Thomas The Hitman Hearns had one of the best one-two’s of any fighter in history. His cross is legendary, and was the downfall of many talented fighters. There are some who brush Hearns’ skills aside, saying that his success was due only to his superior reach and height in his weight class, but this is simplifying an incredibly talented and tactical boxer.
Instead of coasting on his advantages, Hearns did everything he could to amplify his gifts and eliminate his weaknesses. His turned his lead hand into a highly versatile tool; used to set up his devastating right.
Hearns had a great jab, and he could adjust it to fit his purpose.
His most effective version was what’s sometimes called a lazy jab, where he delayed the retraction of his hand to keep his competitors vision obscured. By taking his hand away at the last second he was able to “hide” his cross. Notice how his hand stays pinned to his opponent as he steps into his punch.
Hearns would flick his jab and circle to the inside like his hero Ali, pestering his adversary and taking a superior inside angle.
But beyond these basics, Hearns could use his lead hand in a number of more complex ways.
Hearns would often stiff-arm his competitor to keep him at range and block his vision for extended periods of time. In the same way that Roberto Duran liked to control his opponent’s head on the inside, Hearns liked to control it from the outside. He would lean his weight down on his adversary’s neck, disturbing his balance or turning him.
He also liked to turn his lead jab or hook into a collar tie, pulling his opponent into his punch. Many people criticize Hearns for the tendency to sometimes lower his jab after he threw it, but this was often done intentionally to split, push, or pull away his competitors guard, creating a brief opening to take advantage of.
All of these techniques were there to set up Hearns terrifying right hand.
Hearns had what’s known as a chopping right hand. The power of his blow wasn’t sent forward, but downwards towards to floor. He would pull his hand back and then sharply turn his elbow up at the last second. This trajectory not only allowed his hand to pass over his opponents guard, but the rapidly shortening arc gave him incredibly force and follow through. In fact, many of his best punches hit not with his knuckles, but with the palm of his hand. The sharp downward curve allowed him to get a lot of momentum on a very tight and close punch.
Combined with Hearns aggressive angling footwork, his active lead hand and powerful cross made him a master of boxing’s staple combination. Sometimes, all it takes is a good one two.