Darren Barker reignited his World title ambitions with a brutal four round demolition job on Kerry Hope in the Betfair ‘Christmas Cracker’ at the London Olympia on Saturday night (December 8).
Barker was boxing for the first time in 14 months since bravely challenging Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City and against fellow former European champion Hope he dispelled any question that his time out had diminished his talents as he unveiled a spiteful punching Darren Barker to compliment his trademark style and technical ability.
Barker felt his way into the contest in the opening round and sharpened up in the second as the confidence flowed into his gloves and he stepped on the gas in the third round, picking off the Welshman with some real punishment.
The Londoner continued his assault in the fourth round and did so with clinical brutality. A right uppercut was followed by a vicious right hook that floored Hope. The Merthyr Tydfil southpaw gamely beat the count but as Barker resumed his assault, Hope’s trainer Gary Lockett pulled his man out of the firing line – leaving Barker to look forward to a year full of potentially huge fights.
“I missed hearing my name and it's fantastic to be back, it was enjoyable,” said Barker. “I wasn't that nervous as the preparation for tonight was fantastic, I just thoroughly enjoyed it.
“Kerry deserves respect as he's a former European champion, and I dismantled him over four rounds so that's important to me and it proves to me that I belong at the highest level.
“If I had lost tonight or put in a bad performance, I would've called it a day, 100 per cent, because you cannot mess about in this sport. You have to do it properly and that performance has given me a lot of encouragement.
“I think I have another three or four years in the game and I want the big fights, to test myself against the World level operators. I've tasted that World level and I want to get back up there. I badly want to fight Martin Murray and Matthew Macklin and I am sure they want the fights too because they are fantastic fighters and great fights the fans want.
“There were a lot of frustrations coming out of me in there, not just for me but also for Eddie Hearn and Tony Sims and all the people who have stood by me through all of the injuries. I want to pay them all back with big fights and big wins.”
Barker’s gym mate John Ryder claimed the biggest win of his career as he stopped fellow unbeaten middleweight Eamonn O’Kane in the eighth round of their British middleweight title eliminator.
Kal Yafai’s impressive start to his professional career continued as he took just three rounds to defeat Spanish bantamweight champion Jorge Perez – Yafai will step-up again on January 19 when he headlines a fight night in Wolverhampton.
Erick Ochieng can expect some big fights in 2013 after he successfully defended his English light middleweight title with a wide points win over Max Maxwell.
Ex-Team GB stars Martin J. Ward and Callum Smith gained wins in four-round contests, Wadi Camacho earned a stoppage win after an entertaining seven rounds against Hari Miles and Andreas Evangelou saw off Danny Couzens in a six round contest. American Carson Jones was due to face Lee Purdy at the top of the bill but illness ruled Purdy out and late replacement Dean Byrne left London with a well-earned draw from their eight round fight.