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Tommy "The Hitman" Hearns Training Routine

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Written By: Brenton Barker
Last Updated: September 6, 2023

Thomas Hearns was a boxing legend known as "The Hitman" and "Motor City Cobra," who dominated the sport for almost 30 years.

With his incredible skill and bone-crushing punches, Hearns became a five-division world champion and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.

His unique boxing style left opponents reeling from his lightning-fast jabs and powerful right hooks, and he had a knack for keeping his distance, making it almost impossible for his opponents to land a punch on him.

Hearns was a true champion, winning fights in five different weight groups and being part of the legendary Four Kings who ruled the sport during their time.

He faced off against some of the greatest boxers of his era, and while he may have lost a few fights, he also won some of the most important ones, like when he knocked out Roberto Durán.

Hearns had a deep respect for his opponents, admiring Sugar Ray Leonard's incredible footwork and ability to dodge punches and being in awe of Marvelous Marvin Hagler's strength and toughness.

Even after delivering some of his hardest hits, Hagler returned for more, earning Hearns' utmost admiration.

It's clear that Hearns was not only a boxing master but also a true sportsman who appreciated the skills and achievements of his fellow boxers.

Key Takeaways

  • During training camps and before major fights, Tommy regularly practiced Shadowboxing and worked with the heavy bag.
  • Tommy and his trainer discovered that combining the speed bag and double-end bag improved his technique, hand speed, and stamina.
  • According to his trainer, Emanuel Steward, Hearns preferred sparring to stay in shape. Different champions have varying training philosophies, but this worked well for Hearns.
  • Hearns has a strict daily schedule. He wakes up at 6 a.m. and exercises on the beach. His manager prepares a nutritious breakfast at 8 a.m. before working out in the lobby at 2 p.m.
  • For Tommy's breakfast, he has a choice between veal chops or chicken, along with a salad, oatmeal, pancakes, and eggs.

TL;DR: Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns Routine

6:00am: Early Morning

  • Wake up
  • Start roadwork (Morning exercise on the beach)

8:00am: Breakfast

  • Prepared by his manager-trainer, Emanuel Steward
    • Veal chops or chicken
    • Salad
    • Oatmeal
    • Pancakes
    • Eggs

2:00pm: Afternoon Training

  1. Sparring
    • Six to eight rounds of intense sparring
    • Four-minute rounds with only 30-second rest periods
    • Rotate between three or four different sparring partners daily for variety
    • Increase sparring rounds from initial three or four up to a full 12 rounds as fight date approaches
  2. Shadowboxing
    • Essential for honing technique and visualizing opponents
    • Done outside the ring after sparring sessions
  3. Heavy Bag Work
  4. Speed Bag and Double-end Bag Training
  5. Footwork Drills
  6. Defensive Techniques

Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns Training Routine Breakdown

I am absolutely captivated by exploring the different techniques used by Leonard and Hearns to prepare for their highly anticipated welterweight match in 1981.

Prior to the Sugar Ray Leonard fight, Hearns was quoted as saying,

"I've always been optimistic about my potential as a fighter. I truly enjoy the sport, and whenever I had the opportunity to showcase my skills, I gave it my all and performed to the best of my abilities."

As reported by The Washington Post, Leonard showed up right on schedule for his noon workout, proving his punctuality.

He started off his session by throwing some punches inside the ring and then got into a rhythm with some fast-paced jump rope to the tune of 'Sweet Georgia Brown.'

To wrap things up, he dedicated the last 10 minutes to a set of sit-ups, finishing off his 30-minute workout strong.

On the other hand, Hearns wasted no time and dove straight into the ring, ready to spar with three different partners for a total of 10 one-minute rounds.

He put all his energy into the intense sparring session and then took a breather to do some shadow-boxing outside the ring.

Hearns' trainer, Emanuel Steward, revealed that Hearns loved the physicality of fighting and found sparring to be the most effective way to get in shape.

Observing the distinct training philosophies adopted by two accomplished champions and how their unique approaches contributed to their eventual success in the ring is intriguing.

Tommy Hearns Training Routine Included:

  • Shadowboxing
  • Working the heavy bag
  • Speed bag
  • Double-end bag
  • Footwork drills and
  • Practicing defensive techniques.

Hearns said, "I feel better after a workout if I've done some fighting. You can do all the bag work and jumping rope you want, but you still got to get used to hitting and getting hit."

Legendary trainer Emanuel Steward hired a dozen sparring partners for Thomas Hearns' training camp to ensure that he was ready for anything.

Steward believed that it was crucial for Hearns to face different fighters with varying styles instead of training with the same two or three partners, which could lead to staleness and a lack of preparedness for different opponents.

Hearns' team opted for a shorter training camp lasting only four weeks, in contrast to the usual eight weeks that most boxers go through.

They believed that an extended training camp could lead to overtraining, which contributed to Hearns' loss against Sugar Ray Leonard.

Hearns weighed 168-170 pounds, which meant that he didn't need a long training camp to meet the 160-pound middleweight limit.

