In a bout that brought back memories of the perforated ear drum suffered during Darren Barker’s first attempt at a world title, the Dazzling Londoner seemed to once again be dizzied by an onslaught on foreign canvas. This time, the attacker was accomplished middleweight veteran Felix Sturm…
Tommy Barber – London
Technically proficient middleweight contender Darren Barker has not boxed since his October knockout defeat to lineal 160lb champion Sergio Martinez and the Londoner’s promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sports, is in discussions with a hat-trick of alphabet champions as well as an emerging Englishman and recent world title challenger. Dmitry Pirog, Daniel Geale, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Martin Murray are all viable opponents for Barker’s next bout.
A professional fighter known for his defensive strategy, sharp left hook and precise punching, Barker (23-1-0, 14ko) – in defeat – was noted for laying a potential blueprint in how to defeat the respected Martinez as the Englishman frustrated the Argentine with a stubborn guard in Atlantic City.
It is that performance that fortified his status as a player on the international scene having dominated at British and European level. And, Hearn has confirmed that he has sought out match-ups with IBF world championship incumbent Geale, Russian pugilist Pirog – the holder of the WBO title and WBC belt holder Chavez Jr, an undefeated 160lber from Mexico.
“I have had positive talks with Pirog and Geale’s promoters and I am in constant communication with Top Rank over a Chavez fight in May,” Hearn said.
“We have also made an offer to Martin Murray and are waiting to hear back from his team. It’s a very exciting time for Darren and he needs to have a date in his head to focus on now that he is back in the gym, so a decision will be made soon.”
According to reports, Murray (23-0-0, 10ko) was receptive to an all-English encounter with Barker in what would be another north versus south card much like John Murray and Kevin Mitchell, last year. Should a world title fight not materialise for Dazzling Darren, then a mouthwatering tie between two cerebral British prizefighters could very well bear fruit.
Ibrahim Harb – Birmingham
Acclaimed amateur standout Chris Eubank Jr has exchanged contracts with promoter Mick Hennessy of Hennessy Sports and will make his professional debut at the EventCity, Manchester card on Saturday, November 12, headlined by Tyson Fury and Neven Pajkic’s ill-tempered heavyweight feud. Hennessy boldly proclaimed Eubank Jr the best middleweight in Britain, despite never fighting professionally.
“We are delighted to have signed such a major talent… there was a lot of competition for his signature, not only from other promoters but other broadcasters as well,” an elated Hennessy beamed today, Thursday.
Indeed, there was a promotional clamouring for Eubank Jr’s signature and there were even reports he had committed terms with Matchroom Sports earlier in the year, as reported by On The Beak here.
However, it appears Mick Hennessy now has his man. A man whom he believes is already ahead of other middleweights in Britain such as former world title challengers Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker, Martin Murray (who challenges Felix Sturm for his WBA championship in December) and fast-rising prospect Billy Joe Saunders.
“We believe that Chris Eubank Jnr has the potential to not only become an elite world champion but also transcend boxing and become a major world star on route to the titles,” Hennessy said, before concluding: “I honesty already believe he is the best middleweight in this country even without have a pro fight.”
Eubank Jr already has a slot on a high-profile card in Britain as he boxes on the undercard for Fury (16-0-0, 11ko) and Pajkic’s bad blood bust-up on Saturday, a fight that will be broadcast on Channel 5 from 21:45.
Fury had initially been a clear bookmakers’ favourite to defend his Commonwealth heavyweight strap against a man he has a well-documented rivalry with. Graham Sharpe, a spokesperson for bookies William Hill, though, has indicated that certain punters are betting large sums against Tyson. Two bets of £5,000 ($8,000) were placed this week – one in Manchester and the other in London – and Hill were forced to alter Pajkic’s odds to 11/2 as a result. Fury’s odds were also eased, from 1/12 to 1/10.
Sharpe said: “Fury’s style always gives his opponent a chance if he can get close enough to land a decent shot, and anything can happen when two unbeaten records are on the line – we are 40/1 that they both emerge unbeaten after a draw!”
Alan Dawson – London
Despite losing his status as world champion and producing an insipid performance against Wladimir Klitschko earlier this year, Lambeth-born heavyweight David Haye remains London’s best active fighter, according to super lightweight contender Ashley Theophane, himself a resident of England’s capital city. With more fights, though, lightweight Kevin Mitchell and middleweight Darren Barker could leapfrog Haye as number one Londoner.
“David Haye, Kevin Mitchell and Darren Barker would have to be in the running,” Theophane, a Paddington-born 31-year-old who possesses a cultured boxing style exclusively told On The Beak editor Alan Dawson when asked who London’s greatest current boxer is (should he exclude himself). “But Kevin is unproven at world level… I have to say David Haye.”
