The scene: Las Vegas Hilton, Nevada, USA. June 6, 1988.
Iran “The Blade” Barkley, 24-4 (15), a one-time hoodlum from the Bronx, had outswung the Liverpool-born Canadian Michael Olajide to earn a title crack at Hearns. Detroit’s celebrated “Hit Man,” 45-2 (38), had been busy busting heads and collecting title belts since his fall to Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Barkley arrived at the fight in mourning after a freak accident claimed the life of close friend and fellow boxer Davey Moore. Persuaded to seize his chance by Moore’s wife, the baleful underdog began exchanging heavy artillery with Hearns from the opening bell.
As we join the action, Barkley, a notorious bleeder, is cut over his left eye and bleeding from his mouth and has started to go for broke. Showtime’s Steve Albert and Gil Clancy describe the action from ringside alongside ESPN's Al Bernstein.
Albert: And round 3, scheduled for 12. And Barkley comes out… smoking.
Annnd this is Barkley’s brawling style.
Bernstein: He learned this apparently from watching the tapes of Juan Roldan against Hearns. He’s getting very low and getting under the jab and the right hand.
Clancy: Well, it took one big left hook by Roldan – if he would have landed another one it would have been a different result. He had Tommy in real bad trouble.
Albert: Well that whipping left by Hearns just missed Barkley’s head.
Bernstein: Well, Olajide hurt Barkley and put him down with the left hook and…Tommy saw those... that in the films but he has not been able to get his own in as much as he’d like.
Clancy: And the eye is open again. Barkley’s left eye is open. Plenty of time left in the round.
A little low….
Albert: That one straight to the body by Hearns.
Bernstein: Great body shots by Tommy Hearns.
Clancy: Well, that’s the way he was working in the gym Al. Good jab, good jab to set it up – hook to the body. And there it is again.
Albert: Emanuel Steward, within inches to our left, loved it.
Bernstein: Those body shots have hurt Iran Barkley very badly.
Albert: The crowd sensing something. Hearns continues to go to the body with a left uppercut.
Clancy: Barkley’s punches have slowed up a great deal.
Albert: “Keep ‘em downstairs,” the words from the Hearns corner.
This is very much – I think – like what Tommy Hearns did to James Schuler because everything in that fight flowed off the left hook to the body and that’s what’s happening tonight.
Clancy: Oh a right by…
Albert: Oh brother!! A right by Barkley and Hearns is down! A lunging right… and Hearns…
Clancy: He’s not gonna get up Al… if he does it’s a miracle…
Albert: He’s on his knees… he gets up... just before being counted out he gets up. Unbelievable…
Clancy: Seems to me there was a long count… I dunno…
Albert: Can he survive the 3rd round?
Albert: Richard Steele steps in… Hearns goes through the ropes…
Clancy: What a turnaround!!
Albert: It’s over! Iran Barkley has upset Thomas Hearns here in the 3rd round. And he is the new WBC middleweight champion.
Bernstein: After Hearns all but crippled him with left hooks to the body. Iran was leaning practically ready to go down and the right hand did it.
Clancy: And the punch before that Al, the two punches that Iran threw before that -- no snap, no steam -- all of a sudden there it was. Goes to show you in boxing, anything can happen.
Bernstein: And who would think that the right hand would be what Barkley would knock him out with, not even noted as a right hand puncher. Look at that man.
Clancy: Look at the way he’s busted up…
Bernstein: He’s the winner…
Clancy: We had mentioned that if it goes long it’s better for Hearns because he would bust Barkley up. Better for Barkley to get him out early and he did.
Albert: Gil, this place is just stunned.