Exclusive interview by James Slater: Iran Barkley never fought Marvin Hagler, but “The Blade” sure wanted to. In fact, Barkley, who gave us memorable wars with Hagler foes Thomas Hearns (twice) and Roberto Duran, wanted to fight anyone who was anyone back in the 1980s and ’90s. Like all of us, Barkley was, and still is, saddened at the wholly unexpected passing of Marvelous Marvin, this on Saturday at the young age of just 66. Iran, who recently fought a winning battle with the coronavirus, kindly took time to speak about Hagler with ESB.
Barkley, who often ran into Marvin at The Boxing Hall of Fame, has nothing but respect for Hagler and for his memory.
Q: You were as shocked as we were when you heard about Marvin Hagler’s passing?
Iran Barkley: “Oh yeah, I was real shocked. He was a great man, a great fighter. He was a great warrior.”
Q: How close were you to getting a fight with Hagler? Of course you fought Thomas Hearns twice, and Roberto Duran.
I.B: “I was real close. I was in that league, with Tommy, Duran, and Ray [Leonard]. But it just never happened. Hagler, he was a warrior like myself. He was like me in a way, how we came up; nobody ever gave us nothin.’ It’s crazy how he has died like this. Such a sad end.”
Q: When you were coming up yourself, did you look at Hagler and think that you might fight him one day?
I.B: “Definitely! If you were a middleweight back then, you had to! He was the man. I always thought I might run into him one day. But for whatever reason, that fight never happened. It would have been a great fight.”
Q: Have you a favourite Marvin Hagler fight?
I.B: “I do. The John The Beast Mugabi fight! Lots of people thought Hagler might lose that fight maybe. They were wondering if he was tall enough to beat Mugabi. In that fight, Hagler really showed how strong he was.”
Q: Will you go to Marvin’s funeral?
I.B: “Of course. If I’m invited. I’d love to show my respects. If the service is in Brockton, of course I’ll be there if I’m invited.”
Q: Where would you place Hagler in terms of the all time greatest middleweights?
I.B: “Oh, he’s definitely top-5, probably top-2. I looked up to the heavyweights, guys like Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton. But Hagler, he was a great man, a great warrior. He gave us reasons to do what we did. I looked up to him myself.”
Q: You have been called “The Fifth King,” with Hagler, Leonard, Duran and Hearns being The Four Kings…..
I.B: “(laughs) Yeah, I know. I beat Tommy and I fought Duran. I always wanted to fight Ray and Hagler. But Hagler was a special man, a real fighter. It’s sad what’s happened.”