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Thomas Hearns vs. James Shuler: A Perfect 10 With a Sad Epilogue

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  • Thomas Hearns vs. James Shuler: A Perfect 10 With a Sad Epilogue

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    By Ted Sares

    Many aficionados and/or historians have been looking for that one flawless fight that translates to The Perfect 10. Some think Hagler-Hearns was it, but that was a war with all of the flaws and mistakes that a war entails. Maybe Joe Louis’s redemptive slaughter of Max Schmeling qualifies. If not, it certainly comes close but there were enough early exchanges to keep it only in contention. The same might be said for Manny Pacquiao’s brutal mistreatment of Ricky Hatton as it was a total devastation.

    Some of Mike Tyson’s early newsreel KOs were too one-sided to really be evaluated properly but his destruction of Michael Spinks, coming later in his career, was my Bo Derek until I watched and re-watched Tommy Hearns take out James Shuler on March 10, 1986 at Caesar’s Palace Outdoor Arena in Las Vegas on the undercard of Marvin Hagler’s world middleweight championship defense against John “The Beast” Mugabi.

    The Leadup

    Hearns (40-2) was coming off “The War” with Marvelous Marvin Hagler in April 1985 and many pundits wondered whether he might have been damaged in that classic. Whatever the case, Tommy’s level of opposition was vastly superior to that of his opponent.

    James “Black Gold” Shuler was 22-0 when he stepped into the ring with “The Hitman.” His four fights prior to this one had all gone the distance suggesting that stamina would not be an issue, but in retrospect it would never be tested. One of Shuler’s wins came against the talented and then-undefeated James “The Heat” Kinchen. Earlier in his career, in his best pro win, Shuler won the NABF middleweight title against Sugar Ray Seales (56-7) in what would be Ray’s second-to-last fight. Most of James’s fights were in Atlantic City or in and around Philadelphia, his hometown.

    Like Hearns, “Black Gold” was an outstanding amateur boxer. He was the 1979 and 1980 National Golden Gloves light middleweight champion and qualified for the 1980 US. Olympic team in the 156-pound class (the Games were boycotted by President Jimmy Carter). As fate would have it, he (along with teammates Bobby Czyz and Alex Ramos) were not on the plane when 14 elite USA amateur boxers died in an air crash on March 14,1980 en route to a tournament in Poland. James had stayed home due to an injury. Sadly, this luck would later desert him but I’m getting ahead of myself.

    The Fight (1986)

    Looking to rebound from his loss to Hagler, Hearns came out tightly wound, ready to strike, while Black Gold looked to show that he belonged in the title picture.

    Shuler, however, made a tactical error by coming out with a high defense to counter any power shouts upstairs coming from Hearns. Tommy, with some excellent footwork, evaded everything Shuler threw and then, living up to one of his two nicknames, the “Motor City Cobra,” he met Shuler’s defense with some stiff piston-like jabs that set up some of the most devastating body shots ever seen in a boxing ring--six in all.

    When the savage work downstairs had the desired effect and Shuler lowered his arms, Hearns unleashed a perfect right cross that put Black Gold down and out cold for a dangerously long time. It was reminiscent of Hatton’s KO by Pacquiao. The official time was 1:13 of the opening round and everything Tommy Hearns did in those 73 seconds was flawless.

    Tommy’s performance was a Perfect 10.

    “I left myself open,” Shuler later told reporters. “I just got caught. There’s no excuse. When he hit me with the first one, I thought, ‘Shoot, I can take it from him.’ And then he hit me again. I guess I was wrong.”

    Seven days after the bout, James Shuler died instantly in a motorcycle accident in Philadelphia. Reportedly, he purchased the motorcycle with some of the purse money he had earned a week earlier. He was only 26 years old.

    Later, close friend Percy “Buster” Custus opened the James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym in Philadelphia in Shuler’s honor. “There was a time we were up somewhere in New York,” reminisced Custus, “and James was boxing on the show. James is fighting this guy, hits him and knocks him out of the ring. Then he helped him back in the ring like a gentleman. Everyone thought that was so unique, but it was the kind of guy James was.”

