Darrin “Schoolboy” Van Horn won the IBF Super Welterweight and Super Middleweight Titles!
By: Ken Hissner
It was less than a week before Darrin “Schoolboy” Van Horn turned sixteen that the future IBF Super middleweight champion turned professional on September 02, 1984. He was 45-5 in the amateurs and he had a pair of goals graduating from the University of Kentucky and become a world boxing champion. He was able to achieve both goals. He was born in Morgan City, LA, and eventually took residence in Lexington, KY, where he attended and graduated from the University of Kentucky.
Van Horn’s fifth and eighth fights were in his hometown of Morgan City. In 1985 he added another 15 wins to the 5 he already had. It was his twenty-second bout that he faced his first test in stopping Norberto Sabater, 23-7, putting him into retirement. Between his next 3 fights he made his first appearance in Lexington. In his last fight in Louisiana he knocked out Keheven, 6-3-1, in 8 rounds at the New Orleans Superdome.
Van Horn was 28-0 when he took on the dangerous Elio Diaz, 33-2, 29 by knockout out of VZ, whose only two losses were back to back. First to WBA & IBF champion Donald Curry, 18-0 and next to Michael Olagide, 14-0. At that time Van Horn was fighting at 154 and defeated his opponent at the Rupp Arena, in Lexington in April of 1987. In his very next fight he defeated the former NABF champion Luis Santana, 30-5-1, who would go on to be a future WBC super welterweight champion.
After another pair of wins Van Horn made his debut in Atlantic City in back to back fights defeating Juan Alonso Villa, 19-7 and Joe Summers, 7-1. He would return to Lexington in his next fight stopping John Munduga, 25-1, of Uganda. Van Horn was then 38-0 at age 20 when he got a title fight defeating Philadelphia southpaw Rob “Bam Bam” Hines, 24-1-1, who had defeated Matthew Hilton in his previous fight for the IBF World super welterweight title at the Trump Castle in Atlantic City. Hedgeman Lewis helped in the corner for that fight and two others. “He was clever, crafty and he was good,” said Hines.
In Van Horn’s first defense he took on former WBC super welterweight champion Gianfranco Rosi, 45-3, of Italy. The fight again was at the Trump Castle in Atlantic City, snapping Van Horn’s 39 fight win streak over 12 rounds.
Van Horn would win his next 5 fights boosting his record to 44-1 when he traveled to Lazio, Italy for the rematch with Rosi almost one year to the day. Van Horn had Rosi down but lost the decision. This writer had it 9-3 in rounds for Van Horn. Van Horn would move up to middleweight the end of 1990 defeating Randy Williams, 12-1, in Lexington.
In May of 1991 at the age of 22 Van Horn would again become a world champion knocking out IBF super middleweight champion Lindell Holmes, 44-5, with a body shot in Piemonte, Italy, in the eleventh round. All scorecards were 96-94 with Van Horn winning on two of them and Holmes on the other. In his first defense he scored a third round knockout over the No. 1 contender John Jarvis, 24-2, in Irvine, CA.
In Van Horn’s second defense he met the former WBC middleweight champion Iran “The Blade” Barkley, 27-7, in Barkley’s home state of New York. In the second round Van Horn threw a right but Barkley’s left hook to the chin got there first knocking Van Horn down. Referee Arthur Mercante, Jr., called a second knockdown when Van Horn per Barkley was hit with a left hook to the chest which was hard to see on film but he was thrown to the canvas without a punch landed for the second knockdown. Barkley than hit Van Horn behind the head with a right and on the side of the head with a left hook for the third knockdown forcing Mercante to wave the fight off. Mercante did a poor job allowing Barkley to hold the back of the head from behind and hit Van Horn on several occasions. “It was a fight I should not have taken because I fractured my right hand in training,” said Van Horn. In Barkley’s next fight he moved up to light heavyweight defeating Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, for his WBA title.
Pertaining to the Van Horn and Barkley fight Barkley had this to say his father was got under my skin making it like I was nothing at the weigh-in. I told Darrin to blame your father for the punches I hit you with. I only wish it was your father in there,” said Barkley.
It would be 5 months later Van Horn fought in 5 different states defeating all his opponents including Nicky Walker, 40-11-2, in Pensacola, FL, and then win a pair of bouts some 25 days apart, the second one stopping Bill Bradley, 23-9, in the second round in Bismarck, ND. Within a month he would defeat Rollin Williams, 22-15-1, in Boise, ID, and several months later defeat Ricky Thomas 11-6-1, at the Foxwoods resort, in Mashantucket, CT. Van Horn was 24 and had a 52-3, record with 28 by stoppage. It looked like his last fight but he came back come 20 months later in Harlingen, TX, stopping Willie Ball, 16-8-2, in the second round.
