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For Leonard, it was a strategic pacifism. His early orders were to make Hearns move, always turning away from the right hand that had contributed mightily to his record of stopping 30 of his 32 victims. " Hearns can't go but one way, turning to his right," said Janks Morton, Leonard's trainer. "Everybody lets him because they are trying to get away from the jab. And there's no way he's going to jab Ray."
They also wanted Hearns in continual motion because, at 147 pounds, his stamina is highly suspect. At 6'1" and heavily muscled from his narrow waist up, Hearns has to battle to make 147 pounds. He sheds more than pounds in the sauna. For this fight, which may have been his last as a welterweight, Hearns spent time in the sauna the two nights preceding the weigh-in. Between trips he drank Gatorade.
The drying out worked too well, and Hearns came in at a skeletal 145, one pound less than the 5'10" Leonard. And he was so dehydrated that even under the intense heat generated by the television lights, no sweat appeared on his spindly legs until the 12th round.
The heat wasn't as much of a factor as it could have been. The late-summer Las Vegas weather had been in the 100s for days before the fight, but was only 91� at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, when the fight was to start. With celebrity introductions and the late arrival of the contestants, it didn't begin until about 7:45, when it was cooler still with a slight breeze. And thanks to TV Producer Ken Wolfe, the TV lights were no real bother. Exactly 24 hours before the fight Wolfe conducted a test of the 500-candlepower lights above the ring. Concluding that they were too powerful, he called Mike Trainer, Leonard's attorney, and said, "You better get down here and check these lights." Trainer did, and he agreed with Wolfe, who then had the 500s replaced by 350s, thus reducing the probability of the fighters being broiled.
"They probably wrapped Hearns in something all night before the weigh-in," Morton guessed. "We knew he'd come in strong but that he couldn't hold up. Look at all his films. After the sixth round he's out of gas. We just wanted Ray to keep him moving and missing, to make him weak."
This fight was also a major test for Leonard's chin, which had never been exposed to the kind of power Hearns carries in his right hand. "Somewhere along the way we're gonna find out," said Angelo Dundee, Leonard's corner strategist.
Hearns, who was paid $5.1 million to put his WBA title on the line, seemed in no hurry to have his chin examined. Hearns had always been a fast starter, but he came out almost leisurely against Leonard, as though content to discover how much of Leonard's elusive head he could find with his snapping jab before applying the right hand.
Then, just past the two-minute mark of the second round, Leonard paused, and Hearns drilled a right to his head. Nothing happened. Things like this tend to fluster fighters who bank excessively on punching power. Leonard rolls with the big punches, pulling his head back and away, reducing the impact. It's a move he learned from Ken Norton and Muhammad Ali. He looks as though he has been tagged, but it's an illusion. Thirty seconds later Leonard gave Hearns a look at his own right, which missed, and then hooked him hard to the body.
After the round Dundee told Leonard, who would make slightly more than $11 million for his night's work: "Go out there and outsmart him. Cut him off."
Instead, Leonard went straight at Hearns, dipping to jab to the body, then coming up with two hooks to the head. Hearns responded with a right and left to the head, missed with two wild rights and then went back to his jab, which was working well enough to bring a slight puffiness right under Leonard's left eye.