The hits not over yet for Hearns Maynard fight on Bowe undercard


LAS VEGAS -- Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran -- their names were box-office magic, filling arenas across the country.

Fighting as welterweights and middleweights, they dominated professional boxing in the 1980s, stealing the thunder of the colorless heavyweight class until the emergence of Mike Tyson.

The four fought among themselves nine times, earning an estimated $145 million in classic matches. But now they are mostly memories.

First, Hagler retired in 1987 after his humbling loss to Leonard. Hagler now vents his fury in spaghetti Westerns filmed in Italy.

Leonard followed suit in 1990 after making one too many comebacks against Terry Norris. After divorce and a second marriage, he now sits in his California mansion by the sea, pondering his future.

Duran, a paunchy 42, has been fighting professionally since 1970. He still tortures his body in search of one more $1 million payday, but he has become more of a lounge act.

That leaves "Hit Man" Hearns, 35, who has won world titles at 147, 154, 160, 168 and 175 pounds and earned more than $50 million, but still hungers to become the first fighter to be crowned champion in six weight classes.

With longtime manager-trainer Emanuel Steward back in his corner after a three-year estrangement, Hearns is fighting Andrew Maynard of Laurel, Md., on the undercard of the Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield heavyweight rematch at Caesars Palace on Saturday night.

But Hearns finds himself looking ahead to a cruiserweight title bout next spring, with World Boxing Council champion Ancelet Wamba of France as his prime target.

Asked why he still is fighting , Hearns said: "My career will be over when God sends a message, 'Yo, Tommy, it's time to let somebody else have it now.'

"Leonard, Hagler and Duran all had their opportunity to shine. I'm beyond them now. I want my special place in history. If I can't get that, I don't want to fight."

After breaking his right hand in a second loss to Iran Barkley in April 1992, Hearns underwent bone fusion, followed by an 18-month layoff.

"I never quit," he said. "I just took time off to let my hand heal. It will never be the same. But I've fought with pain before."

There was also mental anguish in 1990, when he suddenly split

with Steward, who had guided his ring career since he appeared at Detroit's Kronk gym as a gangly 10-year-old with a burning desire to fight.

The reasons for parting never were spelled out, although Steward says it was chiefly a money matter.

Some of Hearns' old buddies from the 'hood said Steward had shortchanged him $1 million of his promised $12 million purse for his rematch with Leonard that ended in a controversial draw three years ago.

Steward says the disputed money was used to guarantee the return bout. But Hearns ended the partnership, saying: "I have to grow myself. I'm tired of living behind a manager. I know this business enough to do it myself."

Steward apparently felt so betrayed that he rebuffed several attempts at reconciliation by Hearns.

"It wasn't about money; it was about hurt," Steward has said. "When he knocked Leonard down twice in the rematch but only got a draw, Tommy knew in his heart that he had won. He yelled, 'I did it!' and then he said, "I love you, Emmanuel,' and we hugged.

"We had shared everything for over 20 years. It was a wonderful relationship. I was like his daddy, then, in time, we got to be like brothers. . . . The thing was, I let him grow up."

Hearns soon learned that managing himself with advice from Harold Smith, best known for defrauding Wells Fargo National Bank of $21 million, was not the answer. Hearns was disturbed by losing twice to Barkley, the first time by a third-round knockout, the second by decision.

"I know I'm a better fighter than Barkley," Hearns said. "But I fought two stupid fights, going to war instead of using my boxing skills. Some things just aren't meant to happen."

During his convalescence, he realized that, to complete his dream, he needed Steward by his side.

"Ever since I was a kid, Emmanuel has been there for me," Hearns said. "I realized all the titles I've won were because of him. These are probably my last years in boxing. I want to be with the people I started with."

A chance meeting in Los Angeles four months ago led to a reconciliation.

"I met Tommy in Los Angeles four months ago," Steward said. "Time heals wounds. He was working out, and he asked me to help him. We both had our say, and we decided there was no reason for not getting back together."

But Hearns and Steward realize that the explosive, young slugger who won the welterweight title 14 years ago by destroying Jose Cuevas in three rounds could not be expected to fight the same way at 35 against 190-pound boxers.

"There are a lot of maneuvers Tommy used as a welterweight and middleweight that worked because he had a significant height advantage over guys like Cuevas and Duran," Steward said. "But now he's in with guys his own size, and his power doesn't count as much. We're changing styles all over again."

Maynard, the former Olympic champion who has lost four of his past six bouts, will be a perfect test for Hearns, stepping up in weight.

"Tommy is looking to be sensational, to electrify the fans. He loves the roar of the crowd," said Steward, making it sound like old times again.

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