LAS VEGAS -- Five-time world champion Thomas Hearns was concerned about his surgically repaired right hand before mounting a ring comeback last night against Andrew Maynard of Laurel in a scheduled 10-round cruiserweight bout on the undercard of the Riddick Bowe- Evander Holyfield heavyweight title rematch.
Hearns need not have worried. The popular Detroit "Hit Man" needed only 2 minutes, 34 seconds of the first round before stopping Maynard, a loser in five of his past eight bouts who has the look of a shot fighter.
Hearns, 35, who has won championship belts ranging to 175 pounds, is aiming to become the first fighter to win six titles. This was his first bout as a cruiserweight (190 pounds), and he was anxious to show the sellout crowd at Caesars Palace he has not lost his explosiveness.
Hearns, who joined Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran in dominating the 1980s in their spectacular series of fights, rocked Maynard with the first right hand he threw.
Maynard, a 1988 Olympic gold-medal winner as a light heavyweight, recovered, but only briefly. Hearns swarmed to the attack and dropped Maynard with a combination of two lefts, and a ringing right behind the ear.
Maynard made a belated effort to regain his feet. He was standing when referee Mitch Halpern signaled the bout was over.
Hearns (51-4-1, 41 KOs) was reunited with longtime trainer-manager Emmanuel Steward after a painful two-year separation, and had not fought since losing for the second time to Iran Barkley in March 1992.
He underwent hand surgery a year ago, but there were lingering doubts during his training preparations for Maynard (21-6, 18 KOs).
"I know when to shoot the right," said Hearns. "But there was always something ringing in the back of my mind whether I would hurt the hand again."
In the first bout of the night, unbeaten lightweight contender Sharmba Mitchell (32-0) of Baltimore needed only 2 minutes and 25 seconds to stop Chad Broussard of Lafayette, La., and claim the vacant North American Boxing Federation title.
Mitchell, 23, floored the previously undefeated Broussard (34-1) with a classic left hook. Broussard beat the count, but was dropped twice more in rapid fashion, which invoked the automatic three-knockdown rule.
"This is only my first step, not the last one," said Mitchell, who is being handled by Rock Newman, Riddick Bowe's manager.
The left-hander is ranked No. 3 by the International Boxing
Federation and the World Boxing Association and wants a title match against WBA champion Dingnan Thobela.
Cuban expatriate Jorge Luis Gonzalez did not win too many fans last night with his showboating tactics before knocking out shopworn Renaldo Snipes of Yonkers, N.Y., at 2:15 of the 10th and final round of their heavyweight match.
Gonzalez, 17-0 and considered a title contender, had spent the week taunting Bowe, champion of the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation.
A winner over Bowe and World Boxing Council champion Lennox Lewis as an amateur, Gonzalez dominated Snipes, whose claim to fame was knocking down former king Larry Holmes in their championship match 12 years ago.