The Hagler fight was different. Fans still talk about that spectacularly reckless first round, when either fighter could have been carried from the ring, and the memories it gave them. But Hearns remains a little steamed that the memories are at his expense and, most of all, that Hagler refused a rematch.
Beating Uriah Grant wasn't going to reverse any of those disappointments, but it did offer Hearns the opportunity of an elaborate exit. His dressing room before the fight, crowded with several dozen family members and friends as well as the Kronk entourage, was hardly electric with prefight excitement. But it did have the feel of a reunion, with everyone together, enacting old rituals. After all, he'd done this, more or less, 64 times before.
In the hour before the fight Hearns posed for hundreds of snaps, his mother orchestrating many of them. His two oldest sons were on hand, and there was the usual pep rally, led by brother Billy. There was also a prayer, held just as the fire marshals were threatening to clear everybody out.
It was strange, and a little sad, to think that Thomas Hearns would never again go through these small rites. Steward would never have that same quiet moment taping his hands that they first had decades ago, when both were young and poor. They would never, all together, share in that great hullabaloo as they walked to the ring, the music wild and the fans leaning over rails.
It was stranger and sadder still, after the fight ended disastrously, to realize Hearns had done it one fight too many. Maybe we'll only remember the ones before this.