The International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) in Canastota, N.Y., announced its newest list of inductees. Led by multi-divisional champion Thomas Hearns, the Class of 2012 includes 13 members who will be enshrined in June.
Also to enter the Hall will be two-division champion Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, trainer Freddie Roach, television analyst Al Bernstein, ring announcer Michael Buffer and journalist Michael Katz. Posthumous honorees in the Old-Timer category will include Newsboy Brown, Cocoa Kid, Leo Houck and Jake Kilrain. In the Non-Participant category, promoters Rip Valenti and Hugh D. McIntosh were selected. In the Pioneer Group, James Wharton was chosen.
Thomas Hearns, who carried the nicknames “The Motor City Cobra” and “The Hitman,” carried 147 pounds on a 6'1 ½” frame. He turned pro in November 1977 and ran off a string of 28 consecutive victories—26 of those by knockout—before winning the welterweight title in devastating fashion, knocking out hard-hitting Mexican Pipino Cuevas in the second round with one blistering right cross on Aug. 2, 1980.
Hearns, who finished his career on a winning note as a light heavyweight in 2006, will be remembered as much for two of his losses as he will be for the 61-5-1 (48 KO's) record he put together and for the brutal punching power he possessed.
One of those two losses came in a welterweight unification fight against Sugar Ray Leonard on Sept. 16, 1981. At the time, Hearns was 32-0. Leonard was 30-1. In a classic battle scheduled for 15 rounds and fought in the blazing heat of a late Las Vegas, Nev., summer, Hearns piled up an early lead, only to have Leonard battle his way back as the fight headed into the final five rounds. With his long, powerful jab, Hearns regained control of the fight and looked to be on his way to victory. But then, both the heat and Leonard got to Hearns, and he was stopped in 1:45 of the 14th round.
Hearns returned as a junior middleweight, and over the next three-and-a-half years, would win all eight of his junior middleweight bouts, picking up the divisional title from Wilfred Benitez and defending it three times along the way. Among those victories was a one-punch, highlight-reel knockout of the legendary Roberto Duran.
In 1985, Hearns challenged Middleweight Champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler for his title. The fight turned into one of the wildest, most furious bouts in middleweight history. For the better part of three rounds, the two stood and traded punches. Hagler won, knocking out Hearns in 1:52 of the third round, but in its 7:52 of action, it was named 1985's “Fight of the Year.”
Hearns went on to win the WBA Light Heavyweight Title, the WBC Middleweight Title and the WBO Super Middleweight Title over the next three-and-a-half years. He retired at the age of 47 after winning a light heavyweight bout by 10th round TKO against Shannon Landberg at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., in February 2006.
Washington, DC's Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson won the IBF Flyweight Title in 1996, and made eight successful defenses before relinquishing it in 1998. The following year, he won the IBF Super Flyweight Title and made two successful defenses before moving up to bantamweight. He fought from 1990 until 2006, winning 44 out of 49 bouts, 28 of them by knockout.
Al Bernstein has made a career out of informing and entertaining audiences. He began his career covering boxing shows in and around his hometown of Chicago, Ill., then was hired by a fledgling cable network—ESPN—in 1980, to become their boxing analyst. He became one of the best ever, and in 2003, took his announcing talents to ESPN rival Showtime.
He is also a world-class singer and put out two albums—“My Very Own Songs” (1988) and “Let the Games Begin” (1988). He worked the Olympic boxing telecasts for NBC for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and the 1996 Games in Atlanta. He is also the author of Boxing for Beginners.
Michael Buffer began his ring announcing career on Atlantic City-based boxing events on ESPN. He quickly became the “house" announcer for all of ESPN's Top Rank-promoted cards. Taking a phrase from ESPN announcer Sal Marchiano, he began saying “Let's Get Ready to Rumble” before all main events. The phrase quickly became his personal trademark, and Buffer had it federally trademarked—a process which took years—in 1992.
Buffer recently was the ring announcer for the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito fight at Madison Square Garden. His “Let's Get Ready to Rumble” in front of over 21,000 fans at The Garden was electrifying.
Freddie Roach is best known as being the head trainer for Manny Pacquiao. He has won numerous awards as "Trainer of the Year." Had a 40-13 (12) pro record between 1978-1986, fighting as a featherweight, jr. lightweight and lightweight.
The 23rd annual induction weekend will take place from June 7-10 at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y..