On This Day: When The Great Roberto Duran Defeated Iran Barkley And Gave Us His Final Classic

Roberto Duran gave us, and the sport he added so much to, a vast number of great fights. “Hands Of Stone” thrilled, caused controversy, and quite literally terrified his opponents when he boxed as a lightweight (with many historians saying Duran deserves to be ranked as the greatest 135 pounders ever); while the Panamanian legend also ruled supreme at welterweight, light-middleweight and middleweight.

Duran’s long list of greatest fights can really take some reading, and compiling – but Roberto’s battles with Ken Buchanan, Esteban de Jesus, Ray Lampkin, Carlos Palomino, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Davey Moore, and Pipino Cuevas all have to be featured when putting down a Duran Greatest Hits list.

But for some fans, quite a few, in fact, Duran’s most special fight, his finest hour, came on this day in 1989. It was on a snowy day in Atlantic City when a 37-year-old Duran met the far bigger, far younger, far harder punching Iran Barkley. Even Duran’s most passionate and supportive fans feared for his chances, for Duran’s health ahead of this fight.

But Duran, a true modern-day master, put it all together one last time, his many skills aligned in beautiful harmony as he rolled back the clock to take the WBC middleweight crown.

Duran was magnificent against “The Blade;” his stamina truly something to marvel over, with Duran’s inside fighting a joy to witness. Duran also displayed an amazing chin, this serving him when his uncanny defensive abilities failed him.

Iran Barkley, Roberto Duran boxing image / photo

It takes two to make a great fight of course, and Barkley too was special on this night. The fight had it all: switching momentums, some genuinely fierce trading, a late-round knockdown, and then the tension of the official score-cards being read out by MC Michael Buffer who was forced to work without the aid of a microphone – all of it soaked up by a fairly small, totally frenzied crowd of fans who were crammed into an intimate venue.

The 1980s gave us some unforgettable middleweight battles – Hagler-Hearns being the most celebrated – but Duran and Barkley might just have given us the best fight of the decade, regardless of weight division.

On February 24, 1989, Duran gave us his final masterpiece. Perhaps his finest.