Tommy Hearns made the economic desert that is Detroit bloom for him Saturday night.

He is the overnight sensation who pulled himself up by his own hands and suddenly popped on the list of welterweights who can demand a $1 million or more for a bout, as the new World Boxing Association champion.

There were reminders of his past deprivations and his new-found social associates at the interview after his lifting of the title from Mexican Pipino Cuevas.

Hearns made certain his mother was front and center. A new member of his group was Muhammed Ali, who tried to teach Hearns how to taunt Robert Duran into a big-money bout that would unite the WBA and World Boxing Council championships.

Those who were celebrating Hearns' "sudden" success as a 21-year-old with 29 bouts behind him, over a champion who was a verteran of 33 fights and 10 successful championship defenses, were mostly unaware that the new titleholder learned his trade in 163 amateur bouts.

Few related with his ironic battle of the bulge for a fellow who is so spare at 6-foot-2 1/2 that he is said not to be able to shadowbox, because he doesn't cast a silhouette. Yet, he is growing so fast in his bone structure that he works out in stifling temperatures in the gymnasium to stay within reach of the 147-pound limit.

The bout against Cuevas lasted only 2 minutes 39 seconds into the second round before the former champion's manager frantically halted the punishment, but though Cuevas did not leave a fingerprint on him, Hearns gasped for voice strength at the interview, as hollow-eyed as if on the verge of exhaustion.

The glamor-conscious and promotional-minded were more caught up with regrets that the bout was not seen by millions on home television instead of the closed-circuit version.

The consensus was that if the majority of fans had seen the flash and blur of his firepower they would have lent moral support to Hearns in his demand for a test of will and skill with Duran. There will be a tape of the Hearns-Cuevas bout shown by CBS on Saturday, but some of the emotion of the moment will be lost.

Still, there will be a comparison between Hearns and the memory of Duran, 29, taking the WBC title away from Sugar Ray Leonard, 24. Duran's idolaters have not defected, of course.

They concede that the Panamanian is five inches shorter, slower of hand and foot than Herns, and not even as hard a puncher as Cuevas, who had broken the facial bones of three of his opponents. Duran also has been knocked down, by Esteban DeJesus in a bout that went the distance, before later knocking out DeJesus.

In jest, and in admiration of Duran's resourcefulness and savagery, some observers suggested the WBC champion would find a way to slow the charges of Hearns, even if he had to trip him, or tackle him, or, say punch him on the knees or hips.

More seriously, other experts argued that Duran is the best boxer among the welterweights -- surprising as that may sound at first -- remembering how he found a way to cancel out several of Leonard's talents. In that sense, the veteran of 70 fights is ranked as the headiest.

Leonard may be as fast of hand as Hearns and faster of foot, and probably the slicker craftsman. But Hearns appeared to be stronger and a more devastating puncher.

Former campion Wilfred Benitez has masterfully controlled speed and boxing knowledge, but he does not have the punch to intimidate and is suspect of chin and ferocity.

Cuevas never got a power shot off against Hearns and has neglected learning defense out of dependence on his slugging and a chin that was exceedingly durable until Hearns, by the postfight admission of Cuevas, knocked him "dizzy" for the first time in his career.

The image of Hearns being a praying mantis with nerve-deadening venom in his feelers suggests that the sculptor of his physique went wrong when he got to his arms. They are asymetrically thickly muscled, in contrast to his body and scant chin.

With his reach of 78 inches, his left fist dangles below his trunk bottom, so big it looks as though it is grasping a handball.

His height presents a vast strike zone, but if he chooses a defensive posture he holds off opponents as if with clothes props. The presumption is that Duran somehow would test for any brittleness of his visible rib cage.

On the attack, Hearns throws javelins or chops downward up close. And he has all his speed under unemotional control. That carries over into his personality, which is now at a stage when he seems uncomfortable with his nevertheless forthright disparagements of Leonard and Cuevas.

He can retreat into the satisfaction that already a tape of his accompolishment against Cuevas brought just about as much as the $500,000 Leonard got for his against Duran.

That is financial barometer of just how sparkling this generation of welterweights is.