LIVORNO, Italy — Sumbu Kalambay, a naturalized Italian, saved strength for the late rounds and won the vacant World Boxing Assn. middleweight title Friday night with a 15-round unanimous decision over Iran Barkley.
Judges scored the fight 147-140, 147-140 and 147-142, giving Kalambay the title left vacant when Sugar Ray Leonard retired.
Kalambay, 159, improved to 43-3-1. Barkley, 153, of New York, spent much of the day attempting to add weight. He is 22-4.
Kalambay, 31, used a conservative style, and Barkley, 27, landed several damaging lefts. By the 11th round, Barkley showed signs of fatigue, and Kalambay scored with punishing rights.
The American looked stunned toward the end of the 12th, and the ring doctor checked his left eyebrow, prone to bleeding in past bouts.
Kalambay, who became an Italian citizen in 1985, said Barkley gave him trouble but could not force him from his plan.
"I knew what a rough bout this would be," Kalambay said. "In the eighth, I went to the attack, but calmly. He hurt me a few times with his left."
Barkley earned a reported $135,000, Kalambay $65,000.
"I'll be back," Barkley said. "I got beat by a better fighter but I gave it my best shot. I'm not ashamed of my showing out there. I respect the new champion, but I'm proud of the way I fought."
Watching from ringside as a television commentator was Marvelous Marvin Hagler, who lost the title to Leonard last April in a split decision at Las Vegas.
Thomas Hearns of Detroit is scheduled to fight Argentine Juan Roldan for the World Boxing Council middleweight crown at Las Vegas Thursday night. Frank Tate holds the International Boxing Federation title.