Hearns endures 'The Heat' to make history

Thomas Hearns needed to get off the canvas in order to outlast James "The Heat" Kinchen in 1988. The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

Leading up to Juan Manuel Marquez's bid to win a world title in a fifth different weight class on Saturday, ESPN.com will look back at the elite group of fighters who have already achieved the feat -- we'll roll out a new one each day this week -- in our "Five In Five" series.

In 1988, Thomas Hearns was the only man to have won world titles in four weight classes. "The Hitman" was on a path to claim a title in a record fifth division at super middleweight, but that appeared to go away when WBA titleholder Fulgencio Obelmejias withdrew from their Nov. 4 fight with a rib injury.

Although he didn't know it at the time, Hearns remained on that path. During the summer of 1988, several members of the WBA withdrew from the sanctioning body. As a result, they decided to form their own new organization. Thus, the World Boxing Organization (WBO) was born and the sport's alphabet soup became more crowded.

Hearns would find a new opponent in James "The Heat" Kinchen. The 30-year old veteran was coming off a decision victory over Marvin Mack just 22 days earlier.

Two days before their encounter, the WBO announced it would recognize the winner as its super middleweight champion. Hearns' chance at history had been restored.

Kinchen, however, didn't come to Las Vegas to lose. He dropped Hearns in the fourth round with a hard right hand. Hearns lost another point in the round when referee Mills Lane penalized him for refusing to break. Kinchen was in prime position to spoil Hearns' night.

But Hearns was able to overcome the knockdown and make a fight of it. He and Kinchen battled the full 12 rounds, leaving their fates in the hands of the judges. In the end, Hearns was awarded a majority decision victory and his place in boxing history.

The flagship of the Kronk boxing team and prized pupil of Emanuel Steward stood atop the boxing world. He wouldn't be alone at the apex for very long. Just three days later, an old nemesis of Hearns' attempted to elevate his own place in history -- when Sugar Ray Leonard challenged Donny Lalonde for titles at 168 and 175 pounds -- but that's a story for another day.

As for Hearns, he finished his career for good in 2006 with a record of 61-5-1, with 48 knockouts, and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.