LAS VEGAS (AP) – Tommy Hearns understood what was expected from him the night 30 years ago when he stepped into the ring to face Marvin Hagler for the middleweight title.
There would be no running. There wouldn’t even be that much boxing.
“I knew before I got in the ring I had to put a show on for the people,” Hearns said. “I knew I had to get him or they would say something is wrong with Tommy.”
Ring history was made that night in April 1985 in what may have been the best first round ever in a major title fight. Hearns and Hagler went toe-to-toe in fearsome exchanges that bloodied Hagler and eventually sapped the vaunted punching power of Hearns.
There’s no evidence that Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will put on anything close to the epic three-rounder that was Hagler-Hearns. Mayweather has only one knockout in the last eight years, Pacquiao hasn’t stopped anyone in nearly six, and there’s a far better chance of them both fighting to the final bell of the 12th round than any other outcome.
But Hearns believes both fighters have to take risks they may not normally take, simply because of the magnitude of the richest fight ever.
“Mayweather has no authority to be Mayweather,” Hearns said. “He has to be defensive, but he has to be offensive, too. People will be offended if he doesn’t. People will lose their minds.”
Though Pacquiao is a free swinger who built a career on stopping people in the ring (he’s got 38 knockouts in 64 fights), Mayweather prides himself on winning while not getting hit. That sometimes makes for a dull fight, something he may feel forced to try and avoid because of the massive $180 million payday he is expected to get.
“Floyd Mayweather is going to try and take Manny Pacquiao’s head off. You can count on that happening,” Mayweather’s promoter, Leonard Ellerbe said. “He’ll do it in a manner where he follows a game plan, but Floyd Mayweather is looking to finish him off. I strongly believe he will do just that.”
If Mayweather is uncharacteristically aggressive, that could play into the hands of Pacquiao, who needs to be able to find Mayweather in the ring to beat him. Still, oddsmakers in this gambling town make it nearly 3-1 that the fight will end with a decision.
“We’ll keep him guessing when we’re coming and we’re not coming,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. “Floyd will be overwhelmed by the foot speed and the hand speed of Manny Pacquiao.”
Pacquiao showed some power in his last fight, knocking Chris Algieri down six times in Macau on his way to a lopsided decision win. But he couldn’t finish Algieri off, and faces a fare more difficult style against the elusive Mayweather — one 47 other fighters have failed to figure out before him.
Former heavyweight champion George Foreman said Mayweather’s tremendous counter-punching ability won’t be enough for him to win the fight unless he engages Pacquiao more often than he has other fighters.
“Pacquiao is really a pop shot artist,” Foreman said. “It’s hard to get a counter punch in on him, it’s not that easy. Mayweather is by far a defensive genius but to win these rounds you’re going to have to become an offensive fighter, too.”
Mayweather may have to fight more simply because his best defensive maneuver — the shoulder tuck away from a right hand — isn’t effective against a southpaw like Pacquiao. Mayweather has struggled at times against southpaws in his career, particularly in 2006 when Zab Judah gave him fits before dropping a unanimous decision.
Mayweather has prepared by using several lefties as sparring partners, but it’s his ability to adjust to an opponent in the ring that separates him from most fighters.
“We’ll see what he brings to the table. I’m pretty sure our styles are totally different,” Mayweather said. “I fight with smarts. I’ve been on top for so long because every move is calculated, every move is thought out. I’m five to 10 steps ahead of my opponent.”
Mayweather will have a size advantage in the fight, which was evident when the two boxers got together at their Los Angeles press conference last month. Mayweather said he was surprised how much bigger he was than Pacquiao, who he accused of wearing lifts in his shoes to try and look bigger.
He may be able to pair that advantage with mistakes made by Pacquiao.
“He’s a very, very reckless fighter,” Mayweather said. “In the (Juan Manuel) Marquez fight (where Pacquiao was knocked out in the sixth round) he was fighting very reckless. My career would have probably not lasted this long if I was that reckless.”
Hearns was a bit reckless, too, against the seemingly unstoppable Hagler. But their fight at Caesars Palace has stood the test of time, and even the loser has come to terms with it.
“I knew I had to do what I did,” Hearns said. “I was ready for a hard fight but not that hard. I broke my hand hitting that man in the side of the head. I was just trying to get rid of him so fast.”