Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns (2nd meeting)

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Jabs Leonard Hearns
Landed 80 121
Thrown 260 349
Percent 31% 35%
Power Punches Leonard Hearns
Landed 152 100
Thrown 392 211
Percent 39% 47%
Total Punches Leonard Hearns
Landed 232 221
Thrown 652 560
Percent 36% 40%

1989-06-12 : Ray Leonard 160 lbs drew with Thomas Hearns 162½ lbs by PTS in round 12 of 12


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  • On January 24, 1989, promoter Bob Arum announced that Leonard and Hearns would fight on June 12. The contracts were signed at a press conference in New York City on January 31.
  • The fight was billed as "The War."
  • Leonard was guaranteed $13 million, and Hearns was guaranteed $11 million. Leonard also received 40 percent of the promotional gross over $30 million, and Hearns received 35 percent.
  • Leonard was the WBC Super Middleweight Champion, and Hearns was the WBC No. 1-ranked super middleweight contender. Hearns was also the WBO Super Middleweight Champion, but his title was not at stake. Leonard refused to have anything to do with the WBO due to its involvement with fighters from apartheid South Africa.
  • Leonard dictated the terms of the rematch, including a reported clause that carried big financial penalties if either fighter weighed more than 164 pounds at the official weigh-in.
  • Caesars Palace paid $8 million to host the fight. It took place in an outdoor stadium before a capacity crowd of 15,300.
  • The fight was shown live on closed circuit television in 1,600 locations and on pay-per-view, which was available to about nine million homes in the United States.
  • On June 8, at the final pre-fight press conference at Caesars Palace, Hearns and Emanuel Steward, his manager and trainer, accused Leonard of taking steroids. Leonard, who had noticeably bulked up for the fight, laughed off the allegation and offered to take a drug test. "It's a joke," said Mike Trainer, Leonard's attorney. "They're throwing it out to stir things up and get some more publicity for the fight." The Nevada State Athletic Commission said they had no plans to test either boxer for steroids, although urine tests for other drugs would be taken immediately before the fight.
  • Henry Hearns, the 22-year-old brother of Thomas Hearns, was charged with first-degree murder on the day of the fight. He was accused of shooting his 19-year-old finance, Nancy Birale, two days earlier after she threatened to leave him. Birale's body was found in a bedroom of Thomas' Detroit home. She had been shot once in the head with Thomas' .44 Magnum handgun. Emanuel Steward told the press that Thomas was "totally shocked" when he learned of the shooting. "But when the fight starts, Tommy will put it out of his mind," Steward added. Henry testified at his trial that the shooting occurred accidentally as he tried to wrestle the gun from Barile to keep her from killing herself. But Ricardo Veeder, who was in the home at the time of the shooting, testified that he heard Henry threaten to kill Barile moments before she was shot. Henry was convicted of second-degree murder on November 22, 1989, and received a sentence of 25 to 50 years in prison. In 1992, Thomas agreed to pay the woman's family $685,000 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit. Henry was discharged from prison on February 20, 2015.
  • Leonard was a 3 to 1 favorite, and the odds were 15 to 1 against the fight ending in a draw.
  • Leonard wore red and white striped trunks with the word "AMANDLA" on the waistband. Amandla means "power" in Zulu and was commonly used in anti-apartheid demonstrations. The day of the fight marked the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela being sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government of South Africa.
  • Phil Berger of the New York Times reported:
Hearns, 30 years old and weighing 162½ pounds, was a far better fighter against Leonard, 33 and 160, than he had been in recent bouts against Juan Roldan, Iran Barkley and James Kinchen. He showed a warrior's grit as he stood up to Leonard's best punches, and in the process, he at least partly refuted harsh assessments by the news media that he no longer operated with sound legs or firm chin. Although Leonard wobbled him in the fifth round with a right-left combination and then pounded him liberally through the rest of the round, Hearns managed to stay erect even though he appeared to be in deep trouble. In the 12th and final round, Hearns looked shaky again as Leonard landed big blows from all angles. But Hearns weathered Leonard's furious assault and was still on his feet when the fight ended. It was Leonard who hit the deck, twice, during the vigorously fought bout. The referee, Richard Steele, credited Hearns with a knockdown in the third round when Hearns grazed the top of Leonard's head with a right and, as Leonard's back foot slid from under him, gave him a nudge with his gloves - more push, it seemed, than punch - that sent Leonard to the canvas. The knockdown that Hearns scored in the 11th round was real. Two rights by Hearns sent Leonard down. The bout had the ebb and flow of a classic match. Both fighters repeatedly fought back when hurt, taking turns controlling the action.
  • The crowd booed when it was announced that the fight was a draw, as most thought Hearns had won. Most of the reporters scoring at ringside had Hearns slightly ahead, but a significant minority — including the AP and UPI — scored it for Leonard.
  • Neither fighter complained about the decision. Hearns said, "I'm proud of having a draw. It could have gone the other way, so I'm grateful I got a draw." Leonard concurred. "Like Tommy said, we'll leave it to the judges. I accept it," he stated. Years later, Leonard remarked, "Hearns should have gotten the decision. I admit that."
  • Judges Jerry Roth and Dalby Shirley scored the first eleven rounds identically: round one (10-9 Hearns), two (Hearns 10-8), round three (10-8 Hearns), round four (10-9 Leonard), round five (10-8 Leonard), round six (10-9 Hearns), round seven (10-9 Leonard), round eight (10-9 Hearns), round nine (10-9 Leonard), round ten (10-9 Leonard), round eleven (10-8 Hearns). They disagreed on round twelve. Both scored the round for Hearns, but Roth had it 10-9 and Shirley had it 10-8. Judge Tommy Kaczmarek disagreed with his fellow judges on rounds one, two, four, six and seven. He agreed with Roth on the 12th round.
  • Dalby Shirley said he thought Hearns had won the fight and was taken aback when it was announced that he had scored the fight 112-112. "I was kind of surprised it came out a draw, because I did not keep a running total," Shirley said. During an interview with Larry Merchant on HBO, which replayed the fight on June 17, Merchant joked to Shirley that if the judge had been in the stands, he might have booed his own scoring. After the interview, Merchant said he was surprised by his own score. Thinking Hearns had won decisively, Merchant added up his score and discovered that he had Hearns winning by only one point.
  • On July 7, the New York Times reported that Emanuel Steward said he expected Leonard-Hearns III to take place on November 2 at Caesars Palace. "We are tentatively set to go into training for that bout on September 1," Steward was quoted as saying. "But this time Thomas will have parity in the purses paid the fighters." However, Mike Trainer said, "Everybody who has a Thomas Hearns fight signed and sealed for November 2 at Caesars Palace is way ahead of the game." On July 26, it was announced that Leonard would fight Roberto Duran on December 7. "This is a better deal for Ray, because Hearns was seeking parity," Trainer said. "He wanted as much money as Ray." Leonard was guaranteed $15 million, while Duran was guaranteed $7.6 million. After Leonard defeated Duran, he pursued another match with Hearns. However, the two fighters could not agree on a weight limit. Leonard wanted the same weight limit as the second fight, but Hearns said he could no longer make that weight. Trainer said, "Both of them were like-minded in one respect: they wanted to fight each other again."