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Franz Lidz
June 20, 1988
With his surprising KO of WBC middleweight champion Thomas Hearns, Iran Barkley is an underdog no more
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June 20, 1988

An Iran You Can Root For

With his surprising KO of WBC middleweight champion Thomas Hearns, Iran Barkley is an underdog no more

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"Thievin'," bragged Iran.

"What you steal?"

"A Mister Softee truck."

When Yvonne tired of beating up Iran's enemies, she took him to a gym so he could learn how to beat them up himself. He became a successful amateur, but decided not to try out for the 1984 Olympic team. "I could have made it," he says. "But I was determined to feed India." Iran is talking about his daughter, now 5, not some altruistic pursuit. He also has a newborn named Brittany. "When we married, I decided all our children would be named after countries," explains his wife, Pam. "I didn't like Borneo or Yugoslavia." Iraq was out, too. " Iran and Iraq would always be al each other's throats," she says.

Barkley could have used some artillery support against Hearns, who was bombing Iran from the opening bell, clubbing his body and cutting up his face. As the second round ended, rills of blood trickled from both eyes and out of Barkley's mouth. His trainer, Al (Potato Pie) Bolden, informed him, "You're bleeding. You've gotta step up the pace."

Hearns resumed the attack in the third, pummeling the challenger with left hooks. Just when it looked as if Barkley couldn't withstand another barrage, his desperation right caught Hearns on the chin and stopped him in his tracks. The champion toppled backward, and Barkley followed with another right that sent him to the floor. Hearns somehow wobbled to his feet at eight, but Barkley landed several more shots, dumping him over the ropes. Referee Richard Steele stopped it at 2:39.

At the postfight press conference Barkley wept for his 32-year-old brother, Alfred, who is dying of bone cancer, and for his close friend Davey Moore, the former WBA junior middleweight champ, who was killed two weeks ago when an unoccupied car rolled over him in his driveway. "I thought about calling off the fight," Barkley says. "But Davey's wife called to tell me he wanted me to win the title and defend it."

That first defense is likely to be an autumn rematch with Hearns—after Barkley has plastic surgery to reduce the scar tissue over his eyes. The new WBC middleweight champion is just as eager to take on Kalambay again, though not in Italy, his adopted homeland. "I'll fight him in Las Vegas or the Bronx," says Barkley, "but I ain't going to Italy."

"Even if we don't go to Italy," says Pam philosophically, "it's not a bad name for our next daughter."

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