Thomas “The Hit-Man” Hearns, Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and trainer Freddie Roach are among the most notable newcomers who are listed on the 2012 ballot as potential inductees to the International Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.
The other newcomers include former light heavyweight and cruiserweight beltwinner Dariusz Michalczewski of Poland, German promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl of the powerful Europe-based Universum Box-Promotion, Showtime Sports color commentator Al Bernstein and HBO ring announcer Michael Buffer, originator of the famous “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” pre-fight catchphrase.
Hearns (61-5-1, 48 knockouts), who turns 53 on Oct. 18, won six major titles in five weight classes without ever having done so at catch weights [see chart at the bottom of this story.]
He won a majority decision over Wilfred Benitez in December of 1982 to take the WBC junior middleweight title, then defended it with a second-round knockout of Hall of Famer Roberto Duran in June of 1984.
Hearns is also known for fights that didn’t go in his favor; he was stopped by Sugar Ray Leonard in the 14th round of a classic welterweight unification bout in Sept. 1981 and later knocked out in his bid for the undisputed middleweight title by Marvin Hagler after three unforgettable rounds in April of 1985.
Despite his vaunted right hand, Hearns said that he was not a knockout artist until being developed by legendary trainer Manny Steward at The Kronk Gym in Detroit.
“The Kronk brought it out of me. Emanuel Steward brought it out of me because he showed me how and I learned how to put my weight behind my punches,” said Hearns.
“Before that, I was just arm-punching and winning and every once in a blue moon, I would stop a guy. Once Emanuel showed me how to sit down on my punches, that’s all that it took…I started to gain respect. It was in my blood after that.”
The 40-year old Mark Johnson (44-5, 28 KOs), a slick, southpaw boxer-puncher from Washington, D.C., became the IBF flyweight titleholder with a first-round knockout of Francisco Tejedor in May of 1996, and made seven defenses, four of them by knockout. Johnson then rose to junior bantamweight, where he unanimously decisioned Ratanachai Singwancha for the IBF crown in April of 1999.
Johnson also owns a signature victory over former three-division titlist Fernando Montiel (46-3-2, 36 KOs) of Mexico, who was 27-0-1, with 21 knockouts before Johnson defeated him for the WBO junior bantamweight crown by majority decision (117-110, 115-112, 114-114) in August of 2003.
The win over Montiel helped Johnson to rebound from consecutive losses to a young Rafael Marquez, by split-decision and eighth-round knockout in October of 2001 and February of 2002, respectively.
“It’s a wonderful honor to be on the ballot. I just can’t really express it in words how much that means to me,” said Johnson, who never could land bouts opposite fighters such as Michael Carbajal, Ricardo Lopez, Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero.
“But that’s just half of the battle, I need to get in. I know that Tommy Hearns is a given, but I’m hoping that people see the merits of what I’ve done in my career.”
Dariusz Michalczewski was 48-0, with 38 knockouts before losing the last two fights of his career, by split-decision to Julio Cesar Gonzalez in Oct. 2003, and by sixth-round knockout against Fabrice Tiozzo in February of 2005.
Michalczewski had earned the WBO belt with a unanimous decision over Leeonzer Barber in September of 1994, and made 23 defenses, including 19 knockouts.
Just three months later, he won the WBO cruiserweight belt with a 10th-round knockout of Nestor Hipolito Giovanni in December of 1994.
One fight that Michalczewski pursued, but never landed, was a coveted clash with Roy Jones Jr., who was a light heavyweight titleholder from August of 1997 until a second-round knockout loss to Antonio Tarver in May of 2004.
Freddie Roach is best known for handling the careers of eight-division and current WBO welterweight beltholder Manny Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs), two-division winner and WBA junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan (26-1, 18 KOs) and WBC middleweight strapholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (43-0-1, 30 KOs).
In March of 2008, Michael Buffer, the man known for igniting crowds with his electrifying trademark phrase, “Lets Get Ready To Rumble,” was lying on an operating table at the USC Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles receiving career- if not life-saving neck and throat surgery.
The operation removed a lymph node attached to his tonsils — the source of a cancer called squamous cell carcinoma — but before the procedure, Buffer was shaken enough to plan his will.
He credits Dr. Dale Rice for his efforts, which helped him to return the ring for Joe Calzaghe’s 12-round unanimous decision over Bernard Hopkins at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas in April of 2008.
Al Bernstein has called more than 2,500 fights and 68 pay-per-view telecasts over more than 30 years. From 1980 to 2003, Bernstein called boxing telecasts for ESPN as the analyst of the Top Rank Boxing series and served as the boxing expert on the network.
In 2003, Bernstein joined Showtime, debuting on the network’s Showtime Championship Boxing series by calling a unanimous decision by then-WBA junior welterweight beltholder Sharmba Mitchell over Ben Tackie and a second-round stoppage by IBF super middleweight titleholder Jeff Lacy over Anwar Oshana.
Bernstein won the prestigious Sam Taub Award for excellence in boxing broadcasting journalism from the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1988, and was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009, when he received the highest number of votes ever for a non-boxer inductee.
Klaus-Peter Kohl worked not only with Michalczewski, but he also had a hand in the earlier careers of the Klitschko brothers, 40-year-old Vitali Klitschko (43-2, 40 KOs) and his 35-year-old brother Wladimir Klitschko (56-3, 49 KOs), who have reigned supreme in the heavyweight division for the last several years.
Thomas Hearns’ achievements, at a glance:
*Also, Hearns weighed 189 pounds when he won the fringe IBO cruiserweight title by a unanimous decision over Nate Miller in April of 1999.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org