The last time middleweight Darren Barker fought in Atlantic City he fell short against world champion Sergio Martinez.
However, this Saturday had a different result as Barker climbed off the canvas in round six to win a split decision over Daniel Geale in a gruelling encounter. Right from the off, the two fighters stood toe-to-toe, dominating the centre of the ring exchanging blows.
Geale looked the more relaxed in round one, relaxing his shoulders and letting his hands flow with impressive combinations. This was not to say that Barker laid down as he took the fight to Geale attacking persistently with a lot of power, pushing the Australian onto the ropes.
From round three Barker was in the driving seat, controlling the pace of the fight being solid and consistent, demonstrating sensible boxing and good defence. A worried and slightly stunned Geale got up of his stool in round four knowing he had to up his game, and up his game he did as he brought forth flurries on impressive head and body punches and using his upper body flexibility to roll under swinging punches from Barker.
As rounds progressed both boxers continued to take the fight to each other with Barker finishing rounds strongly. However, round six had everyone on the edge of their seats as Geale found an opening for a left hook onto the ribs of Barker which sent him down on the canvas. It was not before the ninth count that Barker got up, only to be bombarded by attacks from Geale.
However, Barker showed his true colours as he came back with powerful head punches of his own finishing the round strong once again and elevating his arms in the air as if to say I won't go that easy!
Rounds seven to nine were close as both boxers continued to stand in the centre of the ring and try and outwit each other with head and body shots. Changes in Barker's training included Yoga and Swimming, which proved to work as he was well conditioned in receiving punishment and had increased endurance to continue dishing out powerful bursts of attacks.
A much improved Darren Barker from the last bouts which saw him fade out in latter rounds. As the contest was so close, many experts believed that the aggressor of the last three rounds would surely take the belt home.
It was Barker who was the aggressor in rounds ten and eleven once again setting the pace and sending out short bursts of powerful, more frequent attacks. By round twelve Barker had fatigued, leaving his hands down and breathing with an open mouth. Geale could sense this and took advantage giving everything left.
Nonetheless Barker stood strong and showed heart and determination to finish the fight strong. Both fighters showed respect for one another embracing at the end, but there was only one winner, and as Michael Buffer announced Barker as the winner he collapsed on his knees crying, dedicating the win to his late brother Gary Barker.
It's another world champion that promoter Eddie Hearn can add to his Matchroom stable.
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