After 7 months on the shelf, Hearns yearns to battle Barkley

January 19, 1992|By George Puscas | George Puscas,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

DETROIT -- Thomas Hearns apologized. He had been slow to answer the phone.

"I heard it ringing, but, man, I'm plopped in my chair and I'm tired," he said.

He had been up since 6 a.m. tending his new son, Thomas Charles K.A. Hearns -- no Junior -- born Jan. 7 to Hearns and his girlfriend, Rene Tinsley.

"I didn't want a junior, a boy named after me," said boxing's Hit Man. "I hate that. A man could be 80 years old and some people would still call him Junior or Sonny."

Chances are, the public never will confuse the young Thomas with his dad, who bears the facial marks of a fighter.

"I'm sitting here holding him," Hearns said, "and he's just so handsome, so pretty, I really don't want him to fight when he grows up. Not ever."

If that sounds like Hearns, 33 -- the only six-titled champion in boxing history -- is ready to give up his game and become a rocking-chair daddy, forget it.

After seven idle months with one fight prospect after another fading away, Hearns finally has a bout set.

"I just agreed to fight Iran Barkley again on March 20 on TVKO cable," Hearns said.

Barkley is the heavy-punching New Yorker who, battered and bloody, was on his way to the canvas on June 6, 1988, when suddenly he reached out and whacked Hearns on the chin.

Hearns tumbled backward, and the World Boxing Council middleweight crown fell off his head.

It was only the third defeat -- Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler inflicted the others -- in Hearns' 13-year career, 54-bout career.

Barkley hadn't done much since. He lost his title and drifted. Then last week in a match many thought should not have been made, a supposedly spent Barkley knocked out Darrin Van Horn.

It follows that promoter Bob Arum, seeking to take advantage of Barkley's revived career, looked for an opponent and discovered Hearns still waiting.

Hearns eagerly grabbed the chance to fight again: "Doing Barkley doesn't bother me," he said.

Boxing's rumor-mongers had talked of Hearns' demands for extraordinary purses since his separation 17 months ago from Emanuel Steward, his longtime manager-trainer.

One report claimed Hearns demanded a $10 million purse to fight Bobby Czyz, a former light-heavyweight champion who has grown to the cruiserweight (190-pound class).

When Czyz put his price at $5 million, all talk of such a fight ended.

Hearns won the World Boxing Association's light-heavyweight title last June 3 on a decision over champion Virgil Hill. His $4 million purse is said to have left a $3 million hole in the pockets of promoter Jerry Buss.

Hearns, who has grossed $55 million during his career, explained that he merely wants what he's worth.

"Boxing's a business," he said. "My purse doesn't have to be $10 million to fight Czyz. I want everybody to make money, but I just ask that they be fair to me, I ought to get my fair share, right?

"Somebody [another promoter] offered me $6 million to fight Czyz. But the man doesn't have credibility."

James Waring, the International Boxing Federation's cruiserweight champion, also was suggested as an opponent, Hearns said, but he rejected him for still another reason.

"I really don't want to move up to 190," Hearns said. "I walk around at 188 now, and when I train down, I'm 12-14 pounds lighter."

He has the same concerns about moving up to fight Czyz.

"I don't have any doubt that I can beat Czyz," Hearns said. "But the question is being strong enough to carry the added weight and be effective."

Such doubts also preclude any possibility of Hearns someday moving up to the heavyweight division.

Asked whether he might eventually seek a bout with the likes of Evander Holyfield, the current heavyweight champ -- but a relatively light one at 208 -- Hearns laughed.

"I can't even get as big as he is," he said. "I gained weight waiting for my son to be born. I ate the ice cream and cookies meant for his mother, and she didn't get heavy -- I did."

For his rematch with Barkley, Hearns apparently will be paid less than $2 million.

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