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Battle Plan for Hearns Had Twist : Boxing: After months spent analyzing previous fights, trainer Sherer decided counter-punching would be secret to victory.

June 05, 1991|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — Boxing post mortems are usually about uppercuts, cuts, strange decisions, quick-triggered referees or money.

But on Tuesday, the morning after Thomas Hearns' upset over previously unbeaten light-heavyweight champion Virgil Hill, the talk was about young trainer Alex Sherer's masterful game plan.

A former amateur boxing coach in Detroit and Sacramento, Sherer planned a fight that resulted in Hearns, 32, winning a sixth championship in his 14-year pro career.

Sherer, in a move that surprised almost everyone, turned one of the sport's best punchers into a counter-puncher against one of boxing's most renowned counter-punchers. And he did it, he said, after an intense study of Hill's previous fights.

"I watched so much video on Virgil's fights that after several weeks of watching him all night long, I knew Virgil's face and his body movements better than my mother's," Sherer said.

"Billy (Hearns' younger brother) and I feel like we've lived with Virgil for six months. We decided that great boxers don't like to be boxed. Tommy had always done well against boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard. And look what trouble Leonard had against another boxer, Wilfred Benitez.

"We knew a classic boxer like Virgil couldn't become a brawler overnight, so we felt that we could take away a lot of what Virgil does well by beating him at his game. We wanted Tommy to not only counter on Virgil but to counter over (Hill's) counters."

An added benefit to the strategy was that the resulting slower pace of the fight worked greatly to Hearns' advantage. In previous major fights, his strength waned in the late rounds.

Hill's trainer, Freddie Roach, was as frustrated the morning after as he had been between the late rounds, when he pleaded for Hill to force the action against the deliberate Hearns.

"I don't know what it was, but he wasn't fired up," Roach said. "I got on him in the corner, but he kept saying: 'I can't get going.' Maybe this will make him a better fighter.

"Our plan for the first three or four rounds was to feint a lot, move a lot, to get Tommy reaching and missing. But then we saw Tommy wanted to counter-punch, to fight at a slow pace, and that was to his advantage.

"Virgil asked me late in the fight: 'Am I losing?' When I told him yes, even then he didn't fight like a guy who was losing his championship. Even his jab didn't have much snap. Maybe we overtrained."

Roach said Hill suffered a broken nose in training three weeks ago, but that the injury wasn't a factor in the fight. But Hill was bothered, he said, by a sore right elbow injured 10 days ago.

"I wanted to put pressure on Tommy, to bring his legs into play," Hill said. "But I let him take me out of my game plan."

Hill, a 3-1 favorite Monday, talked Tuesday of a rematch, and the new light-heavyweight champion seemed to say a rematch would at least be discussed.

"If Virgil wants a rematch, it's something I'd have to consider," he said.

The fight, promoted by the Forum, drew 8,145 at Caesars Palace. Live gate receipts were estimated at between $1.7 and $1.8 million.

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