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Hearns Can Make Boxing History

October 25, 1987|DAVE RAFFO | United Press International

NEW YORK — If Thomas Hearns retired from boxing today, he would be most remembered for dramatic losses to Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler.

But with a victory over Juan Domingo Roldan Oct. 29 in Las Vegas, and winning the vacant World Boxing Council middleweight title, Hearns can accomplish something neither Leonard nor Hagler can take away.

He would become the first boxer to own championships in four weight classes. Ten boxers, including Leonard, have won three titles. Henry Armstrong, Alexis Arguello and Roberto Duran tried unsuccessfully for a fourth.

"My dream is to win four titles," Hearns said. "Juan Roldan, Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, none of those guys can stop me from accomplishing my dream. This is one I visualize, play over in my head, what I'm going to do after winning four titles.

"It's time for me to place myself above all other parties. I'm in a position to do what no other man in boxing could do, although many others have tried."

The 29-year-old from Detroit set the goal soon after defeating Pipino Cuevas in two rounds in 1980 to win the World Boxing Assn. welterweight championship. Leonard took that title with a 14th-round knockout in 1981 to win the undisputed welterweight title.

At 6-foot 1-inch, Hearns had little trouble moving up in weight. He won the WBC 154-pound title by a decision over Wilfred Benitez in 1982. In 1984 he challenged Hagler for the middleweight title but was stopped in three rounds.

Hearns gave up the 154-pound title to take on WBC light heavyweight champ Dennis Andries last March, winning his third title with a 10th-round KO.

He has shed 13 pounds to reach the middleweight limit again to try for the fourth title. The middleweight championships were vacated after Leonard upset Hagler April 6, then retired.

"I'm more excited about this than I was about my first title," said Hearns, who is 44-2 with 37 knockouts. "The first title made me happy, but this will make me overjoyed. I decided to make this plan of making four titles after I won my first title in August 1980."

Hearns, nicknamed the "Hit Man," admits his career would be incomplete without a chance to avenge at least one of his losses. Hagler will be at the Hearns-Roldan bout as a commentator and might make an announcement regarding his future. He has been non-committal since losing to Leonard, but is expected to try to win back one of the middleweight championships.

Leonard insists he is finished boxing and says he has no interest in fighting Hearns if he did come back.

"He's no big deal to me," Leonard said.

"Regardless of what I've done, I can't seem to put the two losses behind me," Hearns said. "It happens in the professional game--some you win and some you lose. A person can't be a winner all the time. Somewhere down the line, you've got to lose.

"This is the fight that could put me in the history books. Those guys are behind me now. They need me now."

Roldan is best known for knocking down Hagler in the first round of a 1984 bout before getting stopped in 10. The Argentine retired that year but came back in 1986 and has won nine straight--including an impressive ninth-round KO of James Kinchen on the Leonard-Hagler undercard.

"When I fought Hagler I was 28 years-old, I am 30 now," said Roldan, who is 63-3-2 with 41 KOs. "I have grown up as a man and as a boxer, too. I have respect for Thomas Hearns but when he's in the ring I want to kill him."

Hearns, who has talked of retirement the past two years, says he plans to continue fighting. Unless Hagler will fight him as a middleweight, Hearns will probably again move up to light heavyweight. He would like to regain a 175-pound title, then defend it against Leonard.

"Thomas Hearns can walk away from the boxing game and be very happy," said Hearns, who will earn about $1 million against Roldan. "But after winning the fourth title, Thomas Hearns won't walk away.

"I'm still in love with the boxing game. I haven't lost that love, that desire. The reason fighters today quit the boxing game and return is they lose that edge, but once you walk away that fame and fortune is not there."

The 12-round bout heads a closed circuit and pay-per-view television card at the Las Vegas Hilton's 11,000-seat outdoor stadium. Also, Bobby Czyz will defend his International Boxing Federation light heavyweight title against Prince Charles Williams, and Michael Nunn and Darnell Knox meet for the vacant North America middleweight title.

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