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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One Title Lost, Two Found For Down But Not Out Boxer

By David Greene

Like the roller-coaster life he has lived until now, former middleweight boxing champion Iran "The Blade" Barkley, who recently regained one lost title belt, has now learned he will be getting a second belt--19 years after defeating Thomas "The Hit-Man" Hearns.

Barkley, 50, lost his first belt, the WBC Middleweight Championship belt he'd won from Hearns with Ring Magazine's "Upset of The Year" performance in 1988, back in October when a relative changed the locks to the family home at the Patterson Houses on Third Avenue.

The fighter would get a box of his possessions, minus the coveted belt. Barkley recalled, "I had it where I kept it." He reported the theft of the missing belt on October 28, and the NYPD released a photo of the belt to media outlets on December 8.

Barkley's Middleweight belt was recovered recently after it was
 sold to a sports memorabilia dealer. (Photo by David Greene)
Days later, a sports memorabilia dealer would contact Barkley and return the belt, Barkley recalled, "He didn't want no part of this and gave me back my property." Barkley thanked the man as well as the detectives at the 41st Precinct. Barkley declined to give the seller's name, in hopes of saving what family ties remain.

Barkley now says, "I don't have anything to say, it's a new year now and I'm just going to go on with my life, and I'm going to look forward to something new and better."

"Winning the belt was a great feeling," Barkley says of his first title, now holding his prized green belt with both hands, with Hearns' name written on it in magic marker. He continued, "Knowing that there was a lot of people, believing that I couldn't do it."

Now back in his arms, Barkley says, "It a great thing to get it back, to let the people know I got it back, and that certain people thought I sold it..."

Having his furniture thrown out in the street and forced to ride the # 6 Train, until he took a handout from friends and getting a temporary room at the Howard Johnson's on Boston Road, was noting compared with the loss of the belt.

"I just said wow, it was like the only thing I had left," he said.

Although it's been reported that Barkley earned $5 million in the ring, the fighter believes he only saw about $3 million-- which he admits he squandered on a lavish lifestyle. The most he'd earned for a single fight was $1 million for his bout with James Toney.

The champ from Morris High School now boasts that he thinks he could have earned $5 million for a match with "Sugar" Ray Leonard, but says proudly, "No, he didn't want to fight me after seeing what I did to Tommy twice, he told me he'd never fight me."

Asked about the second world title he won from Hearns, the World Boxing Association (WBA) Light Heavyweight Title, which he captured along with Ring Magazine's "Comeback of The Year," in 1992, Barkley say's, "I had to deal with people who said it was a lucky punch the first time."

Barkley continued, "The second time, when I beat [Hearns] up for twelve-rounds and won a decision, because he never lost a decision, everybody just said, 'Oh, he's getting old.'"

"The Blade," a nickname he first took during his days in a South Bronx street-gang, that would carry over into his boxing career, claimed his second world title belt, "was never given to me," as he was rushed from the ring to a local hospital in Las Vegas.

Barkley recalled, "I don't know who took the belt that night... No, I haven't contacted [the WBA]...I know I paid the sanctioning fee for that fight, so I should be able to get it."

Now nearly 19 years after winning that title, Gilberto Jesus Mendoza of the WBA has agreed to ship out a new belt to Barkley, whom he called a "great warrior."

Barkley was told of the WBA's decision and almost not believing it, replied, "Oh yeah? They're going to get me a new WBA belt? Yeah, that would be cool. I'm so glad, it took long enough. I didn't know who to reach out to, but I'm very glad. Thank them for me will you?"

Despite having watched some of his fights on, "You Tube," during the rare chance a friend guides him through the Internet, Barkley is oblivious to the change in his speech and mannerisms. The fighter was clearly not the most educated when he appeared with Hearns on the "Arsenio Hall" show, but one now only sees a glimpse of that man today.

He swears he's never polluted his body with drugs or even tobacco, like so many youngsters at the Patterson Houses or around his new home at a half-way house in the Hunts Point section. It was most likely his three straight losses to Roberto Duran, Michael Nunn and Nigel Benn in 1989 and 1990, or maybe the fact that he kept fighting another nine years.

Barkley is currently considering some job offers made to him after the publicity of the stolen belt.

Calling the belts, "My legacy," Barkley says they are for his three daughters: India, 26, Brittney, 23, and Mia, 20, "To have when I leave off of this earth, then they can do whatever they want."


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