Despite only competing in 25 professional prizefights Haye (25-2-0, 23ko), at 30, has accomplished a lot… he fought in the Playboy Mansion, challenged for the IBO cruiserweight world title after just ten fights (albeit unsuccessfully against Carl Thompson) but bounced back to win the EBU crown at 200lbs.
In 2007 he picked up the WBA and WBC cruiserweight world championships due to a seventh round technical knockout of Jean-Marc Mormeck; a fight where he had to pass a gut check as he rose from the deck to put his opponent on the canvas. Haye then followed that success up with second round knockout over Enzo Maccarinelli, adding the WBO strap to his collection.
At heavyweight, his stand-out victory was against Russian behemoth Nicolai Valuev – a bout where he was at a near 100lb weight disadvantage and gave up 11 inches in height. Haye, though, wobbled the 7’2 colossus before obtaining a close but majority decision.
It is his ability to follow cruiserweight triumphs with a successful foray in boxing’s no limit division that has most impressed Theophane, himself a multi-divisional campaigner having operated as a super lightweight, welterweight and a super welterweight all within the past year alone.
“He was undisputed champion at cruiserweight and [also] heavyweight champion,” said Theophane (30-4-1, 8ko), nicknamed Treasure. “He’s had a great career so far.”
Theophane is the current British champion at 140lbs (10 stones). His most recent outing was a July knockout of Jason Cook.
Petra Kirsch – Gelsenkirchen
Recent lineal middleweight championship challenger Darren Barker produced an “incredible performance” against 160lb ruler Sergio Martinez, made a “huge name for himself” and should be able to land a second world title shot according to the Londoner’s promoter Eddie Hearn, head of boxing at Matchroom Sports. Hearn is looking to propel Barker back into the division’s elite as early as 2012.
“It was just an incredible performance,” Hearn said, reminiscing over Barker’s unsuccessful tilt in New Jersey on Saturday, October 1.
The unfancied Briton had odds of 25/1 of securing the upset and even had his name mispronounced as “Baker” during the ring announcements by the usually mistake-free Michael Buffer, but Barker (23-1-0, 14ko) proved to be competent when mixing it with the biggest middleweight name.
“Nobody gave Darren a shot,” added Hearn. “I would say it was at times disrespectful but when you look at the task, he was putting it on the line against one of boxing’s all time greats and matched him on so many different levels.”
Barker adhered to a defence first set-up against Martinez, that frustrated the unorthodox Argentine counter-puncher. As Barker opened up in the championship rounds in order to gain as many ten scores as possible, he succumbed to a late stoppage in the penultimate stanza.
“Darren came to win and that’s what eventually lead to the stoppage,” noted his promoter. “He tried to win, not survive and we should all embrace that. Darren would have beaten any middleweight in the world but Martinez. The real work starts now. He has made a huge name for himself and I will get him another shot in 2012 but for now we should get behind him for putting it all on the line.”
Barker commented: “I’m still devastated by the defeat as I felt great in camp, in the changing room and in the ring and even though I was written off from day one – we all believed we could do it.
“After eight rounds I felt so in control and felt I had the beating of him. It was tight but I knew I would need to win the last few rounds to be in the mix so tried to do so and came unstuck. I could have survived and lost on points but that’s not what I’m about and that’s not what boxing is about.
“I’m looking forward to the rest and hopefully we can manufacture another shot in the New Year.”
Ibrahim Harb – Birmingham
Darren Barker‘s plucky attempt at obtaining a win against Sergio Martinez last Saturday, October 1 in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall exposed the flaws in Maravilla‘s set-up, according to pressure-fighting middleweight contender Matthew Macklin. The Birmingham-born Irishman is coming off the back of his own unsuccessful world title challenge against Felix Sturm, a decision many observers regarded as a contentious one.
“Darren showed Martinez’s weaknesses,” Macklin is quoted by British tabloid The Sun to have said.
Martinez (48-2-2, 27ko) knocked Barker out in the eleventh round, however, the Argentine – a slick gunslinger with pop behind his power punches – was made to labour for the victory due to a tight shield that the Englishman used to protect himself with.
A come-forward prizefighter who is well conditioned, Macklin (29-3-0, 19ko) believes he has a style that would be all wrong for Martinez.
“I’ve got a very good chin and I throw a lot of punches. My workrate and variety will be too much for him,” the 29-year-old said.
Macklin is considered one of the top ten fighters in the 160lb weight class. Despite dropping the split decision loss to Sturm, he won respect for his elite performance.
Currently without an opponent, Macklin would welcome a shot at Maravilla and a match-up would not be difficult to book as both fighters box under the DiBella Entertainment promotional banner.
