"RETURN OF THE BLADE" IRAN BARKLEY 5X WORLD BOXING CHAMPION
I choose this assignment based on the subject of photographing a man who held what is acknowledged as the single most prestigious title in the world of sports. To understand what Iran accomplished we must utilize mathematics. In 1988 the world population was about 5.104 billion. Iran was the #1 fighter on the planet not once but five times. He had succeeded where many had failed. You must also consider this. Boxing unlike other sports requires that you physically knock-out your opponent till he is unconscious for at least 10 seconds. There are no helmets, shoulder pads, or safety belts involved. This is a game of chess performed with fists. No kicking allowed. No wrestling. No biting permitted. Boxing is an American sport.
On the topic of the photo session I thought it would be a good idea to shoot Iran at his training camp in New York. Coincidentally it was located a short distance from CPI (Canoe Place Inn). This was the original location where John L. Sullivan trained to fight Gentleman Jim Corbett in 1892. Though Sullivan is considered the 1st Official Heavyweight Champion of the World he had once refused to fight Peter "Black Prince" Jackson because he was black. However Jim Corbett did fight Jackson as well as defeat Sullivan. Sadly enough CPI is scheduled to be demolished for condos.
I had a duel photo session scheduled that weekend to include Arizona models Tina & Amy whom I actually ended up incorporating into some of the shots as "The Ring Card Girls". Iran spoke of his Silver Medal in the NY Golden Gloves, Gold Medal in the Empire State Games, Bronze Medal in the Copenhagen Box Cup, and Bronze Medal in the World Games in Munich. There was even a Mickey Rourke movie called "Homeboy" were Iran had a part. We had discussed some of his previous fights to include Roberto Duran, Michael Nunn, Trevor Berbick, Gerrie Coetzee as well as the untimely death of his friend & boxer Davey Moore.
At one point we even discussed the recent death of Eddie Crook Jr. Eddie had been on the 1960 Olympic boxing team along with Cassius Clay earning a gold medal and unlike Muhammad Ali served two tours in Vietnam with the US Army earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts with the rank of command sergeant major.
The one fight I recall is when Iran fought this terrifying Mexican fighting machine. Iran Barkley never had it easy. All his fights were tough and he never got the recognition he deserved.
Getting to know Iran through the photo sessions I found him to be a humble person. A man who loved his family. He neither drank nor smoked.
As we were nearing the end of the photo session a pick-up truck slowly drove by and two white males verbally confronted Iran Barkley. They unfortunately didn't get out of their vehicle and chose to continue driving. I told Iran that I was disgusted by their behavior. Iran just shrugged his shoulders and said "It happens all the time." Not much has changed since 1892 unfortunately Jack Johnson would be the next to burden the onslaught of the Juggernaut.
This summer I met with Iran for a fund raiser at the VFW (Veteran's of Foreign Wars) located in East Quoque New York. I usually don't attend celebrity events unless it's for a good cause. This one was for Disabled Veterans of the Iraq/Afghan Wars.
It was like a reunion of New York's greatest fighters. There was Gentleman Gerry Cooney, Carl "The Truth" Williams, and Mitch "Blood" Green. There was even Jimmy O'Pharrow, good olde Jimmy O, the Founder & President of Starrett City Boxing Club. I didn't bring my camera that day. I didn't need it. I'll bring it next time when Iran Barkley steps into the ring again. His next opponent will be the toughest one yet. It Is Called TIME...