioned.
On the opening bell, two gunslingers, males accustomed to dominating opponents with sheer firepower, confronted off. They sized one another up for some seconds, Hearns snapping out his sharp left jab, earlier than closing the space and concurrently exchanging left fingers. Each landed but it surely was Tommy’s hook which despatched Cuevas stumbling throughout the ring. Hearns didn’t want an invite; the Motor Metropolis Cobra instantly moved in and struck along with his superior proper hand. After which struck once more. And once more. Earlier than the primary spherical was over the beforehand steel-chinned Cuevas had been staggered 4 extra instances by Hearns’ thunderous proper.
Within the second, the challenger picked up the place he had left off. His six and eight inch benefits in peak and attain, plus his apparent edge in hand velocity, made it unimaginable for Cuevas to get in vary and convey his left hook into play. Hearns punched freely, in whole command. Lastly a devastating proper landed completely on Pipino’s jaw and turned his legs to spaghetti; the Mexican’s complete physique weaved and buckled like a palm tree in a hurricane as he struggled to remain erect. Hearns watched for a second after which struck residence one other proper and Pipino hit the canvas face first.
Amazingly, Cuevas beat the rely, however his supervisor had seen sufficient and stepped by means of the ropes. Thomas Hearns was the brand new WBA champion, and the countdown to the inevitable showdown with Sugar Ray Leonard had begun. — Robert Portis
Portray by Damien Burton.