Wilfred Benitez vs. Thomas Hearns

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Benitez (left) and Hearns exchange punches.

Thomas Hearns 154 lbs beat Wilfred Benitez 152 lbs by MD in round 15 of 15


  • Hearns had been scheduled to defend the World Boxing Association welterweight title against Benitez at Madison Square Garden on February 23, 1981, on a card billed as "This Is It." The card was also going to include Gerry Cooney vs. Ken Norton, WBC light heavyweight champion Matthew Saad Muhammad vs. WBA light heavyweight champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, and WBC super bantamweight champion Wilfredo Gomez vs. Mike Ayala. The show fell apart when the promoter, Harold Smith, disappeared amid allegations that he was involved in a $21.3 million fraud against Wells Fargo National Bank. Smith, whose real name was Ross Fields, was later sentenced to ten years in prison after he was convicted of 29 counts of fraud and embezzlement.
  • About a week before the December 3 fight card, promoter Don King convinced the boxers to accept purse reductions due to lagging ticket sales. Hearns and Benitez, who had signed to fight for $1.5 million each, took a pay cut of $250,000. The co-main event fighters, Wilfredo Gomez and Lupe Pintor, who had been guaranteed $750,000 a piece, received $125,000 less.
  • Initially, promoters hoped to attract a crowd of 40,000 to the Superdome in New Orleans. However, estimated attendance was just 12,000.
  • The fight was shown on HBO, pay-per-view and at 150 closed circuit locations.
  • Hearns had a point deducted in the fourth round for pulling Benitez's head down.
  • Benitez suffered a knockdown in the fifth round. After being hit on the chin with a right, Benitez staggered back and broke his fall by placing both gloves on the floor. As Hearns moved in, the referee jumped between the two and gave Benitez a mandatory eight-count.
  • In the ninth round, Benitez scored what a television replay showed to be a phantom knockdown. While eluding a left hand, which missed him by several inches, Hearns stumbled and fell after Benitez stepped on his foot. The referee ruled it a knockdown.
  • Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated reported: "It has been the lot of Thomas Hearns to be regarded solely as a cannon, something to be rolled into a ring to reduce an opponent to rubble. Last Friday night, against Wilfred Benitez in New Orleans' Superdome, Hearns finally showed that he brings more to boxing than a big bang. Fighting with only his left hand from the eighth round on after hurting the right on Benitez' head, Hearns outboxed the master boxer and lifted the Puerto Rican's WBC super welterweight (154-pound) championship on a majority decision."