"Tommy doesn't remember who he knocked out. He just remembers who knocked him out," McCrory says in the celebrity trailer after the Hawk taping is completed. "I think we're greater now, me and Ray," Hearns adds. "We have grown, we have matured. We know more about what we're doing in there."
"Man, Tommy hit Barkley and I felt it," says McCrory. "The man needed stitches over both eyes. They said his ribs were cracked."
"Me and Ray, we're going to be greater now," says Hearns.
Only for three rounds. Hearns has nine minutes to live.
John Hearns died young. Thomas Hearns's father was preparing to leave his home in Memphis and journey to Detroit to see his oldest son fight for the WBA welterweight championship in the summer of 1980. But John Hearns never made it. A few days before the fight he suffered a heart attack; he died before reaching the hospital.
The elder Hearns never wanted Thomas to fight. He had begged his ex-wife, Lois, Thomas's mother, not to let their son box. John had left Detroit years before because the city was too tough. Detroit took the life from you. "Don't let him fight," he would say over the long-distance line to Lois back in Detroit. "He's too small. Don't let him go to that gym. Don't let him go."
Lois Hearns listened, but she was too busy trying to survive. She could no more stop Tommy from fighting than she could stop her own father from working the land. Her father, Henry Tallie, is the man whom Hearns most resembles. The same tall frame. The same countenance. The same attitude. "When you see Tommy, you're looking at my father," says Lois. "Around his eyes, the stature of his body."
Henry Tallie cackles in the evening mist of Jackson, Tenn. "Tommy can take care of himself," he says, as one of his other daughters, Annie Mae Reed, opens the ancient family Bible. "Here it is, right here," she says, pointing to a faded inscription. "Born 1st, 16th, 1883. Henry Tallie." Tallie doesn't look his age. "My father is bent over now, but he was a tall man, a proud man," says Reed. "He thought he could do anything that came up. He still thinks that. His health is fine. He's not the sort you are always taking to the doctor. He thinks Tommy can't be beat. And Tommy, well, he looks like Daddy and acts like Daddy, even more than Daddy's own children." The 106-year-old man smiles.
Tallie lived most of his life in Grand Junction, Tenn., 45 miles from Memphis, before he moved to Jackson. He had nine daughters and four sons. His grandson Tommy lived with him on a farm outside of Grand Junction until he was four. Hearns continued to spend vacations with him on the farm for years.
"Tommy always followed his grandfather," says Lois. She is sitting in the living room of the home Hearns bought for her in Southfield, a Detroit suburb. Tommy's children, Ronald, 10, and Natasha, 6, are visiting. Hearns has never married. "My father was hardworking, but he didn't say much, like Tommy doesn't," Lois says. "He still went to the fields when he was 80, and Tommy went with him. They'd work all day, then my father would get on a horse, pull Tommy up and give him the reins. And Tommy thought he was riding that horse all by himself. They'd come home. My father would wipe his brow and say, 'Whew! Tired, girl." Tommy would wipe his brow and say, "Whew! Tired, Mama.' "