“IT was my night that night. My attitude was, just get rid of him.” Iran Barkley on his 1992 win over Darrin Van Horn.
On this day, 23-years ago, Bronx warrior Iran “The Blade” Barkley looked very sharp indeed in relieving Darrin Van Horn of the IBF super-middleweight title he was attempting to defend at The Paramount Theatre in New York. Barkley, the former middleweight champ, smashed Van Horn inside two electrifying rounds.
Some facts about the fight:
31-year-old Barkley, who has shocked the great Thomas Hearns for his biggest win almost four years earlier, entered the ring with a 27-7 record. Van Horn, much younger and fresher at age 23, had nevertheless engaged in significantly more fights than his challenger and was sporting a 47-2 ledger.
Barkley was seen by many as damaged goods, having been stopped inside a single round by Britain’s Nigel Benn just seventeen months ago. Barkley had suffered a detached retina during his brutal career and he had undergone surgery before the fight with WBO middleweight boss Benn. Having won just two bouts against so-so opposition since, many experts felt Barkley was ready to be taken again and would become a nice name on Van Horn’s record. Van Horn was already a two-time IBF champion, having beaten Robert Hines and then Lindell Holme and he was seen by some as a future superstar.
Instead, at the first ever fight at The Paramount – which used to be The Felt Forum – Barkley got right on Van Horn’s chest and pounded away. A big left to the head wobbled the defending champion with just seconds gone and the one-way traffic continued unabated for the full three minutes. Van Horn, who had never previously been stopped, was punished by more left hooks in the second round, going down three times in all. Having previously lost only to Gianfranco Rosi (on points twice) “Schoolboy,” as the man from Lexington was known, quite literally did not know what had hit him.
Barkley had resurrected his career and in the post-fight interview he wasted no time attempting to set up his next big pay day. “Tommy, I want you, I want you!” he bellowed into the camera, referring of course to Tommy Hearns. “I’ll go up there or you come down and try my title,” Barkley shouted. Hearns had just rejuvenated his own career by shocking Virgil Hill for the WBA light-heavyweight title and Barkley-Hearns II would take place that March. As for Van Horn, he said post-fight how he had been clear-headed at the time of the knockdowns, yet he had simply had “no legs.”
In the Sky Sports studios that night, Nigel Benn was impressed by Barkley and at the same time bemused by Van Horn’s corner, “I don’t know what they were teaching him,” Nigel said of the loser’s team. Benn also said he felt that he and his former victim would meet again and that “it would just be a war.” Perhaps unfortunately, Benn and Barkley would not engage in a rematch.
Instead, Barkley bulked up to light-heavyweight and proved his 1988 win over Hearns was no fluke. Dropping “The Hitman” in the early going and winning a savage fight by close 12-round decision in March, Barkley was now a three-time champion at three different weights. The second Hearns win was his last great showing however, and shortly afterwards an unshakable downward spiral began.
As for Van Horn, he was never the same after the loss to Barkley and he never again fought a major name. Winning five on the spin after the Barkley disaster, Van Horn then boxed once more in the summer of 1994 before walking away. There had been talk around this time of Van Horn fighting Benn, but the man who once posed proudly on the Ring magazine cover under the headline “Million dollar baby,” failed a brain scan and had to retire. His final ring record reads 53-3(29). Barkley was the sole fighter to stop him.
Barkley soldiered on until 1999, often facing no-names for small pay cheques. His final record reads 43-19-1(27).