CHARLES ODUM,AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns helped boxing flourish in the 1980s with his high-profile fights and says current stars should adapt a similar willingness to take on all challengers.
Hearns, the first man to win titles in four divisions, said Thursday he fought in an era when champions and contenders felt obliged to satisfy the public’s demand for showdown fights.
Some of his memorable bouts were against Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran,
Boxing’s current top story is the inability of Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Manny Pacquiao to agree on a fight.
Hearns said Mayweather and Pacquiao need to “put it all on the line and go for it.”
Hearns, 53, is being honored at the Georgia Boxing Championships for his recent election into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Hearns predicted Mayweather and Pacquiao will eventually resolve their difference, but in his day it wouldn’t have even been a question. The former champ said he and his peers couldn’t afford to bypass opportunities for potential big-purse fights.
“We believed in taking on all comers,” Hearns said. “Every fight wasn’t necessarily a good fight, but to us we knew we had to take the fight in order to move on. If we didn’t take a fight, we couldn’t move ahead.
“We knew we had to perform because if we didn’t do that, another man would get up on us. We never wanted anybody to have the upper hand over us. You wanted to have the upper hand.”
Hearns wouldn’t say he is frustrated Mayweather and Pacquiao haven’t come to terms on a fight.
“No, because you know why? It’s not my concern,” he said.
He did say, however, he is grateful he didn’t miss out on his chances to be involved in so many memorable bouts.
“If not, just think how fights would have been different,” he said. “You wouldn’t have had the chance to see all the fights you saw. You wouldn’t have had a chance to have all the thrills from seeing us fight, me and Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran. You would have never seen that.
“I thank God because God allowed that to happen in my time and I fought great fights.”
Hearns compiled a 155-8 amateur record and was 61-5-1 with 48 knockouts and five titles as a pro.
Looking trim in a suit and tie even though he said he was drained by his flight from Detroit, Hearns drew instant stares from local boxers as he entered Thursday’s weigh-in event for Friday night’s Georgia Boxing Championships.
He said when he sees young, hungry boxers, he remembers his days in Golden Gloves competitions.
“It kind of reminds me of how I was when I first met the champ, Muhammad Ali, who inspired me to start boxing,” Hearns said. “When I first met Muhammad Ali, it opened my eyes to what I could do if I really put my mind to it if I really tried to box really hard. I started learning and when I started progressing I wanted to be just like Muhammad Ali.”
Greg Barckhoff, one of the promoters for the Atlanta event, said Hearns can provide similar inspiration for boxers with championship dreams.
“I think it’s got to fire their juices even more to see him in person,” Barckhoff said.
“By honoring him in the year he is being inducted into the Hall of Fame, I think it brings it home to these guys. There are some great boxers here in Georgia, but this is a legend right there.”
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