But Hearns is beyond being merely stylish. He's silky in his moves, stunningly fluid; he weaves a bit from the waist in a cobralike pattern. "I do a lot of tricking" he says, "a lot of feints. I'm pretty good at making the other person think the opposite of what I'm going to do. It always throws him off. He tries to regroup—and I'm on him." Hearns gets on his man in several ways, all of them aided considerably by his 78½-inch reach and the leverage it provides. An unwary opponent will see Hearns feint to his left, as Alfonso Hayman did in their April 3, 1979 fight, but will not see the overhand right coming from out of the sky. Hearns dropped rights in on Hayman throughout the 10-round bout which Hearns won on a decision. It was Hearns' 18th pro fight, and he had wanted to stretch it out for practice, his first 13 fights having averaged just 2.2 rounds as he scored knockout after knockout with that heavy right hand. In the third round of the Hayman fight, Hearns had indulged himself in a little disco-pump, a thing he does occasionally when a clownish mood seizes him, and between the fifth and sixth he turned to Steward in the corner, perfectly relaxed, and said conversationally, "Y'know, I wonder why the ref doesn't come in and stop all this."
Hearns' growing public has been so mesmerized by his ferocious punch and string of knockouts that it has paid little heed to his considerable boxing skill. "I'm basically straight-up and moving," Hearns says. "What you'd call a boxer-puncher. Man, I love it when someone decides to come to me; that's just made for me. I can pop in jab after jab with this long left and kill 'im with the right."
Bruce Curry, a welterweight of modest renown, was such an attacker. Hearns counterpunched him so savagely that Curry was gone in three. That was in June 1979. In March 1980, Angel Espada, a boxer vaguely remindful of Leonard, also tried aggression. Hearns dropped him twice in three rounds, and Steward's own tape of the fight shows Espada talking passionately to his corner-men before going out for No. 4. It was obvious that he definitely disliked the way the fight was going. And with good reason. Early in the next round—Kronk!—Hearns decisively dropped Espada again. Espada rose shakily to his knees somewhere in midcount and looked knowingly back at his corner. End of fight, and end of career; not long after that Espada retired from boxing.
There's no question that Hearns can dish it out. but can he take a good belt? The veteran trainer Cus d'Amato once opined that Hearns "keeps his chin up too high, like a lantern in a storm," and other critics have noted that it seems eminently possible to come winging in over Hearns' low left hand. Still, Hearns' head has been tested from time to time—on one trying occasion by Mike Colbert, who is a heavily muscled middleweight. In this over-the-weight fight—Hearns weighed 152 to Colbert's 158—on Nov. 30, 1979 in New Orleans, Colbert alternately lifted, pushed, punched, belted and bear-hugged Hearns around the ring. Normally, Hearns is expressionless during a bout, weighing his man with that hooded look. But each time Colbert hit him, he would nod appreciatively, as an opponent might acknowledge a clean, driving layup scored against him by Magic Johnson. Nice bucket, man, you caught me flat-footed. But Colbert was to suffer for his temerity. "I turn into another person when I get hit," Hearns says. "I get all full of revenge and I want to take the guy's head off." Hearns knocked Colbert down four times and broke his jaw en route to a 10-round decision.
It also should be noted that before last August's title match with Cuevas, Angelo Dundee had dire warnings for Hearns. Dundee's sentiments clearly lay with Cuevas, known to be a hard puncher with a particularly vicious hook. Said Dundee on national television, "One should never hook with a hooker." Hearns was anxious to test that old maxim. First thing, Cuevas hooked and Hearns hooked back. Then Hearns pumped in three quick jabs and proceeded to hook Cuevas silly. That was before the stunning knockout right hands, but it was on seeing Hearns outhook Cuevas that the experts realized there would be a new champion.
"Last night this guy got shot. It's getting bad out there. Man, he was shot with a .45, and he got himself up and he run away before the police got there. I mean, he was the victim, you see? He wasn't the shooter—nobody ever saw the shooter—but he got up and run off before we got there. Now is that real or what? You got to wonder if he's lying up somewhere, all dead."
Officer Thomas Hearns, Badge No. 1220, Detroit reserve policeman, is leaning against the wall at Kronk, talking to his pals about the previous night's tour of duty. His partner, a regular, full-time cop, stands near the door. In spite of the fact that he's armed, he looks apprehensively at the gym rats, many of whom are shuffling toward him menacingly, intently shadowboxing, winging punches into the air.
It's all part of the Kronk atmosphere. Looking even more menacing is Hearns' bodyguard, Evans, who is never far from his boss' side. Personal bodyguards are fairly common in boxing, ironic as it seems, offering protection from overzealous fans as well as troublemakers—and the sight of Evans would stop anyone who fit either description. He's an obvious pumper-of-iron whose body is highlighted by 19-inch biceps, and he wears a mean look embellished with a two- or three-day stubble of beard. Evans is training for the next edition of ESPN's Tough Man competition, a little number for staying in shape while protecting the champ.
Hearns is in full blues, with his buttons and badges all agleam, and the tools of the lawman hang loosely around his waist—his radio, flashlight, handcuffs and the black leather holster with its .357 Magnum service revolver. He's very good with the gun, he says, and it was more than just the required 32 hours of police-academy training that made him that way. Probably the lightning reflexes of a boxer in top shape, he figures. "Like, you got to be able to unsnap your holster and pull this gun and be right on target," he says. "Most people got to take the time to aim, but in the police department you got to be there first." Not that the reserve officers are expected to do any shooting; indeed, the rules specify that reservists are to observe and are not to initiate any contact with the public. But that's not the point anyway; the point lies in what the gun and the badge and the uniform stand for; it's the sense of legitimacy and citizenship that's so important. The rites and ceremonies of belonging to a community are among the things Hearns dreamed about when he was a child. "Every little kid wants to grow up to be a cop at one time or another," he says. "And understand, this is unpaid volunteer work. I give 'em as much time as I can spare from training. Well, this makes me a part of the city, see?"