Macklin signed terms with DiBella in August and the entrepreneurial promoter was delighted with his acquisition, even alluding to the inevitable pairing of his two premier middleweights. He said at the time: “Matthew handled Sturm with ease and he has a claim at being the second-best middleweight in the world. He’s going to want a shot at Sergio and it makes sense.”
Alan Dawson – London
Lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez was made to work for his win as he initially struggled to penetrate a stubborn shield that protected the lights-off switches to courageous challenger Darren Barker‘s upstairs department, however, the result of taking 163 punches clean to the head (90 to left temple, 31 to right, 42 on the chin) took it’s toll as the Englishman currently nurses a perforated ear drum.
Barker’s stiff peek-a-boo leaked 206 punches in total: 163 to the head and 43 to the body, during the Briton’s attempt to de-crown Maravilla Martinez on Saturday, October 1 at the Boardwalk Hall’s Ballroom in Atlantic City. It was a cuffing punch just behind Barker’s left ear that was the catalyst for the canvassing and could have been the likely culprit for his injury today.
“Darren is okay,” Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sports, Barker’s promoter, explained. “He has a perforated ear drum and is very sore. Thanks for all your messages to him – it really helps lift him.”
Barker (23-1-0, 14ko) added: “I just want to say thanks for all the support I’ve had, I feel proud to be British! I’m gutted I couldn’t pull it off but hats off to Martinez. Thank you.”
Perforated or punctured ear drums can often be caused by infection, although in Barker’s case – trauma. They can heal on their own or via intervention. Treatment can include paper patches which help promote healing. Recovery from such an injury can take between a week and a month.
Martinez, meanwhile, did not escape unharmed. Whilst Barker kept a turgid defence, he was prudent in his own firing but landed 145 headshots (36 to the left temple, 64 to the right and 45 on the chin) and ten body shots. He enjoyed good success in the fourth round as he broke Martinez’s nose which caused profuse bleeding and ensured Sergio found it difficult to breathe efficiently.
“The nose? It’s broken. That was a good shot,” Martinez (48-2-2, 27ko) is quoted to have said by ESPN.
Denzil Stone – Atlantic City
British challenger Darren Barker entered his match-up with Sergio Martinez as an unknown – the ring announcer even mispronounced his name at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday, October 1 – yet, despite an eleventh round stoppage defeat, he left the US with his reputation enhanced as he produced a blueprint in how Maravilla can be beat…
Wearing the blue of Chelsea football club on his robe, Barker’s beloved soccer team in west London, the man – an underdog dubbed Dazzling – made his way to the ring and was, arguably, the only man in the Boardwalk’s Ballroom (aside from perhaps his loyal 300-strong fanbase that journeyed from England) who believed he was going to achieve victory.
Martinez, who had the event named after him – Noche de Maravilla (Night of the Marvel) – strutted to the ring after Barker, inspired excitable screams from the female sections of the crowds and a smile erupted over his male model face.
The lineal middleweight champion, a 160lb alphabet champion who had not lost a world title in the ring and a consensus pound-for-pound rock, Martinez was accompanied to the ring by deputising head cornerman Pablo Sarmiento who was sporting dark sunshades.
A chorus of boos rained down on Barker during the announcements (Michael Buffer pronounced his name as Baker) as Martinez was the crowd favourite. During the opening jousting in round one, Barker employed careful head movement, fought slightly timid, stepping in and out of the pocket as he evaded Martinez’s jabs and one-twos and attempted to land his own. Martinez boxed with his hands by his hips – like he had done against Serhiy Dzinziruk – a ploy used in order to goad a cerebral fighter into combat.
Martinez, in his unorthodox southpaw posture, invited the lead from Barker while sending right handed jabs upstairs. Barker kept an upright guard tight to his head and landed a solid orthodox jab at the end of the opening minute. Martinez probed for his openings and had the superior foot skills, while Barker was walking in straight lines – mostly forward. At the round’s end, Martinez connected with one of his famed left crosses – the punch that left Paul Williams unconscious.
In round three, like he had been in the opening two rounds, Martinez was throwing more punches than Barker, however, the vast majority of his southpaw jabs were blocked by the forearms and gloves of Barker. Midway through the third, he began jutting his chin out, further goading Barker to let loose. The Londoner, though, stuck to his gameplan. Barker landed a good close-range left hook as he begun to gain confidence with the distance.
Martinez, despite his reputation as an elite fighter, was not known for his finesse but Barker further exposed that fact, picking Martinez apart, growing in confidence with his stringent defence and making Maravilla/The Marvel, look ordinary. Barker blocked the one-twos whilst landing his own combinations. Martinez, the undoubted number one middleweight pre-fight, had to wipe his nose with his glove as it had begun to leak blood.
