Sitting across from Bruce Trampler in Bob Arum's Las Vegas office was Iran Barkley, the 31-year-old former WBC middleweight champion who'd fallen on hard times. "Can you make 168 pounds for a title fight?" Trampler asked him. "No problem," replied Barkley, a former street fighter from the Bronx.
On June 6, 1988, he had stopped Hearns in the third round to win his first title, the WBC middleweight crown. However, disaster soon followed. First, Barkley had an operation to remove scar tissue over both eyes. In December 1989, he underwent surgery to remove a cataract and repair a retinal tear in his left eye.
Hearns had promised a boxing exhibition, but Barkley's first rush carried the champion back into the ropes.
As the pressure from Barkley cased in the late rounds, Hearns tried to pick up the pace. Barkley left immense openings for Hearns's right hand, but few were thrown. Barkley was concerned about his own left hand. He had injured it in training, and somewhere in the middle of the fight—he broke it.
Hearns threw fewer punches than Barkley, but a higher percentage of Hearns's blows scored. Barkley was the aggressor and got the only knockdown. The judges saw it this way: Chuck Giampa (115-113) and Jerry Roth (114-113) had Barkley winning, while Lou Tabat (114-113) thought Hearns had prevailed. It was Hearns's 4th defeat, and the 1st by decision. All his losses, half of them to Barkley, have come in Las Vegas. As for Barkley, the former $6,000 fighter, Arum said, "His next fight will make him a millionaire." "Yeah, yeah, yeah," said Barkley. "Now let's go party." (SI.com, March 30, 1992)
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