It would be the last fight for this 2-division world champion who turned professional at 16 and retired at 25. He won fights in France and Monaco between the Rosi fights. It was some accomplishment in 9 years of fighting graduating from the University of Kentucky and winning a world title. He went on to serve as a state trooper from 1998 to 2003 in Pikesville. He now serves as a trainer.
KEN HISSNER: Darrin was it your decision or you fathers who trained you to turn professional at 16?
DARRIN VAN HORN: My dad. I didn’t want to turn pro at 16.
KEN HISSNER: You won the IBF World Super welterweight title from a friend of mine Philly’s Rob “Bam Bam”
Hines at the age of 20 improving to 39-0. Did you almost feel you had the world where you wanted at that age?
DARRIN VAN HORN: I didn’t realize that at age 20. After winning a title maybe people would think “he can fight a little”. Hines was a very good and tough fighter.
KEN HISSNER: In your first defense a tough assignment was given to you losing to the former champion Gianfranco Rosi, 45-3 in Atlantic City. Who was your promoter at the time?
DARRIN VAN HORN: Cedric Kushner. I got hit and knocked down in the first round by the first punch and didn’t remember anything until about 4 hours later.
KEN HISSNER: A year after losing the title to Rosi you have to go to Italy for the rematch. I thought you won the fight easily 9-3 in rounds. How did you see it?
DARRIN VAN HORN: I wasn’t sure at the end if I won or not. I was weak after 6 rounds. I had been walking around at 175 when I got the rematch a year later.
KEN HISSNER: In your next fight you moved up to middleweight and then super middleweight in the next fight winning the IBF World super middleweight title from Lindell Holmes, 44-5, in Italy. Going into the eleventh round with a wicked body shot stopping him. You were behind on two of the three scorecards at the time. Did you think it was that close?
DARRIN VAN HORN: I thought I was way ahead when I stopped him with a body shot. I couldn’t believe the scores afterwards.
KEN HISSNER: After your title defense you take on Iran Barkley the former WBC middleweight champion. It was a foul filled bout with you getting knocked down and fouled twice hitting the canvas on both occasions with referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. calling a halt. How did you see this fight?
DARRIN VAN HORN: The fight should never have happened. I had an injured right hand 6 weeks before the fight but still wanted to fight. By fight night I thought I could go ahead and fight but obviously that was the wrong decision. Having a hurt hand coupled by being in the hospital getting x-ray’s until 4 in the morning the night before the fight wasn’t the smartest decision either. Barkley came to fight and did what he said he was going to do. Would things have changed if I not had a messed up hand, I don’t know. I agreed to fight and that’s that. My legs were tired from being up all night and the fight was called off because of my hand. I went to sleep and when I woke up the fight was on and my dad said you can’t pull out now because there is too much money on the line. Barkley went in there and did what he said he was going to do.
KEN HISSNER: After your defeat by Barkley who moved up in his next fight to defeat Hearns for his light heavyweight title you won your next 5 fights. It was December of 1992. Did you think you would stay retired?
DARRIN VAN HORN: No.
KEN HISSNER: When did you graduate from the University of Kentucky?
DARRIN VAN HORN: 1992
KEN HISSNER: What meant more graduating from a major school or being a world boxing champion?
DARRIN VAN HORN: Both meant a lot graduating from a major school and being a two-time world champion.
KEN HISSNER: I have to ask you something and you do not have to answer it. I watched on ESPN you fighting and between rounds your father slapped you in the face. When he came down the steps a well know trainer and former boxer yelled at him for doing that. Your father jumped from the steps to in front of the trainer. The trainer immediately dropped him with a picture left hook. How abusive was your father to you?
DARRIN VAN HORN: I didn’t see that happen but he regularly slapped me and yelled at me. Once in the gym he got so made he threw a glass Mountain Dew at my head which I avoided being hit. In the gyms some said it was child abuse as I grew up with it.
KEN HISSNER: I have tried tracking you down and finally did. I want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. You are a breath of fresh air being as honest as you have been. It breaks my heart what you had to go through with your father.
DARRIN VAN HORN: It’s been nice talking to you and look forward to the article appearing on the web.