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By Ted Sares

The Tommy Hearns, 28-0, and Oscar De La Hoya, 23-0, fight for the WBA Welterweight Title is scheduled for January 3, 1981 at the Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas. The referee for the 15 round fight will be Davey Pearl and judges named for the bout are Octavio Meyran, Mike Jacobs and Guy Jutras.
After defeating Pernell Whitaker for the WBC Welterweight Title, De La Hoya has his mind set on winning another big one. His target, Tommy "The Hit Man" Hearns, who destroyed Pepino Cuevas with his booming right hand power to win the WBA Welterweight Title title. Now, less than 3 years removed from his amateur career, the undefeated Hearns puts his sterling record on the line against the Golden Boy. Oscar, always the shrewd businessman, wants to consolidate both titles before Tommy meets Sugar Ray Leonard with whom he is on a collision course. Both fighters are approaching the top of their game and no fight in recent history has created as much excitement. Let's break it down.

1) Amateur record: During his amateur boxing career, De La Hoya's record was an outstanding 223-5 with 163 knockouts. He was a Gold Medal winner at the the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992. Aaron Pryor (204-16) overcame a serious size advantage to defeat Thomas Hearns (155-8) on points for the 1976 lightweight Golden Gloves title. Of course, being a great amateur does not guarantee success in the pros. Exceptional amateurs like Jesse Benavides (320-20), Mark Breland (110-1, and he defeated the one man who beat him in the amateurs in the pros), Adolpho Washington (200-30), Orlin Norris (341-10), and Paul Vaden (317-10) had solid, but really great, pro careers. This is one is a wash though De La Hoya has had to withstand more pressure.

2) Best Weapon: Uniquely built with a unusually broad back and extremely long arms, Hearns has exceptional punching power. "The Motor City Cobra" keeps his left hand down low to allow for quicker delivery of his Kronk-style flicker jabs that can do rapier like damage and set up his killer rights. Indeed, it is his right hand delivered with sledgehammer power that is his signature punch. Oscar, "the Golden Boy" De La Hoya maintains excellent overall ring generalship using a good jab to set up his right which now packs far more pop than in recent years. However, a lethal left hook remains his signature punch. Both men are decisive closer's. Nod to Hearns because of his booming right hand.

4) Boxing Ability: Hearns, 6' 1, is at his best using his incredible reach advantage (78" vs Oscar's 73") to outbox opponents or using his long jabs to patiently set up his sledgehammer right that can halt anyone in their tracks. Oscar, 5' 10½, knows his craft inside and out. He is a combination boxer-puncher. Both men can improvise moving to a fall back strategy if necessary.

3) Chins: Both men are undefeated and neither has really been tested chin-wise, but rumors persist that Hearns has been knocked down by more than one sparring partner. Based purely on supposition, the nod here goes to the "Golden Boy," but if hit flush by a Hearns right, it may not really matter.
4) Experience and Level of Opposition:Oscar has fought such notables as Julio Cesar Chavez, Jesse James Leija, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, John John Molina, Genaro Hernandez, Jeff Mayweather (in just his 5th fight) and, positioning him for this bout, Pernell Whitaker. Thus far, he never seems to duck a hard fight. Hearns has duked with Bruce Curry, Bruce Finch, Harold Weston, Clyde Gray, Eddie Gazo and, of course, Pepino Cuevas. Experience level is about the same. More imposing, however, is that Hearns has won 26 of his 28 fights by stoppage (Hearns' KO percentage is 93% to Oscar's 87%). However, the combined won-lost record of Oscar's opposition far exceeds that of Tommy's. The nod here goes to De La Hoya and decisively so.

5) Management: Hearns is trained by Emanuel Steward from Detroit's Kronk Gym. Oscar has just hired Floyd Mayweather, Sr. and seems to have issues with many of his trainers. The comfort level is in Tommy's favor, but both trainers know their stuff.

6) Intangibles: De La Hoya is building his career not only on his boxing accomplishments, but also on his popularity with the media. His good looks and rags-to-riches life story are making him one of the public's best known boxers. Until recently, Hearns' handlers have kept him in Detroit for most of his fights while Oscar has been accustomed to fighting in different states including Nevada. De La Hoya maintains a certain quality that's hard to describe....he has an angel's face, but once he is in the ring, he turns into a killer. As well, there are questions about Tommy's stamina if taken to the late rounds and Oscar hopes to answer them. Neither fighter cuts so that should not be an issue. The intangibles are ever-so-slightly in favor of Oscar.

By fight time, the crowd and betting world is in a frenzy the likes of which has not been seen in years.The anticiaption meter is about to hit 100. Finally it's fight time. After inrtoductions by Michael Buffer and instructions by Davey Pearl, the fighters are ready to see who walks away with the both welter crowns.

Based on their styles and the above analysis, this is how I see the result unfolding: As the bell rings, Hearns, carrying his left hand low, begins to jab and tries to invite an exchange from the Golden Boy but Oscar is having none of it. All of a sudden, a Hearns' right cross lands semi-flush and Oscar hits the deck. He gets up shaking his head just as the bell rings ending round one. Hearns comes out bombing in the second looking to end matters but finds Oscar has fully recovered between rounds. Keeping Tommy off him with great footwork and strategic clinches, he lands an occasional punishing hook to Hearn's body. Hearns’ jab continues to land often and De La Hoya's eyes get puffy through the next several rounds, but Tommy's punches gradually begin to lose power as Oscar's relentless body attack, increasingly administered during frequent and draining clinches, takes it toll, one vicious hook after another.The hugh crowd senses a change in momentum and is up and roaring. Oscar now target Tommy's body with pin point shots and Hearns is showing signs of wilting.

Though many suspected he had a shaky chin, they did not expect this fight to be decided down below. Hearns manages to catch De La Hoya with a straight right in the 12th and his fans begin to chant, "Tommy Tommy Tommy," but Oscar works through it and lands a big left hook of his own which sends the discouraged Hearns into the ropes. Tommy looks confused and his lack of rounds and tough competiion begins to show up. Oscar now begins to stalk Hearns and the crowd senses it's only a matter of time. Everyone is up and screaming at full throttle. Tommy is prime to go. Oscar head feints Tommy out of position and hits him flush with a short hook. Hearns drops like he was shot, but somehow manages to get up and look at his corner for help. The Golden Boy wastes no time in closing the action as he cracks Tommy with another left hook, this time wider and more lethal, which drops him like a log. He is counted out with no time left in the 12th round. Oscar De La Hoya now owns both belts.

After the fight, Sugar Ray Leonard calls out the exhausted but jubilant Oscar at ringside saying that their's is a fight written in destiny.The Golden Boy smiles and nods his head in the affirmative. He says why not? Let's do it; heck, just two savvy businessmen making a deal.

"One of the things that bothers me most, ... Is that very few people really understand what it means to be a fighter. I hate it when I hear someone say, 'That fighter doesn't have guts.' I hate that; it really ticks me off. I don't care if you're a world champion six times over or a four-round fighter who just got knocked out in thirty seconds of your first professional fight. To step inside that ring, you have to have guts.” Oscar De La Hoya
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