    Another report had it that James had gone to Bob Arum the morning after being blown away by Hearns to thank Arum for promoting the fight. Arum said that no fighter had ever done that before. Said Bob, “He was a darn nice kid, darn nice.”

    As for Hearns, according to the excellent account by Patrick Connor, he flew to Philadelphia for Shuler’s funeral and offered to place the NABF belt he’d won from him into Shuler’s coffin. Shuler’s family declined the offer. “Hearns, he earned that belt,” said Shuler’s brother Darryl. “That belt belongs to him. I’m sure James would want him to keep that belt and defend it well.”

    Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters and Strongman competitors and recently won the Maine State Champions in his class. He is a member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Me and Bo Derek back in the day.
    Attached Files

    Comment


    • #3
      Not sure if I have a Perfect 10, but Ali-Frazier III must surely be at least a 9.5.

      All respect for Bo Derek, but Jayne Mansfield is much closer to that elusive 10 (let's say 9.9).

      Comment


      • Kid Blast
        Kid Blast commented
        Editing a comment
        Nettles Nassar just emailed me as follows: I really think 🤔 that the Perfect 10 has to be Roy Jones vs Montell 2nd Fight!!
        He lost the first fight I think 🤔 Roy’s Fight And Joe Louis vs Shemling 2nd Fight are 1-2

    • #4
      Originally posted by New York Tony View Post
      Not sure if I have a Perfect 10, but Ali-Frazier III must surely be at least a 9.5.

      All respect for Bo Derek, but Jayne Mansfield is much closer to that elusive 10 (let's say 9.9).
      Geezuz, Tony. Jayne was top heavy like that dog Stormy Daniels. But Jayne was a good one. Maybe a 7.9

      Comment


      • #5
        Originally posted by Kid Blast View Post

        Geezuz, Tony. Jayne was top heavy like that dog Stormy Daniels. But Jayne was a good one. Maybe a 7.9
        The grossest impertinence. That said, there's certainly more to it than bust size. Joey Heatherton, for instance, isn't overly mammaric, but is nevertheless one of the sexiest women ever.

        Comment


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          no argument on Joey

      • #6
        Holy's stoppage of Tyson was damn near perfect.

        Tyson came to win and he tried hard to do so.

        Holy was expected to be killed but won by TKO.

        "With God, I'm not washed up." 🙏

        Comment


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          Yes, I thought about that one. Holy did everything right. Conversely, Tyson's slaughter of Spinks was also just about perfect. He threw two uppercuts and that was that. But Hearns gave a fantastic display of body punching and then finished matters with a picture perfect right. I can watch that one all day. Boxing at its flawless best. And Schuler was no walk-over although he did have a reputation for eating rights.

      • #7
        I just rewatched the second Froch-Groves fight. The right hand that Froch KO'd Groves with is certainly up there all time with
        powerful, devastating KO's.

         

        Comment


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          Yes and in front of 80,000 fans but no way was it a Perfect 10 fight.

      • #8
        Spinks was scared shitless and it showed.

        Dude did not wanna be in the ring with Tyson.

        As for Froch-Groves, George was enpretzelated.

        Comment


        • #9
          I was thinking Corrales / Castillo. And, sadly, in their second fight Corrales suffered a similar fate as Shuler.

          As for 10s, I'll take Sofia Loren over Bo Derek.

          Comment


          • Kid Blast
            Kid Blast commented
            Editing a comment
            Uh huh, but who's arm is around Bo?

            As for a Perfect 10 fight, it has to be a flawless kind of thing. Hatton's beat down of Malinaggi comes to mind as does Prince Nassem's wipe out of Kid Vegas.

        • #10
          The perfect 10 fight for me is Ali vs Williams. Ali was sticking and moving those few rounds, peppering the Big Cat every time he managed to catch up. Besides a couple of clinches it was all top rocking and ferocious finishing. I for one would love to dance like that.

          Comment


          • #11
            Originally posted by SuperLight View Post
            The perfect 10 fight for me is Ali vs Williams. Ali was sticking and moving those few rounds, peppering the Big Cat every time he managed to catch up. Besides a couple of clinches it was all top rocking and ferocious finishing. I for one would love to dance like that.
            Great choice and one I had considered. Maybe Ali's best performance.

