From the solitude of his room at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Miss., junior middleweight contender, Ronald Hearns, spoke to RingTV.com about Friday night’s WBC eliminator clash with southpaw Erislandy Lara to be televised on Showtime’s ShoBox: The New Generation from the venue at which Hearns is staying.
There was a lot on the mind of the Hearns (26-2, 20 knockouts), the 33-year-old son of the legendary Thomas Hearns (61-5-1, 48 KOs), who won six major titles over the course of five weight classes.
The bout with Lara (15-1-1, 10 KOs) is more or less the final shot at glory for Ronald Hearns, who has suffered two knockout losses within his past seven fights.
A resident of Southfield, Mich. Hearns has not been in the ring since being stopped in the seventh round by Germany’s WBA middleweight beltholder Felix Sturm in February of last year, a loss that ended his streak of five straight victories, two of which had been by stoppage.
Hearns partially attributed the loss to Sturm to a hand injury that he said occurred early in the fight.
“I broke it throwing a left hook when Sturm was trying to duck. I caught him right at the bottom part of my hand, where your fingers bend right at the knuckles. So I broke those. My last few rounds, my bones were trying to come through the skin,” said Hearns.
“So I really couldn’t make a good, solid fist inside of my gloves. So my hands were popping in and out of joint whenever I went to block a punch. I had to have surgery and everything on it. I had surgery maybe three days after the fight. I was out of training for at least four months.”
Hearns had been considered as a challenger to WBC titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in August, but that fight was called off after Chavez pulled out of the bout as a result of an injury to his right hand.
A man who did not begin his boxing career until he was 24 — his father was already a titleholder at the age of 21 — Hearns admits that he was beginning to lose hope that he would become a champion.
It didn’t help matters when Lara-Hearns was postponed from its original date on Feb. 11 when an injury to one of the main event fighters forced the show’s cancelation.
But a mere hours prior to stepping into the ring at Beau Rivage, Hearns has renewed faith, even as he is considered the underdog against a man whose claim to fame is for having lost a disputed majority decision to Paul Williams that many observers thought Lara won in July of last year.
Hearns spoke to RingTV.com concerning his big chance against Lara, which could position him for a shot opposite the winner of a May 5 clash between WBC junior middleweight titleholder Saul Alvarez and his challenger Shane Mosley.
RingTV.com: In the hours prior to the fight, what’s going through your mind right now?
Ronald Hearns: I’m just waiting to report to the ring. I just want to capitalize. I want to shut the mouths of people who have been talking bad about me.
I have a lot to go in here and prove. I want to show them that, throughout most of the Sturm fight, nobody knew that I had broken my hand.
So everybody kind of just counting me out and dogging me out. They’ve been calling me a fringe contender. So I’m planning on making everybody eat their words tonight.
RingTV.com: How would you characterize the last year or so, having not been able to fight Chavez Jr. and having the initially scheduled fight with Lara postponed?
RH: Of course, I was very frustrated. I was ready to fight a couple of times. One of them was rescheduled and it happened a couple of times.
When something like that happens, where someone gets hurt or injured, you’re like, “well, what’s going on?” I mean, “what’s really going on?”
You’re like, “what’s my next step?” At a certain point, you’re like, ready to give it up, you know? But my wife talked to me, and my business associates talked to me. But you just can’t give up, you know?
You’re going to face opposition and certain things in your life, and can’t please everybody. Sometimes, you’re going to go through things that will make you stronger.
You’ve got to accept things and move on, and that’s what I did. And that’s why I’m about to step into the arena and walk into the ring.
RingTV.com: Are you hearing that you are the underdog in this fight with Lara?
RH: Sure. Everybody is saying that he’s such a great fighter, and that he did so well against Paul Williams, so “how can you go out there and perform and beat this guy?”
I mean, he’s a great fighter, but I just have three words for everybody: I’ll show you.
RingTV.com: Any extra pressure being the son of Tommy Hearns?
RH:Well, I’m tired of everybody putting me down because of who my daddy was and how he accomplished so much in his career compared to me.
They don’t understand that I didn’t lace up a pair of gloves and put them on until the age of 24, so there is no way in hell that I should be at the place that I am today in boxing.
RingTV.com: Big chance at a title if you win?
RH: It is. I just found out that this is an eliminator bout for the WBC. I just found that out at the weigh-in. I was like, “wow, this wasn’t even told to us before now.”
So in my camp, I’m like, “this is like God just showing me that he has blessed me and put me in a better position as he sees fit.” So it’s a junior middleweight fight for the right to fight Saul Alvarez or Shane Mosley.
You’re going to see a different Ronald Hearns tonight. You’re going to see one who is boxing and moving and who is not going to be standing in front of somebody.
I had broken my left hand but the hand is fine. So it’s going to be a Ronald Hearns who is working the jab like never before.
I’m going to be jabbing and hooking and shooting the straight right hand. You’re just going to see a totally complete fighter tonight.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org