Boxing: Hearns to make British debut

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The Independent Online
THOMAS HEARNS, Detroit's legendary "hit man", will make his British debut at the age of 40 on the Naseem Hamed bill in Manchester next month.

Hearns will top the undercard in an International Boxing Organisation cruiserweight title fight against the former world champion Nate Miller - 19 years after winning his first world title. Hearns' appearance on the bill had been thrown into doubt when a prospective fight against Ulster's Darren Corbett fell through last week.

Barry Hearn, co-promoter of the show which is topped by Hamed's World Boxing Organisation featherweight title defence against Paul Ingle, insisted Hearns would undergo strict medical examinations before being allowed to compete.

"At the moment Hearns is undergoing the very strictest medical examination under the gaze of the British Boxing Board of Control, to make sure he is 100 per cent fit," Hearn said.

Hearns, also known as the "Motor City Cobra", has won world titles at five different weights, and in his heyday in the early 1980s he was one of a golden quartet which also included Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler.

A tall, skinny fighter who nevertheless had tremendous punching power, Hearns' greatest moment arguably came in defeat when he fought three of the most brutal rounds ever seen before losing to Hagler in April 1985.

Since losing his World Boxing Association light-heavyweight title to Iran Barkley in 1992, Hearns has kept busy by boxing against unknowns in America. His long-time trainer, Emanuel Steward - who also trains Lennox Lewis - is expected to come to Britain with Hearns for the fight.

Meanwhile Muhammad Ali has added his voice to the growing chorus of criticism over the judging in the recent title fight between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. Calling the fight "the biggest fix in fight history", Ali said he was humiliated by the fact that the sport "had sunk to its lowest levels."

In a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee chairman, John McCain, a Republican, Ali said: "it was clear to all who watched that the deciding victor of the match was England's Lennox Lewis".

The heavyweight unification title fight between Holyfield and Lewis on 13 March in New York ended in a draw, sparking investigations by a New York City grand jury, a New York state Senate committee, the New York State Athletic Commission and the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

McCain, a boxing fan, introduced a bill this year that would restrict the coercive option contracts by which promoters control a boxer's career, such as clauses forcing a boxer into a long-term deal in exchange for a shot at a world title.

"As the former three-times heavyweight boxing champion of the world, I believe I have the credibility to say Lewis won this bout without question and should have been named the clear and decided victor," Ali wrote.

Ali also added his support to McCain's bill, which is aimed at protecting boxers from exploitation and requiring promoters to be more open about their financial dealings.

The legislation has taken on added importance, Ali said, in light of the disputed draw.

"Professional boxers have for too long been the target of unscrupulous managers and promoters," Ali wrote. "I pray justice will be done and honour can be restored to this sport."