HERE'S TO keeping going when you are hurt
and the chance of success is but a glimmer. Here's to Sugar Ray Leonard of Palmer Park, who gave the kind of comeback performance in defeating Thomas Hearns that is, in short, the stuff of legends. With only two rounds to go, he had lost most of the fight and his left eye was badly swollen. His opponent seemed capable of jabbing and dancing for two more rounds--not much to do, really--to win the fight by a decision.
Then Sugar Ray Leonard showed something seen only in the truest of champions: in boxing lingo, heart. It was not a raging, desperate, flailing attack he mounted, not some lucky punch that found the mark. No, it was a deep-down determination coupled with intelligence, with style. It was heart. He had come to the brink, but, with a certainty that was awesome, he moved totally into control, leaving Thomas Hearns woozy and overmatched. With defeat in sight, he fought it and his adversary and proved himself the better of both.
In looking back over the fight--and in considering its stunning finish--it seems that Sugar Ray Leonard's greatest opponent in that Las Vegas ring was his own cockiness. In the early going he seemed to think he could psych Thomas Hearns. He put his glove in the challenger's face after the bell sounded ending the first round, as if to say, "Is that all you've got?" In response came a short, pushing punch that almost started the second round right there. So it went for the first five rounds, with the eventual hero seeming complacent, lost in some strategy apparent to no one but himself. In the sixth round he rattled his nemesis, nearly knocking him down. But this display of aggressiveness was short- lived, and for only two rounds. Then he seemed oddly pleased to go back to his earlier diffidence. Defeat seemed close at hand.
The stage thus set, the champion suddenly started to pull layer after layer from his challenger's pretension to be the better man. He was inside with sharp uppercuts and rapid-fire combinations. There was a calm to it, no rush, simply a steady beat getting more powerful, growing louder, finally taking over the fight and every inch of the ring. Thomas Hearns was forced against the ropes, then knocked through them, pinned and battered. Sugar Ray Leonard was a winner again.
So here's to Sugar Ray Leonard and his incomparable inner strength. He showed he could take a punch, could be all but out, and still prevail. It was thrilling. The man really has heart.