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These were the rounds given to Leonard only 10-9 by all three judges, the same margin that they had awarded Hearns while he pitty-patted his way through Rounds 1 and 2. Tabat, Minker and Ford seemed to find violence repugnant.
The expected roles now were reversed. Leonard had backed Hearns up for the first time in Hearns's pro career. Under orders from his corner, Hearns, the feared bomber, suddenly began to ride his bicycle. With his right elbow tucked against his aching side—he didn't dare throw the bomb again until midway through the 11th—he became a relatively unskilled boxer. He circled, ran, jabbed. And Leonard, the master boxer, became the flat-footed puncher, stalking his fleeing victim with patient fury.
After a minute of chasing, Leonard trapped Hearns, caught him with an overhand right to the head, slammed a hook and scored with another right to the head. As the eighth round wound down, Leonard connected twice more with rights, then snapped Hearns's head back with a combination. Leonard won the round easily. Minker gave it to Hearns.
Then Leonard got lazy, which can be fatal to an ordinary fighter. He was worried about his left eye, in which the vision was now 50%. Almost casually he stalked Hearns, who was on his bicycle and jabbing at the injured eye. With Ray's guns silent, Hearns won the ninth.
The fires were still banked. The 10th was a dull round, with Hearns still retreating, while Leonard, halfheartedly trying to cut off the ring, managed to land only one good punch, an overhand right. It was Leonard's round, but Minker and Ford gave it to Hearns, who hadn't hit anything but the floor with his feet. Tabat, at least, called it even.
At this point Hearns, a badly beaten and frustrated fighter running to survive, was leading on all three cards: by four points on Minker's, three on Tabat's and two on Ford's. In the 11th Hearns, regaining his confidence, went back to doing what he does best: throwing long, snapping left jabs while cocking the ominous right. Moving in for the first time in five rounds, Hearns fired a right hand to set up Leonard—who was briefly stunned—for a three-punch combination, one of the few times he was able to put punches together. For a split second the strength left Leonard's legs; then, recovering immediately, he danced out of harm's way.
Emboldened by his success in the previous round, Hearns came out firing at Leonard's injured left eye, which was closing further with each passing round. Staggered by a short right, Leonard tried to retaliate with two jabs and a looping right. But Hearns walked through the weak barrage to unload a series of head-snapping jabs.
Before the bout Cus D'Amato, the fabled boxing oracle, had said: "This fight won't be won by skill; it will be won by the one with the will to win." He would prove a prophet.
Hearns began the 13th round by tripping over Leonard's feet. Hardly had he recovered when his head was snapped back by a vicious right to the temple. In a delayed reaction, he weaved slightly to his right and then staggered to his left along the ropes. Leonard raised his arms above his head in a brief salute to his own prowess, then unloaded 25 straight punches, which sent Hearns reeling through the ropes.