From Glory Days featuring Thomas “Hitman” Hearns
The Kronk Gym represents one of the golden eras of boxing in Detroit and one of the more well-known names to come out of Kronk is Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns. Hearns spent the first five years of his life on his grandparents’ farm in Grand Junction, Tennessee. He credits helping on the farm at such a young age as the foundation of his strength and work ethic that would benefit him later in life. At age five, his mother moved the family to Detroit and that’s when he began to have an interest in boxing. Although his mother was against his involvement with boxing at first, by age 12 she allowed him to box and he began to get serious about the sport. He feels his mother was one of the largest reasons why he became so successful and that she instilled in all of her children that “we have to stand up for ourselves no matter what we do for a living.” As a teenager Hearns boxed as an amateur under legendary Kronk trainer Emmanuel Steward, who was like a father to him. Hearns believes that without people like his mother and Steward, his talents would’ve probably been wasted and he would’ve never reached his full potential. By 1977 Hearns fought in 167 amateur fights, only losing eight of them. Although Hearns is best known for his devastating punches, it was not until turning pro that he learned how to punch even harder, which was a skill directly attributed to Emmanuel Stewart at the Kronk Gym.
Beginning his professional debut in 1977, Hearns won his first 17 professional fights by knockout. Four years later, with an undefeated 32-0 record and a WBA Championship, Hearns went up against “Sugar” Ray Leonard from the WBC. After 14 grueling rounds, Hearns was dealt his first loss as a pro. In 1985 he would have another high-profile fight against Marvin Hagler. During the second round Hearns broke his hand and eventually lost the fight. This fight would go down in boxing history as one of the most grueling and known as the “The War” to boxing fans around the world. Hearns would have a rematch in 1989 against “Sugar” Ray Leonard after winning the WBO title but the judges called it a draw, which drew a lot of controversy from the fans.
Thomas “Hitman” Hearns would go on to have an incredibly long career, spanning decades since his first amateur fight and his last professional fight at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2006. His professional career finished with a 61-5-1 career record. “I give all the blessings to God,” Hearns says looking back at his success. Since his retirement, Hearns has been focused on giving back to both the sport that helped him become famous and the city he loves and learned how to box. Part of McGraw Avenue by the original site of the Kronk Gym is now named Thomas “Hitman” Hearns Avenue. “It shows the people who make those kinds of decisions do care,” he expressed.
Hearns wants to go even further and rebuild the original Kronk Gym, which has seen some tough times with looting and fires since its closure. He wants to train and promote new fighters in what he calls The Thomas Hearns Boxing Academy. Boxing promotions is something he along with his mother have done in recent times, including for boxing legend Mike Tyson. Thomas also prides himself on being humble, “there’s nothing wrong with being humble,” Hearns believes. An example of this is how he wants the citizens of Detroit to decide where his place in Detroit’s history is and that no matter what, he always did his best.
When it comes to transitions in life, Thomas “Hitman” Hearns believes, “if you have an idea in your mind, stick to it. Don’t let anyone dissuade you from it and stay focused,” he shared. This was the mentality he had throughout his nearly three-decade career.
You can catch Thomas Hearn’s full TV interview this Sunday, April 29th on From Glory Days, on TV20 Detroit at 6:00 a.m. Set your alarms or DVRs to hear Thomas’ story directly from this seven time World Boxing Association Champion himself.
Check out other athletes featured on the From Glory Days page.
Michael Holzman is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn with honors, with a BA in Communications. He also has a communications and broadcasting degree from Specs Howard School of Media Arts. A native of the Detroit area, Michael is now an associate producer for the TV show, “From Glory Days” and also works for Yellow Flag Productions, primarily reporting and gathering video for their popular show, “State Champs Sports Network.”