Monday, February 17, 2020  |


On this day: Sugar Ray Leonard becomes undisputed welterweight champion at the expense of Thomas Hearns

Leonard (right) and Hearns in their classic 1981 welterweight encounter. Photo from The Ring archive

Both young, both at the peak of their powers and both obsessed with becoming the undisputed welterweight champion of the world. On Sept. 16, 1981, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Sugar Ray Leonard, the WBC titleholder, faced off against WBA counterpart Thomas Hearns for all the marbles at 147 pounds. Leonard, who held victories over Wilfredo Benitez and Roberto Duran, was the more experienced fighter, but the unbeaten Hearns had established himself as the premier knockout artist in world boxing. The stage was set for “The Showdown” and it was Leonard who would reign supreme, courtesy of a 14th-round TKO. The ebb and flow and the dramatic conclusion make this arguably the greatest welterweight title fight of all time. Leonard-Hearns was The Ring Fight of the Year for 1981 and Leonard would also share honors with Salvador Sanchez as Fighter of the Year.


Hearns (left) shocked the majority of fans and media by outboxing Leonard over the first five rounds…

Leonard broke through with a huge left hook in the sixth and inflicted plenty of damage in the seventh…

Hearns recovered and continued to outscore his rival to build up a commanding lead…

“You’re blowing it, son!” Legendary trainer Angelo Dundee motivates Leonard to go all out for the finish in Round 13. “The Sugar Man” obliges, drops Hearns in that session and secures what was arguably the greatest victory of his career in the fourteenth.



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