Iran Barkley The Heavyweight: “They Don’t Even Know That I Went To Heavyweight, But I Do!”

By James Slater - 08/03/2023 - Comments

Bronx warrior and all-round tough guy (he should be in The Hall of Fame, no doubt about it) Iran Barkley had some thrilling ring career, as all fans know. But less known perhaps is Barkley’s wholly unexpected, perhaps even shocking, brief campaign up at heavyweight. Barkley, known all over the world due to his epic battles with Thomas Hearns (X2), Roberto Duran, James Toney, and Nigel Benn (this one-rounder surely one of the most savage, action-packed short fights of them all), did actually manage to win a minor belt at heavyweight.

Kindly taking the time to speak with this writer a while back (Iran being one of the coolest, most down to earth and accessible former world champions out there), Barkley recalled his heavyweight days, these brought on because making even 175 pounds – this after previous world title wins at 160 and 168 – was just too tough on his body.

Q: A lot of fans, they don’t know you fought as a heavyweight, champ?

Iran Barkley: “It was easy for me, because I used to walk around at 225, 226 pounds, this when I’m off [between fights for an amount of time], so I walked around at that kind of weight. I had to lose all that weight to become a middleweight, later a super-middleweight and then a light heavyweight. And I paid the price, because I needed time to take the weight off. I would always make my weight three or four days before the fight. I went up and down. But it was getting hard for me, and I said I was just gonna fight at light heavyweight or whatever.”

Q: And you fought Gerrie Coetzee at heavyweight, with you stopping him to win a belt with the win (the WBB heavyweight strap). What are your memories of that fight, from 1997?

I.B: “He was another one (laughs). But no, they [the majority of fans] don’t even know that I went to heavyweight. But I do (laughs). I tell them, you have to read my history. I fought in all types of weights to get to where I wanted to go. I skipped cruiserweight, and I went right to heavyweight.”

Q: You also fought Trevor Berbick, in 1999, with a decision going his way…

I.B: “Yeah, he fought a lot of big names. Berbick was a fight, I remember it was a good fight.”

Q: You fought two former heavyweight champions!

I.B: “Yeah, I did. I read about how Berbick died, with his nephew killing him. I saw it on the news and I said, ‘damn, Trevor Berbick.’ That was a damn shame. It was crazy.”

Q: You are 6’1” so you were always a big guy for middleweight and super-middleweight. Canelo was talking a while back about maybe going up to fight Oleksandr Usyk, maybe even at heavyweight…..

I.B: “That’s one guy I’d really have loved to have fought, Canelo. A fight between me and that great champion….. I know I would have got that fight, too [if Canelo was fighting when I was], because [Jose] Sulaiman would have made that fight, he’d have matched us up real good (smiles). I think the heaviest Canelo could really go is around 195 pounds.”

Q: Are you still working on your autobiography?

I.B: “Yeah, I’m still working on it, and waiting for someone to pick it up [publish it].”

Q: Your fight with Duran is of course so special. Were you shocked when you hit Duran with all those hard shots and he never went down?

I.B: “Well, Duran used to be evil, but I humbled him. We’re good friends today. That one should have gone my way, but it was another split decision loss for me.”

Q: Are you interested in boxing an exhibition, they are so popular right now?

I.B: “Yeah, I’d be up for it. All they gotta do is call me up. The shit would fly (laughs). It’s up to those guys, Roy Jones, if he wants to do one with me. I’d do it, just call me out. They don’t seem to want to call me, maybe they think I’m too dangerous? These guys today, they get to fight whoever they want to fight. If they wanna box exhibitions, that’s cool with me, but don’t call it real.”

Q: What about you and Tommy Hearns boxing an exhibition!

I.B: “All you gotta do is tell him, ask him why he doesn’t do it! Yeah, we could do that. The fans, they remember [our era]. Hagler’s gone, and Sugar Ray, Tommy and Duran are still here, and I’m next in line.”