Move over Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard; you no longer are the hottest attractions in a welterweight division that achieved a new level of glamor tonight.
Tommy (Hit Man) Hearns took apart Pipino Cuevas and took his World Boxing Association championshipwith a knockout victory in the second round that even struck fear into the heart of Cuevas's manager.
After Hearns pounded Cuevas to the canvas for the first time in his career, the Mexican's manager was so fearful that referee Stanley Christodoulou wouldn't put an end to the bout soon enough that he crawled into the ring and put his protective arms around the former champion.
The referee had reached the count of eight and he looked questioningly at the champion for assurance that he wanted to go on. Cuevas managed to nod in the affirmative, but then appeared ready to swoon. Manager Lupe Sanchez took matters in his own hands after failing to get the referee's attention from Cuevas' corner.
The end came at 2 minutes 39 seconds of the second round. It was a short overhand right that put Cuevas down. Hearns said, "I hit him as he was coming in toward me."
Cuevas said afterward, "I wanted to continue, but I must admit I was feeling dizzy. It was the first time I've ever felt dizzy in the ring in my career."
Hearns charged after Cuevas from the opening bell, whistling jabs and straight rights at the flat-footed Cuevas as the champion assumed a counter-puncher's stance. Cuevas was rocked from a right early in the round.
Hearns' hand speed seemed so flustering that Cuevas, a veteran of 32 previous bouts and 10 successful title defenses, appeared befuddled.
The challenger broke open his defense with a left hook, then had little trouble whipping across three separate right-hand jolts, delivered with the force of his 146 1/2 pounds behind them.
Came the second round and Hearns stepped up the pace. Once more a left hook set up the Mexican's chin and a straight-from-the-shoulder right cross was quickly followed by what Hearns described as "a short overhand right as Cuevas was coming in."
It sent Cuevas face forward to the canvas, where he seemed to take a count of five before getting to his feet by pushing against the canvas. That was when his manager began trying to signal to the referee that he wanted the bout stopped.
Manager Sanchez said later of his intervention, "I think a boxer's life is more important than a championship. Anything could happen in the ring with a heavy puncher like Hearns."
It was unbeaten Hearns' 27th knockout in 29 victories.
Hearns' hometown fans in a crowd of about 12,000 in Joe Louis Arena were shouting, "We want Duran . . we want Duran," before their hero left the ring.
Muhammad Ali attended the new champion's group interview and Hearns said, "I did just what Ali told me -- to jab at first, and then drop my right hand on Cuevas. He didn't hurt me all, thought he did butt me a couple times in the first round. I thought it was going to be a tougher fight. I want to thank Ali for letting me train on his farm."
Was he surprised that the bout was stopped so soon?
"No," he said, without referring to the fact that his manager, Emanuel Stewart, had objected to the South African referee Christodoulou, being considered as one of the ring officials.
Steward said, "Tommy could have done the job in the first round if he had wanted to."
Hearns said of prospective future opponents, "I'll fight any welterweight alive."
Impatient for a more dramatic and pointed quotation from Hearns, Ali interjected, "We want Duran, we want Duran." Other Hearns fans took up the cry.
At age 22, and with all that speed and firepower at 6-foot-2 1/2 and with a 72-inch reach, Hearns may be ready to catch World Boxing Council champion Duran, with his best years behind hm, at age 29.
Cuevas now has lost only six of 33 bouts and only tonight's bout by a knockout, but off this bout he no longer stacks up as the hardest puncher of the division, and he is relatively easy to hit.
Despite Sugar Ray Leonard's knockout of Wilfred Benitez in November for the WBC title that Leonard lost in June to Duran, Benitez looked 100 percent improved on Friday night in dispatching of Tony Chiaverini, who also lost to Leonard.
Hearns said tonight he is going to make Leonard wait for a shot at the Detroiter's spanking new WBA title, "because Leonard made me wait for a shot at his title, when he had it."
Once more the home television fans missed an exciting happening because it was sold to closed-circuit television.
But the fans will not have to wait long to see tonight's flash fire on home television.
CBS announced before the Hearns-Cuevas bout started that it will show a tape of it Saturday on its Sports Spectacular program, from 4:30- to 6 p.m. Then fans can become amateur matchmakers with some of the most appealing welterweights in history to consider.