Throwbacks With Jordan Whitehead: February 24, 1989 – Iran Barkley vs Roberto Duran for the WBC middleweight title.
On February 24, 1989, Iran Barkley was set to make the first defense of the WBC middleweight title against the smaller and older Roberto Duran. Despite the greatness of Duran, many favored the champion for being younger, bigger, stronger and coming off an impressive third round stoppage victory over Hall of Fame inductee Thomas Hearns.
In addition, he was eight years younger than his 37 year-old opponent who just had a grueling ten round split decision win against the decent, but not great Jeff Lanas. Everything seemed to be pointing towards another victory for Barkley. However, the old dog was able to teach the young dog a few tricks!
A Close Fight to the Finish
Initially, the fight mirrored most people’s expectations. Barkley landed his jab at will in addition to landing heavy body shots on a consistent basis. On the flip side, Duran did an excellent job getting inside and backing the champion up with volume. Barkley started to turn up the heat in the seventh as he hurt Duran with a double left hook in the seventh round.
But then…like a true champ, Duran made the adjustment and switched into another gear in the second half. As the champion became a bit complacent, Duran was looking to up the ante. His best punch (the right-hand) had been successful early, however, he established a niche with it. Instead of trying to eat the jab of his opponent in order to gain positioning, he would wait then counter over the jab with the right hand.
The adjustment worked flawlessly as he would hurt Barkley and drop the champion in the eleventh. To viewers, this seemed to be the difference in a very close fight, although, the scorecards did not reflect the level of competitiveness the fight showed.
The man many deem as the greatest lightweight of all time would become a four-time champion in five divisions with a split decision victory. The final scorecards read 116-113 for Barkley and 116-112, 118-112 for Duran!
This bout is not only a true classic but was also an important fight for the career of a fighter many didn’t expect to have much left in the tank. Duran would go on to lose the WBC title to Sugar Ray Leonard in the third fight of their trilogy in his very next bout. Although, he would go on to fight for twelve more years, this would be the last time he held a major title.
He did, however, get the opportunity to fight for the WBA middleweight title at 47 years-old in 1998 against against one of the top fighters in the division, William Joppy. He would be stopped in three rounds.
Barkley would go on to become a three-division champion in which he defeated Hearns a second time at light heavyweight.
Barkley vs Duran was a very exciting fight with a lot of skill involved and without a doubt will be remembered as one of the best middleweight fights in boxing history!
By: Jordan Whitehead