By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Andy Lee is well aware that Sergio Martinez is extremely talented.
The Irish middleweight contender also knows Darren Barker is a huge underdog entering a fight many fans and members of the boxing media have deemed a middleweight mismatch. But Lee is also very familiar with Barker, which is why he thinks the unheralded British contender can make matters interesting when he challenges Argentina’s Martinez on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“He’s a very good technical boxer, he has good hand speed and he has a good variation of punches,” said Lee (26-1, 19 KOs), who’ll box Brian Vera (19-5, 12 KOs) in a middleweight rematch immediately before Barker meets Martinez. “He’s smart. He’s not going to walk in and be fooled by Sergio’s tricks. He’s smart. So he’s going to do all right.”
Lee trained alongside Barker at the Repton Boxing Club in Lee’s native London for “four or five years” when Lee was a kid. Then they fought in the European Amateur Boxing Championships in February 2004 in Pula, Croatia.
Lee won that bout by decision, but he maintains a healthy respect for the unbeaten Barker (23-0, 14 KOs) and doesn’t feel as though his friend is in over his head against the accomplished, left-handed Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs).
“He is a good fighter,” said Lee, who ultimately predicted Martinez will win. “He’s a real fighter. He’s going to put up a good show.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.