            Comment


            • #12
              Good read and some excellent insights on the aftermath of the bout.

              As for a fight that translates into a perfect 10 for me, it has to be Buster Douglas' performance against Mike Tyson. Douglas fought up to his absolute full potential that night and could not have possible performed better. It was in deed perfection.

              Comment


              • Kid Blast
                Kid Blast commented
                Editing a comment
                Yes, I also considered that one, Matt. The problem I had with it was that Tyson had floored Buster with an uppercut but maybe the fact Buster recovered and went on to KO Tyson makes it perfection. Great choice and I can't really argue with you. That was the night Buster was the baddest man in the universe and Don King was the most despicable man in the universe with his long count crap.

            • #13
              Perfect fight?

              I'm from Columbus, and on fight night before. Tyson/Douglas, nearly everyone in the city could feel there was some strange metamorphosis happening to Douglas. The local news team had been showing video of Douglas punching the photo of tyson in what looked like a sweaty dank dungeon of a gym. The training area was cramped, Poorly lit and punctuated with the staccato music of Douglas torturing the punch bag.... The news crew filmed the footage in black and white which added to the grim effect. Douglas was annoyed and barely tolerated their probing questions. Watching from home there was the palpable and tangible essence of a rude awakening in the making.

              I think Bob Sheridan called the fight...and for 6 or 7 rounds the announcer barely acknowledged the horrific tatooing Douglas was putting on Tyson, it was a one-way relentless beating.

              "Tysons just getting warmed up" the seasoned announcer kept saying while spewing a lot of Tyson biased filler instead of commentating on the riveting action.....it was as if for one intense night Douglas was processing the resent death of his mother.
              Perhaps he was purgining his grief and repenting for the usual sins and guilt most sons have after the death of their parents.

              Douglas fought a masterpiece.
              He must have exorcised his inner demons in that fight and obviously lost his motivation after the fight. Sports illustrated reported that Douglas was found hiding in the closet eating a $95.00 room-service order in secret consisting of creme puffs, various kinds of cake and chocolate eclaires and not just once but many times during his stay at the hotel in the lead up to theHolyfield fight. Douglas's handlers were said to be seaching for Buster's where abouts on a daily basis.

              A fight so beautiful it was never reproduced by its creator...a fight that should be framed in gold.

              But getting back to the original topic

              Not to sound frivolous .... or condescending. ...but it almost seems like alcohol and motorcycles are the preferred poison by grieving boxers after a huge loss. Tragic.
              Last edited by brownsugar1; 10-14-2018, 01:42 AM.

              Comment


              • Kid Blast
                Kid Blast commented
                Editing a comment
                "it almost seems like alcohol and motorcycles are the preferred poison by grieving boxers after a huge loss. Tragic." Bernard Fernandez wrote an article about this very point. It happened to Jorge Castro (badly injured), Vinnie Letiizio in Chicago, Chico, and Schuler. There are were many others.

                Yes, had it not been for the knockdown Tyson put on Buster, this might well have been my choice. As it is, I can't much argue with it as being Number One. Thanks, BS.

            • #14
              And add Paul Williams to the list...although he survived..maybe Kelly Pavlik deserves a partial mention as well.

              Douglas doesnt get top spot but OB made me reminisce about a day that Douglas gave us Buckeyes something to crow about since Michigan seemed to be derailing the Bucks in those days.

              Comment


              • #15
                Originally posted by brownsugar1 View Post
                And add Paul Williams to the list...although he survived..maybe Kelly Pavlik deserves a partial mention as well.

                Douglas doesnt get top spot but OB made me reminisce about a day that Douglas gave us Buckeyes something to crow about since Michigan seemed to be derailing the Bucks in those days.
                I remember wanting to go to that parade in Columbus they threw for Douglas so bad but could not convince my dad to make the drive from Cleveland. And yeah, those were the 2-9-1 Cooper years against that team up north so needed something to rally behind.

                Comment


                • Kid Blast
                  Kid Blast commented
                  Editing a comment
                  There was always Massillon HS football games
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