It didn’t last long, but nearly 30 years ago on Sunday, England’s Nigel Benn kayoed Iran Barkley in Las Vegas in a wild one and only round to defend his WBO Middleweight Title.
First to set the stage, Benn rose to prominence as one of the premier boxers in the U.K. in the late 1980s amassing a 25-1 record. That’s when he fought WBO champ Doug DeWitt in Atlantic City in April 1990 and stopped him in the eighth round to capture the title.
Barkley was the waiting WBO number one contender and Benn quickly signed on for a title defense just three months after the DeWitt fight in Las Vegas. And, on August 18th, 1990, it was televised nationally in the United States live on ABC’s legendary Saturday afternoon, “Wide World of Sports.”
It was apparent from the jump that Benn was ready to send Barkley a message by hammering him with a right hand, basically on the first punch of the fight. That shook Barkley and later led to a knock down along the ropes in the first 30 seconds.
The aggressive Benn continued to press the issue backing Barkley up and even staggering him, again, with another right hand. However, showing the heart of the champion that he had been, Barkley responded with a huge left hook that staggered Benn back along the ropes.
Benn was stunned for more than 30 seconds, but later recovered. Then, late in the round, he scored another knock down after a series of hard right hands that eventually sent Barkley to mat, again. He rose wearily from the second knockdown and legendary referee Carlos Padilla allowed the fight to continue.
Benn moved in and in the final seconds of the opening stanza, scored another knock down. After some brief, momentary confusion, Padilla waved the fight off citing the WBO “three knockdown rule” in a single round being an effect. Jubilation ensued for Benn and his corner/entourage.
Soon after, the major world boxing organizations did away with that “mandatory three knockdown rule” stopping a fight, pointing to the Benn-Barkley fight, as an example.
Benn would lose his title to fellow countrymen Chris Eubank in a wild fight just three months later in November in Birmingham, England. Eubank stopped Benn in the ninth round to take away his title.
Undaunted, Benn then rattled off six consecutive victories and beat Italian Mauro Galvano for the WBC Super Middleweight Championship in October of 1992. Benn would go on to defend that title 10 times successfully over the next three years.
Then, he eventually lost to South African Thulani Malinga in March of 1996 in a controversial split decision. He then lost his final two fights of his career being stopped both times by Irish Stevie Collins in July and November of 1996, retiring with a 42 – 5- 1 record.
We previously wrote about Berkeley having defeated Thomas Hearns by third round TKO in June of 1988. When Barkley lost to Benn, it was part of a three-fight losing streak to Roberto Duran and Michael Nunn, previously.
However, he later put a succession of wins together, including beating Hearns, again by decision in a rematch before a string of losses in the late 1990s ended his career at 43 wins 19 defeats with one draw.
While it did not quite rise to the level of historical impact at the first round of Hearns and Marvin Hagler in 1985, it still was a wild one, 29 years ago when Nigel Benn stopped Iran Barkley.