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Tommy ‘Hitman’ Hearns’ financial woes are a wake-up call

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Tommy ‘Hitman’ Hearns’ financial woes are a wake-up call

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the April 21, 2010 issue of the Mt. Morris/Clio and Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

If you’re a boxing fan who wonders whatever happened to Michigan boxing legend Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, the news isn’t the greatest.

That’s because Hearns, who made millions of dollars in his career in the ring, is now broke. He’s hundreds of thousands of dollars behind on his house payments and he recently had an auction to sell boxing memorabilia, personal items and other possessions to pay back almost $450,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service.

Attorney and blogger Debbie Schlussel, who lived near Hearns while growing up in Detroit, notes that Hearns used his boxing earnings to support his sizable family. You also have to consider taxes to be paid, a lifestyle to finance and not-so-great investments. Hearns sounds like a guy who was overcome with good intentions and bad advice rather than being a chronic spendthrift.

It is sad to see Hearns, described as a friendly guy outside the ring, fall into financial problems. And considering the many millions he earned, many of us can’t help but wonder, “How?”

For me, it’s hard to fathom. Both of my parents were born during the Great Depression and were very poor growing up. Especially my mother, born the fifth of six children to Oklahoma cotton pickers. Even now, I’m perfectly content using a rewards card for discount shopping and visiting both Goodwill and rummage sales.

I hope Hearns is able to return to some sort of financial solvency and often wonder what’s needed to prevent going from rags to riches and back to rags.

I like what one famous singer and two famous athletes have said.

Kelly Clarkson told Reader’s Digest during an interview that she told her financial advisor to appropriately save and invest her money so that she will never have to take a job solely because she needs the money. Clarkson’s quite a forward thinker. I understand she also has surprisingly-modest backstage demands for her concert. This is helpful also, since promoters can save money on low-maintenance divas.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated back in 2002, then-Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal spoke about how he trusts nobody and takes no chances with his finances.

“I got a small camp and my family. I got a guy who handles my money, and I got people watching him,” O’Neal explained.

This approach is especially vital since, as Shaq added: “I got old teammates I don’t even know calling and asking for money.”

Former Michigan State basketball star and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson told SI in 2009 that hiring the wrong financial advisors and trusting them too much can be fatal.

When giving out financial advice to younger athletes, Johnson told the magazine he advises them against relying on friends and family as financial advisors but to instead rely on people who have expertise.

Whether it’s Hearns making a successful financial comeback or John Q. Public suddenly receiving a large amount of money, these three give us all something to think about.

Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

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