The Marvelous one deserves an extra cherry lollipop for remaining so perfectly obedient on the analyst's couch over the last few months. And someone should send Thomas Hearns a batch of blueberry muffins for his efforts in giving the boxing public a sense of the human carnage destined to take place in the outdoor ring at Caesars Palace Monday.
How much fun it must be for Marvin Hagler, who will earn a healthy $5.7 million in defending his middleweight crown, to continue playing in this neon junkyard the part of "your basic working-class stiff," as his managers once described him.
And for Hearns, who "grew up on the streets of the Motor City," as his manager loves to say, to run around town in the streamlined buggy of his choice, outfitted in sassy gold jewelry and making promises like, "This one's for you, Detroit."
For the record, and because it gives one a feel for what lies ahead, these men are alike only in the way they purport to hate each other, which is sinfully deep.
Can Hagler, who has a decisive height and reach disadvantage, get inside on Hearns and accomplish what he's proposed? Can Hearns, whose one point of vulnerability appears to be his body, keep the champion at a safe distance long enough to uncork the awesome right hand that finished both Roberto Duran and Pipino Cuevas -- legendary hard-heads -- in the second round?
Hagler, talking strategy, said, "Tommy makes a lot of mistakes. He's a front-runner and a very offensive fighter. The only way he's good defensively is when he's running like a rabbit, the way he did against (Sugar Ray) Leonard. He uses his jab and reach very effectively, no doubt about it. But you get up in the middle of those long arms and choke up his right hand and left hook, Thomas Hearns is just an ordinary fighter."
Against Leonard in September 1981, Hearns took a hard left to the body in the sixth round and was never able to recover fully. Hearns (40-1) could not make it past the 14th round and took his only career loss. Tall, rangy fighters, conventional wisdom maintains, have trouble surviving shots to the body. But Emanuel Steward, Hearns' manager, said he has been hearing the "same old thing for years. Hagler will soon find out that he can't get in on Tommy.
"And you know why? Tommy's been boxing since he was 10, and that's the strategy everybody's always had against him. It's been the same talk for over 200 amateur and professional fights, and all because he's so tall. They say Leonard got inside, but he really didn't. Leonard got boxed silly . . . Tommy just ran out of gas."
Hagler (60-2-2), who trains in a T-shirt with "Hearns Will Fall" scribbled across the back, says he has pinpointed another weakness. "Tommy doesn't have the greatest chin in the world," he said. "And one thing's for certain, he can't hide his head, 'cause I always know where to find it."
Shortly after Hearns predicted a third-round knockout, the champion did the same, probably because he thought it would keep him toe to toe with his opponent in the battle of prefight hype. If a knockout is to come that early, Hearns, who has managed 27 of his 34 knockouts before the fifth round, will get it. "This is the biggest fight boxing's had in a long time," he said. "The biggest and the shortest. Again, three rounds."
Hearns generally opens each bout with a salvo of left jabs; once he's forced an opening, he lets go of the right hand, aimed at the chin. That power punch, so often on target, is one reason Hearns is called the "Hit Man."
"The first thing Tommy will do is take away Marvin's right hand, his jab," Steward said. "Hagler fights from the southpaw position but he's really right-handed. His left hand is not dangerous unless he gets up close. From a distance, he's awkward. With Tommy's long left jab, we'll put some fear in him. Marvin is going to get hurt. Then Tommy'll come back with the right hand aimed at the side of Marvin's head. Even if the punch misses, he'll still feel the power. If not, he'll feel the wind."
Hearns said, "Every fighter's weakness is his body. You can strengthen up your mind and body but, when it comes down to the stretch, your body is always the weakest thing. A fighter takes a lot of punishment to the body and eventually it catches up with you . . . Marvin thinks he can take all he wants to the midsection but that's not true. My plans for the fight aren't to knock him out with head blows but to use the body attack, to show him how effective I can be to the body . . . He can be hurt there just like anybody else."
Hearns also will try to open the fleshy bumps over Hagler's eyes. Steward looks for his fighter to cut Hagler early, in the first or second round. If the fight goes past the third, the presumed flow of blood impairing Hagler's vision could leave him vulnerable to the big right hand.
"The left jab'll cut Marvin," Steward said, "because of all that scar tissue. Any fighter today, after he's had 60 fights and is over 30 years old, deterioration shows. He starts slowing down. Marvin Hagler is no exception."
The champion said he doesn't worry about being cut. "I won't be a statue," Hagler said, bobbing his head.
"Tommy'll be looking for that one big punch, looking, looking, but where am I? Where is that bald head? Where is it? Where is it? Where is it? I'll be a mirage. Give him something to see and all of a sudden it ain't there . . . After a while, he'll be so confused, you'll see him stop his gloves and say, 'Where are you, Marvin?' And I'll be right there. Waiting, waiting.
"Bam! Somebody help Tommy off the floor."