By TED SARES
The headline read: "Darrin Van Horn, a sophomore at the University of Kentucky, won his 32d bout without defeat last night when he knocked out Norberto Bueno at 1:26 of the third round of a scheduled 10-round junior middleweight bout at the Felt Forum." I remember noting this in some magazine back in 1986 and was amazed at this young fighter's record. He would go on to win 7 more fights and amass a 39-0 record (23 ko's) before losing a UD to tough Gianfranco Rosi (48-2 coming in). But previously, he had whipped Robert Hines (24-1-1 at the time) for the IBF Light Middleweight Title, the first of two world belts he would garner.
He then ran off 5 consecutive wins before again losing to Rossi by UD, this time on July 21, 1990 at the Palazzo del Ghiaccio, Marino, Italy. But he put up a better effort, and Rosi was a legitimate champion; he was very strong, always in shape, unorthodox and had decent speed. Then on May 18, 1991, at the Pallazzo dello Sport, Verbania, Italy he beat Lindell Holmes, 44-5 coming in, by 11th round knock out to win the IBF Super Middleweight Title, his second world title. After defending it successfully by knocking out John Jarvis (25-2 at the time), he positioned himself for his fateful meeting with the "Blade," and I don't mean someone in a dark alley. A fight was set for January 10, 1992 with none other than Iran "The Blade" Barkley, 27-7 coming in, at the Paramount Theatre in New York City...Barkley's home turf.
Whether a case of no due diligence or simply underestimating the opponent, Barkley, the underdog coming in, should not have been taken lightly. He was definitely one to be weary of given his past performances. Still, probably thinking the Blade simply would be another, albeit bigger name notch on his belt, not to mention an easy payday, Van Horn unwisely offered him a shot at his title....an unexpected opportunity for a guy who would go on to finish as a five time world champion and who made his bones with a third round knockout win over Thomas Hearns in1988. However, in 1989, he had lost a SD and MD to Roberto Duran (fight of the year) and Michael Nunn, respectivly. And his disastrous encounter with Nigel Benn, where he suffered a brutal first round ko, must of have emboldened the Van Horn camp to think the Bronx fighter was ripe for the picking.
As for the fight, it was an anti-climatic no contest, as Iran savaged "The Schoolboy" and dispatched him decisively in two short rounds blasting him from pillar to post. Van Horn came in with no game plan and clearly was in the wrong place at the wrong time. You could see the confusion on his face as he entered the ring to loud boing. He was in the Blade's house now and would be lucky to get out alive.
Incredibly, Barkley, who had been destroyed in his fight with Nigel Benn and recovering from retina surgery, had captured another world title. His wins over Van Horn and then Thomas Hearns for a second time earned Iran titles at super middle and light heavyweight, respectively, and gave him comeback fighter of the year award for 1992 in Ring magazine.
He would go on to finish with a record of 43 -19 -1 with (28 ko's) and a so-so undefeated percentage of 70%....which is one of many indices I use when evaluating a fighter who has fought a minimum of 40 bouts. The formula is as follows:
X = total number of fights
Y = total number of fights minus total number of defeats
Z (or undefeated percentage) is determined by dividing y by x.
Thus, z = y divided by x
After six wins over minimal competition, the Schoolboy retired in 1994 with a record of 53- 3- 0. During his career, he fought such opponents as Lindell Holmes (whom he beat for for the IBF Light Middleweight Title), Gianfranco Rosi (twice), Nicky Walker, Robert Hines (whom he defeated for IBF Light Middleweight Title), Luis Santana, Elio Diaz, Norberto Sabater(twice), and, of course, Iran Barkley. He would book-end his career with two 2-round stoppage wins.
His undefeated percentage was an extremely impressive 89%, but clearly Barkley's level of opposition was far superior. Names like Olajide, Hearns (twice), Duran, Nunn, Kinchen, Kalambay Scypion, Robbie Sims, Sabater, Tinley, were pre-Van Horn opponents, while name like Maske, Gannon, Robert Folley, Toney and Adolpho Washington and even Gerrie Coetzee would dot his resume later.
But enough about percentages and opponents. What you had here was a simple case of a tough, albeit naive school boy from Kentucky meeting a much tougher and street smart city boy from the Bronx who sensed an opportunity and jumped on it. When the Schoolboy met up with the Blade, it was no contest!
"If you think Barkley was mad before the fight, wait until he sees how many people are taking part of his purse." Bob Arum, after his fighter, Iran Barkley, beat Darrin Van Horn