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Forgotten Champions: Leeonzer Barber


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Another Kronk-product, Leeonzer Barber was a very big light heavyweight at 6'3 and also muscular, who possessed the necessary tools to be successful at world stage, at least for a while. He won the WBO title in 1991 and held it for 3 years, making 4 defenses. After losing it to Dariusz Michalczewski in 1994, he retired but briefly came back 4 years later. However, his comeback was unsuccessful and he ended up retiring after getting stopped for the first and only time against Ramon Garbey, fighting as a cruiserweight. Here is a little bit about the guy.

 

Born February 18 1966 in Detroit, Barber turned pro at the end of 1986, December 10 and won his first fight by KO1. He lost the third one on points in 4 rounds to James Flowers and then went on an unbeaten run for the next 5 years. On December 15 1990, he scored his first notable victory by stopping former world-title challenger Jim McDonald by TKO3. In his next fight, he won the minor WBC Continental Americas title by TKO2 against Robert Johnson. He was then given a crack at the vacant WBO title, which Michael Moorer had vacated. The fight was held in Leeds, Yorkshire and his opponent was the local fighter Tom Collins, a hard hitter but a very erratic fighter. The date was May 9 1991 when Barber became the WBO champion by making Collins quit on his stool after 5 rounds of battering. After having two non-title fights just above 175, Leeonzer made his first defense against Anthony Hembrick at The Palace in Auburn Hills, USA, on January 7 '92 and won by a split decision this time. Hembrick would go on to fight Henry Maske later on. In 1993, Barber made two defenses, against Mike Sedillo in China and Andrea Magi in Italy, winning both by UD. He then went to Cardiff in Wales for his fourth defense, which happened January 29 '94. His opponent was the equally tall but less bulky Nicky Piper, a quality fighter who perhaps hadn't been managed right up until then. It was a hard fight for Barber and his right eye was badly swollen up going into round 9, as he was repeatedly tagged by the long-armed Welsh challenger. And then, midway thru, Barber landed a great left hook that caught Piper flush on the chin and put him down. He made the count but was then put down by a follow up two-punch combination and as he stumbled to his feet, the referee waved it off. It was Barber's best victory and would remain that, as Piper had only 2 losses previously, to Nigel Benn and Carl Thompson.

 

His championship reign came to an end on September 10 that year, fighting against a young Pole called Dariusz Michalczewski, in Hamburg, Germany. Michalzewski was based there, so it was like fighting at home for him. After the fight went the distance, the scorecards were all in favor of the challenger, 117-109 and 116-111 twice. It seems like making the weight had become a problem for a guy of Barber's size. Not just that, he was also accused of being difficult to work with and had several different managers in the course of his career. Due to managerial issues, he was absent from the ring for 3 years after losing his title, before coming back in April 1998 as a cruiser and beating Sajad Abdul Aziz on points in 8 rounds. He then scored his last knockout and victory in general against Earl Niles, a KO2, 4 months later. On January 9 next year, he fought Ramon Garbey in Las Vegas and was stopped by TKO9 by the hard-punching Cuban. He then retired before coming back once more, on January 30 2004 and again fighting Sajad Abdul Aziz, however this time, the 38-yearold Barber dropped a split 8-round decision to the man he had once defeated. His record is 21 wins, 13 by ko and 4 losses, 1 by ko. Long after retirement, Barber became a subject of tabloids after he sued a porn site for illegally using his name to get more buzz. It is uknown wether his lawsuit was successful.

 

I chose to include him in this thread series because he REALLY can be called forgotten; there is little info available on him online, even though there are a few fights of his (title fights) available on YouTube and such sites. Leeonzer Barber was a tough cookie without a doubt, who was a hard opponent for any light heavy of his time. Physically strong, long-armed and tall for the division, he also hit hard and could take a good punch. He was also historically relevant, being the second WBO light heavy champion in history and one of only two men to hold that title in the 90's. Thank you.

 

Leeonzer.jpg

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