Bleeding heavier from the nose, Barker maintained his control of the centre of the ring in round five, forcing Martinez to the outside. Barker remained unmarked and had fully taken heed of the referee’s instruction prior to the opening bell: ‘Keep yourself protected at all times’. Barker’s defensive aptitude frustrated Martinez who landed little of note.
Few active fighters would employ as stubborn a peek-a-boo defence as Barker had against Martinez, who was breathing deeply due to his blood-filled nose. Martinez finished the sixth strongly. In the seventh round, Barker’s blocking tactic continued yet the Englishman was not firing back with enough to claim the round. Martinez was the clear mid-fight aggressor and managed to land a couple of notable left crosses.
In rounds eight and nine Barker, if he wanted to reclaim the momentum, he had to up his aggression levels and work his way toward matching Martinez’s punch output. Sergio landed crisp hook punches and straight lefts, however, the Argentinean was prevented from following up on left cross shots as Barker would instantly retreat out of range.
In the tenth, Martinez had Barker spoiling after punishing him with a straight right. Moments later, Sergio had Barker in crisis mode as the slickster flurried relentlessly, however, Barker held on, keeping his guard up yet still did not throw enough in return.
Martinez, boxing out of Oxnard, California, demanded a Hollywood finish of himself and got his opportunity as Barker opened up more in the eleventh round and thus left himself open. Martinez got his knockdown as he clobbered Barker around the ear, robbing the Briton of his balance. Barker attempted to get back to his feet, he wanted to continue, but his balance remained off and he failed to make the count.
Barker produced a respectful performance and boxed valiantly. Before fight night, Martinez was one of the most avoided fighters on the planet, yet now, after Barker made Martinez look less than stellar for the opening half of the contest, a queue consisting of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao may start to eagerly line up.
“It was a good job by Barker,” Martinez said to HBO after the bout. “I had to neutralise his attack and break him down,” he added, before spurning a mooted offer from Bernard Hopkins to meet at a light heavyweight catchweight of 170lbs. The lineal middleweight champ, though, welcomed any callers between 150lbs and 160lbs.
The official ringside scorecards for the ten completed rounds were 99-91, 97-94 and 96-94. in favour of the winner. With victory, Martinez rose to 48-2-2, 27ko as Barker suffered his first loss and dropped to 23-1-0, 14ko.
Alan Dawson – London
Darren Barker was an unknown quality to fight fans, analysts and commentators earlier this year but now, with his challenge to lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez mere hours away, he is the talk of Atlantic City as he attempts to dethrone the pound-for-pound contender at the historic Boardwalk Hall. Iconic judge Harold Lederman believes Barker’s undefeated tag carries an element of intrigue.
Lederman has been a part of HBO’s world championship broadcasting team since 1986. As a former ringside judge, he – in his distinctive New York brogue – offers his take on a fight after rounds three, six, nine and following the fight’s conclusion should the bout last the distance.
Depending on your bookmaker, odds of Barker causing the upset can be seen as little as 7-1 or as great as 25-1, however, Lederman recently told On The Beak editor Alan Dawson that “Barker being undefeated adds an element [to the fight].”
Barker (23-0-0, 14ko) is yet to mix with the world’s elite and, if he manages to do the unfathomable and trump the slick and swift Martinez then it would rank alongside Breidis Prescott’s first round knockout of Amir Khan in 2008 and Lloyd Honeyghan’s retiring of Donald Curry in 1986 as one of the biggest upsets in boxing history that involved a British fighter.
“To tell you the truth, I’m waiting to see what he’s got on October 1. I really hadn’t seen the guy before the fight was made,” Lederman added, alluding to Barker’s no-name value in the US.
Martinez (47-2-2, 26ko) was the 2010 recipient of the fighter of the year award for his bludgeoning of Kelly Pavlik over the 12-round distance and his highlight reel second round knockout over Paul Williams.
Martinez, a 36-year-old southpaw, was then aligned with Serhiy Dzinziruk, a fighter who was an unbeaten professional and had never been dropped in a career that included 300+ amateur bouts. Then he met Martinez. The Ukrainian was knocked down five times en route to a mid-bout stoppage earlier this year.
The unforgiving Argentinean will no doubt be looking to take another unbeaten fighter’s zero away from them come fight time. “Sergio Martinez is a really good fighter,” Lederman told me. “He’s on top of his game right now and he’s the third best fighter in the world. It’s an interesting fight and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Lederman will be ringside for HBO acting as the broadcast behemoth’s unofficial scorer.
On The Beak – Admin
Ahead of their world championship fight on Saturday, October 1 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and British challenger Darren Barker weighed in at a respective 158lbs and 159.5lbs. Barker’s traveling fanbase gave their man a loud reception as both fighters took to the scales. Andy Lee and Brian Vera provide the main support on the undercard and both weighed in at 163lbs.
(Video embedded below credit – Youtube, Behindtheringboxing)