- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Pearl ruled that Leonard had pushed him rather than knocked him down and ordered Hearns to his feet. "Get up!" he said. Later the somewhat abashed Pearl said, "I meant to say, 'Can you get up?' but I couldn't get the words out." Hearns came up fighting, only to run into a three-punch combination and then two rights that returned him to his seat on the lower strand of the ropes.
This time Pearl picked up the count at two, reached six when the round ended and was at nine when Hearns recovered his footing.
Sprinting from his corner to begin the 14th, Leonard staggered Hearns with a right to the head, hooked him to the body, slammed four more rights to the head. Hearns was wobbling against the ropes, where there was no respite. Moving in swiftly, Leonard rained blow after blow against his helpless foe until Pearl came to the rescue.
"I didn't have to look into his eyes to see he had had enough," Pearl said. "He was defenseless. Too many unanswered punches. I was worried about the head shots; he could've been seriously hurt."
Gently, Pearl turned the non-protesting Hearns toward his corner. "When I didn't hear anybody shouting at me from Hearns's corner, I knew I had done the right thing," Pearl said.
Later, after being helped to his dressing room, Hearns asked how much time had remained in the round.
"A minute and 15 seconds," he was told. "O.K.," was all he said.
Pearl's decision was more popular with the live crowd of 23,618 than it was with the worldwide TV audience of some 300 million. Television is one-dimensional: Punches that look damaging are often not, and vice versa. Many of Hearns's jabs either were glancing or missed Leonard altogether. Also, the closed-circuit TV analysts, Ferdie Pacheco and Don Dunphy, were one-sided in their advocacy of Hearns. Both were amazed at Pearl's decision to stop the fight.
The usual post-title fight cry of "rematch" was subdued this time. "If we rematch them right away," Morton said, "Leonard would knock him out in six because Leonard learned from this fight and Hearns didn't." Indeed, when Leonard scored heavily in the sixth and seventh rounds, Hearns reverted to his amateur tactics of backpedaling and jabbing. He won 163 fights as an amateur, but only 11 by knockout. He knows Leonard can hit and hurt him, and Ray knows he can take Thomas' best.
Leonard wasn't surprised that the judges had him behind. "In New Orleans, when Duran quit, I was behind on the cards," Leonard said the next morning. "If the [Ayub] Kalule fight had gone the distance, I'd have lost that decision. I don't know why [they score like they do]. I'm an exception to their rules."