The Hit Man wants revenge.
Trouble is, he has outlasted just about everyone he can exact revenge from. Everyone except Iran Barkley, whom Hearns meets tomorrow night in Las Vegas in a rematch of their spectacular 1988 fight, won by Barkley on a shocking third-round knockout.
"I don't want this thing hanging over my head," said Hearns, 33, who will put his World Boxing Association light heavyweight title on the line. "Iran Barkley is not the caliber of boxer that Thomas Hearns is, and I have to let the fans know."
It's unfortunate that at this stage of his career, Hearns (50-3-1, 40 KOs) still fears that the fans have forgotten his accomplishments, or that he will be remembered more for his losses to Barkley, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler than for his six world titles, including his masterful win over Virgil Hill in June.
For years, he chased Hagler and Leonard trying to rewrite history. Hagler retired to Italy and spaghetti westerns, but Hearns finally got his chance with Leonard, and had to settle for a disappointing draw despite scoring two knockdowns in their 1989 rematch.
But it is the loss to Barkley that really rankles Hearns, so much that he says he never has watched a tape of the fight. He would not like what he would see -- himself pounding Barkley, toying with him, really, opening cuts over both eyes and then suddenly getting knocked down by a thundering right hand.
"I just got careless," Hearns said. "I was winning so easily, I wasn't really paying him no attention at all. That's the last time I'll do that."
Hearns is a 2-1 favorite in the rematch, down from 6-1 in the first fight. He will earn $1.2 million, his lowest purse for a title fight in years, to $500,000 for Barkley, who rejuvenated his career with a second-round KO over Darrin Van Horn to win the International Boxing Federation super-middleweight title in January. The two are four years older but the matchup is still the same -- dangerous for both.
"I learned my lesson from the first fight: more boxing, no slugging this time," Hearns said.
* Handlers of Evander Holyfield are wondering what effect the shooting death of older brother Willie yesterday will have on the heavyweight champion's preparation for his June 19 defense against Larry Holmes.
Willie, 35, was a personal reclamation project for Holyfield, who had hired his brother as a maintenance man around his Atlanta home between fights and as an aide de camp while in training in an attempt to help Willie straighten out his life after bouts with substance abuse. For the past 18 months or so, the two have been nearly inseparable.
Publicist Kathy Duva said Holyfield was "very distraught"
yesterday. So far, everyone concerned says the fight is still on.