His name was Tommy Hearns and we thought we knew him. There was a kid that grew up in my near west side Detroit neighborhood named Tommy Hearns. We’d gone to school with him at Pattengill Elementary School and he just disappeared, which often happened.
“Could this be our Tommy Hearns? He was such a nice kid and would not hurt a fly,” we said.
As it turned out it was not. This was a dude who grew up east of us but we quickly adopted him as one of our own. He was the Hit Man (We did not like Motor City Cobra) and he was making news around he city. The country did not know about this one punch knock out specialist who seemed to be fighting every other month.
But we knew he’d make news. He did and became one of Detroit’s greatest sports icons. People loved Tommy’s passion in the ring. He won multiple World titles and he was Detroit’s own. I believe he was born in Tennessee but as far as we were concerned Tommy was just like a bottle of Faygo. He was bottled and flavored in Detroit.
I got to speak to him on Wednesday for a column in the Detroit News. Tommy said he didn’t know the impact he was making at first. But once he understood what was happening, he embraced it and allowed Detroit’s love to motivate him in the ring. Hearns and I have spoken before. I accepted an award for him once because he was off fighting and for some reason they asked me to give a talk about him.
The celebration was at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn and I remember meeting a young fast talking guy that night. His name was Kwame
and I knew immediately this dude would make news. I never knew it would reach this heights but he became mayor of Detroit and has been a lightening rod ever since he was ousted.
That night I did not know what to say on Hearns’ behalf. I simply told people how he made my west side neighborhood proud and I called him Detroit’s fifth professional sports team after the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons. It was good seeing him again and I hope you get to read my column on Hearns in the Detroit News at detnews.com.