The day went winningly from the start. Over breakfast at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas last Sunday, Thomas Hearns bet $15 on a keno card and won $1,900. Later in the day, in a boxing ring upstairs, the 20-year-old Detroit welterweight defeated Harold Weston on a sixth-round TKO to earn $26,000. The occasion also marked his first national television appearance, which should have made his day just about perfect.
But it wasn't. The victory was not as convincing as Hearns, or boxing fans, might have liked. Weston had surrendered in his corner before the start of Round 7, complaining that he had been thumbed earlier in the fight and couldn't see. Hearns readily allowed that he had been working on Weston's left eye. "He couldn't see out of it," Hearns said. "I had closed it with my jab. I was working on the eye from the start."
The problem was that Weston was talking about his right eye, not the badly puffed left one. Indeed, after Hearns had taken the first four rounds on all the cards, Weston had rallied to win the fifth and sixth, despite what he said was steadily failing vision. "He thumbed me in the right eye in the fourth," Weston said. "I started to go blind slowly."
In his corner, Weston told co-manager Howie Albert that he could no longer see his opponent. And Albert had held up one hand in front of Weston's face.
"How many?" he said.
"How many what?"
" Howie," Weston said, "I can't even see your hand."
And that had done it. For Hearns, it was his 19th straight victory as a new pro and the 18th time an opponent had failed to last the distance. Not bad for a tall, stringy youngster who looks more like a basketball forward than a boxer.
Hearns is 6'2" and growing. His size wouldn't be unusual, except that welterweights are usually built along far less lofty lines. He operates from his great height like an eagle, his eyes fierce and fixed, swooping down with sudden savagery. He is as thin and as quick as a lightning bolt.