Barkley – Hearns II – One Of The Most Damaging Fights In Light Heavyweight History

30.11.06 – By James Slater: The second fight between Iran Barkley and Thomas Hearns is almost fifteen years old now. It is a fight I will remember for many more years to come, however. It was an incredibly tough fight and in it both men suffered serious damage. Afterwards neither man was able to fight again for months, and indeed, both should have called it a career. It would have been a respectable and dignified way to go out for both and at the top level also. Yet frighteningly, Hearns fought as recently as February of this year and Barkley has also expressed his desire to box again! The brutal fight that these two greats engaged in may have done even more damage than was first thought. Their bitter struggle to decide the light heavyweight title should have been the last we saw of Tommy and Iran, without a single doubt.

The date of the rematch was set for March 20th 1992 and once again a world title fight would be contested in fabulous Las Vegas. Hearns, who was desperate for revenge for being KO’d by Barkley in three rounds back in 1988, viewed the fight as his chance at what he called “the big payback”.

“No one knocks out Thomas Hearns and gets away with it!” he declared. For Barkley it was another decent well deserved payday and an opportunity to win himself another world title, his third in as many weight classes.

The fight was fierce. At the opening bell Barkley came out fighting like a man possessed. He really was frightening in this bout, he had never quite looked like this before. He was vicious and clearly intent on landing some serious hurt on Hearns. The chilling look on his face was that of a man who seemed prepared to commit murder. I honestly believe that any light heavyweight of recent years, had he chosen to stand and trade with Iran, on this night would have come off second best. He was simply relentless, an unstoppable driving force.

Hearns, for his part, fought in very effective bursts whilst on the ropes, which was the part of the ring he frequented the most on this night. He too was throwing savage blows and he landed flush on Barkley’s chin in the opening round with a big left uppercut. He also landed some very hurtful body shots throughout. Iran took it all though and just kept coming. There wasn’t really a dull round, it was one of the most bitterly contested fights ever to decide the light heavyweight championship.

In the fourth round the possibility of another KO win for Barkley arose. While the two were exchanging shots, with Hearns seemingly getting the better of it for the moment, a long left hand caught Tommy high on the head and sent him to the canvas. He was up quickly and smiling but this was another ominous sign and maybe Hearns knew then that Barkley would have an edge over him once again. Neither man was willing to give an inch though and this wasn’t a fight for the faint hearted to be observing. It was a brutal, gruelling slugfest. At the end both fighters were seriously damaged. Hearns’ nose was broken and had been hammered flat across his face.

Barkley had also been very badly marked up and there were hugely grotesque swellings over both his eyes. Yet at the end they embraced, there was no ill feeling between them, there was only respect. There really was an amazing contrast in the demeanour of Iran Barkley during and after this fight. He was positively terrifying throughout the action yet now was a complete gentleman, listening respectfully to what Hearns had to say while being interviewed.

The scoring for the fight had been desperately close. It was a split decision and it was awarded to Iran. Once again he had beaten the great Thomas Hearns, but this time by the slimmest of margins. In fact, if he hadn’t scored the knockdown in round four Hearns would have been given a draw and retained the title.

Barkley went on to a fight with James Toney down at super middleweight, in which he was badly beaten and Hearns, after a twenty month layoff, came back at cruiserweight. This return led to an awful fight with the Puerto Rican journeyman, Freddie Delgado. A bout in which Hearns, though victorious on points, shipped yet more punishment and was knocked down. At the age of Thirty-five, and after so many wars, not least the one that is the subject of this article, Tommy should have definitely retired for good at this point. The fact that both he and Iran may still be harbouring ideas of engaging in yet more prize fights today is nothing short of crazy!

Clearly, whatever fight was left inside both men was battered into submission back in March of 1992. Retirement and enshrinement in the Hall of Fame should be the only future for these two. Neither great has anything at all left to prove to anyone.