In the dressing room, Manager Lupe Sanchez and Mendoza both impressed upon Cuevas the importance of controlling his terrible temper. "For three rounds all I want you to do is feint and move," Sanchez told him. "If he gets too close, grab him and hold; you're stronger. Stay cool."
Hearns came out smoking. It has become the definitive American way—the well-trained-kids-up-from-the-amateurs style. Pour it on from the opening bell. In the last few months it had won world titles for Kenty and junior featherweight Leo Randolph. Earlier in the day, in Cincinnati, it had won the world junior welterweight championship for Aaron Pryor. Now it was the turn of the 21-year-old from Detroit.
And it was a very different Hearns. The overanxiousness that had hindered him at times was gone. This was a mature Hearns with complete control of beautiful feints and flawless combinations. He set up Cuevas, who is 5�" shorter, with the hook, and then crashed over with the right. Twice in the first round he landed damaging punches, a hook and an overhand right.
And not once in the round did Cuevas lose his temper. "He hurt me twice," Cuevas told Sanchez in the corner, "but now I know I can take his punches. Soon I will do something."
"Not yet," Sanchez warned.
Hearns began the second round with a stinging combination, then fired two jabs and a right that slid off Cuevas' head. Next a hook hurt Cuevas. Stung, he jumped in and began firing with both hands. Then his temper really snapped. Later he would say it wasn't because he was being hit hard, but because he was missing.
"He couldn't even hit Hearns in the elbow, on the arms," Mendoza said. "If he had, he would have felt comfortable."
His coal-black eyes burning fiercely, Cuevas began to throw a savage hook, but his left foot slid away on him and Hearns smashed an overhand right to Cuevas' head. As Cuevas began to fall, Hearns hit him twice more.
Cuevas made it to his feet at the count of six. As he continued the count to eight, Christodoulou studied him. "His legs were shaking, but his neck was strong and firm," Christodoulou said later. "I was ready to let it go on, but one more good punch and I'd have stopped it."
But Sanchez had seen enough. Leaping into the ring, he stopped the fight. "The life of one fighter is not worth 100 championships," he said later.