By: Sean Crose
There once was a time when winning four titles in four weight divisions seemed unheard of. That may seem strange to read if you started watching boxing in the past ten years or so. There’s a lot more access to world titles today. You still have to be pretty terrific to get four in four divisions…the task remains enormously difficult. It’s just not as difficult as it used to be. Just how much of a challenge was earning four titles in four divisions back in the day? Well, it took until 1987 for it to happen. When one thinks of how long professional boxing as we know it has been in existence, which is at least as far back as the 1890s, that’s a very long time.
Yet Thomas Hearns, the famed and famous “Hit Man,” finally pulled off the accomplishment that had eluded other greats before him. As a young fan, I remember it well. I recall talking about it one fall morning in high school the day before the fight. We teens were all for Hearns. In fact, we didn’t even really know who his opponent was. To us, the man going up against Hearns was just a name. We came to learn, though, that Argentina’s Juan Roldon was a lot more than that.
If you’ve never done so, check out the Hearns-Roldan fight on YouTube. It certainly isn’t the longest fight you’ll watch, but it is insanely action packed. Sure, Hearns won by laying his man out, but the popular and hard hitting Detroit fighter had to EARN it. Make no mistake about it, Roldan might have provided Hearns his most thrilling fight this side of Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. The man’s gusto in the ring is well worth remembering. This is especially true now that word has arrived that Roldan has passed away at the age of 63 from Covid.
Beginning his career in 1978, Roldan went through opponent after opponent before finally facing Hagler for the middleweight title in 1984. When he slipped into the ring for his big chance, Roldan had only lost twice in a whopping 63 fights – and those losses had been avenged. Needless to say, the man gave Hagler – who was in his prime – a run for his money. Still, coming up short via tenth round stoppage, Roldan had to wait three and a half years and 13 fights – all of which he won – to get another crack at glory, this time against Hearns for the WBC middleweight strap. The match didn’t go four full rounds – but what a match it was. Roldan took one more shot at a middleweight title in 1988. The highly talented rising star Michael Nunn knocked him out in the eighth round. It would be the warrior’s last ring battle.