It was 34 years ago today when Iran Barkley won the middleweight title by way of a stunning KO of Thomas Hearns. Barkley, who suffered potentially fight-ending cuts, came roaring back to sensationally KO Hearns in round three. All these years later, and “The Blade” recalls the fight with affection.
Q: The fight with Hearns, the first fight you had with him, it took place so long ago, can you remember who you sparred with to get ready for Hearns?
Iran Barkley: “Yeah, I sparred with my man Dennis Milton, and maybe four other guys.”
Q: Where did you train for that fight, in The Bronx?
I.B: “No, I sparred at The Catskills, then I moved down to Atlantic City.”
Q: Wow, The Catskills – Mike Tyson and Cus D’Amato of course. You never sparred Tyson did you? I know you would fight anyone!
I.B: “(laughs) Yeah, I would. But no, me and Mike are good friends, we never got in the ring together.”
Q: In the Hearns fight, you were cut over both eyes, and badly. Have you ever wondered what might have been had they stopped that fight on cuts?
I.B: “I did, yeah, cos I had two cuts. But I told the ref, ‘ You ain’t gonna stop this fight. Yeah, I’m bleeding, but I’ve got a good cut-man. You gotta give me one more round, and if you do, you’ll see me knock Hearns Out!’ He said okay, he would give me one more round (after looking at Barkley’s cuts at the end of round two) and I knocked him out, like I said I would.”
Q: You were a huge puncher, as well as having plenty of other stuff – like a great chin, awesome stamina, mental toughness. Where were you at your strongest, 160, 168, 175?
I.B: “I was strong in all of them. You know, even at heavyweight. At any weight I fought at, I never lost my strength. I was blessed with strength.”
Q: After you KO’d Hearns, did you think that he would have to retire?
I.B: “Yeah, but I also thought that Bob Arum would make me the next member of “The Four Kings.” You know, the final four. But he didn’t. He lied.”
Q: I know you fought Duran next, in a great fight. If you’d had your pick, would you have picked Sugar Ray Leonard for your first defence?
I.B: “Leonard would never fight me. He was highly scared after I fought Thomas Hearns and he saw what I did. He said, ‘No, I’m not looking for that kind of fight.’ He told me that to my face. I told him, ‘Wow, Ray, I’m not gonna hit you that hard.’ But, yeah, I would have flattened him, but he didn’t want the fight.”
Q: Instead, you got a return with Hearns, at light-heavy. How tough was that fight? He was busted up and did you break a hand in that fight?
I.B: “No, I was fine after that fight. In that rematch, I just wanted to box him. I wanted to show the people that the win wasn’t no fluke or a lucky punch. I just wanted to beat him up, you know, just beat him up bad. But me and Tommy are cool [these days]. We’ve got mutual respect. He gave me a chance, a shot, and I thanked him then and I still do now..”