To build up his endurance, Hearns gradually increased his sparring rounds from three or four to a full 12 rounds as the fight drew near.

Instead of running for distance, Hearns opted for a brisk 45-minute run at a quick pace to keep him swift on his feet.

Hearns' training camp was a well-planned and executed program that took into account his physical attributes, strengths, and weaknesses.

The combination of strategic sparring partners, a shorter training camp, and a variety of exercises and drills helped Hearns build the endurance and skills necessary to take on Marvin Hagler, one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Many people recognize that Hearns follows a strict and organized daily schedule.

He wakes up promptly at 6 a.m. and begins his roadwork, often on the beautiful and calm beachfront.

After finishing his morning exercise, he takes a quick rest and prepares for the rest of his day.

At 8 a.m., Hearns' manager-trainer, Emanual Steward, prepares a nutritious breakfast consisting of:

  • Veal chops or chicken
  • Salad
  • Oatmeal
  • Pancakes, and
  • Eggs 

This is to ensure that Hearns has enough energy for his upcoming training and challenges.

In the afternoon, at precisely 2 p.m., Hearns heads to the lobby to start his demanding workout routine involving:

  • Six to eight rounds of intense sparring
  • Four-minute rounds with only short 30-second rest periods. 

Hearns also spars with three or four partners daily to maintain his exceptional fighting skills and proficiency.

Hearns' dedication and discipline in following his strict routine are significant factors contributing to his remarkable success in the ring.

Professional Career

Thomas Hearns, an American boxing legend, had a career that spanned nearly three decades, from 1977 to 2006.

Known as the "Motor City Cobra" and "The Hitman," Hearns was a towering figure in the ring with massive arms and shoulders that helped him climb up more than fifty pounds in weight classes throughout his career.

As an unprecedented five-division world champion, Hearns set the bar for excellence, holding titles in welterweight, light middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight.

His incredible skill and talent were recognized by The Ring magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America, who named him Fighter of the Year in both 1980 and 1984, the latter following his epic knockout of Roberto Durán.

Hearns was renowned for his bone-crushing punching power, even at cruiserweight, and is regarded as one of the greatest punchers of all time, ranking #18 on The Ring's list of the 100 greatest punchers and #78 in BoxRec's ranking of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers in history.

In 2012, Hearns was deservedly inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Bonus: Tommy Hearns And The Historical 1st Round

Tommy Hearns set his sights on winning the light heavyweight title, but first, he had to overcome the middleweight division.

In order to do so, he faced off against another boxing legend, "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, on April 15, 1985.

However, Hearns encountered some obstacles leading up to the fight.

His coach, Emanuel Steward, took full responsibility for not maintaining the necessary level of control and discipline.

Just before the fight, Hearns requested his friend to massage his legs since they were feeling tight. Although this seemed like a good idea, Steward was not present to supervise, and when he returned, it was too late.

Hearns' legs had become too relaxed, which could have negatively impacted his performance.

Despite this setback, Hearns and Hagler put on an awe-inspiring first round, which is still regarded today as one of the greatest in boxing history.

However, during this round, Hearns broke his hand while landing a blow on Hagler's head, causing a significant cut on Hagler's forehead.

The ringside doctor was concerned that the wound was too severe, but the fight continued.

Eventually, Hagler knocked Hearns down, and although he managed to get back up, the fight was stopped, and Hagler was declared the winner.

Despite the loss, Hearns' performance in that first round is still celebrated as legendary.

The Bottom Line

Tommy Hearns was a renowned boxer famous for his devastating right hand and slender body.

He quickly climbed the ranks and secured the WBA welterweight championship in 1980.

Although he faced defeat in two of the most illustrious matches of the 1980s, including an exhausting 14-round battle against Sugar Ray Leonard, Hearns also achieved remarkable victories, such as his knockout of Roberto Durán in 1984.

He retired in 2006 with an impressive record of 61 wins, five losses, and one draw.

In 2012, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, honoring his contribution to the sport.

Tommy Hearns Statistics

Nickname(s): The Hitman/Motor City Cobra


  • Welterweight
  • Light middleweight
  • Middleweight
  • Super middleweight
  • Light heavyweight
  • Cruiserweight

Height: 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)

Reach: 78 in (198 cm)

Born: October 18, 1958 (age 64)

Grand Junction, Tennessee, U.S.

Stance: Orthodox

Boxing Record

Total fights: 67

Wins: 61

Wins by KO: 48

Losses: 5

Draws: 1

Tommy Hearns Career Boxing Awards:

  • National AAU title 1977
  • National Golden Gloves title 1977
  • Professional boxer 1977
  • WBA welterweight title 1980
  • Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year Award 1980, 1984
  • WBC Junior Middleweight Title 1982
  • Boxing Writer’s Association of America Edward J. Neil Trophy 1984
  • WBC light heavyweight title 1987
  • WBC middleweight title 1987
  • WBO Super Middleweight Title 1988
  • WBA Light Heavyweight Title 1991
  • IBO Cruiserweight Title 1991

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