By Michael Marley
They call this 29 year old from the outer edge of London "Dazzling Darren" Barker.
He's 23-0 with 14 knockouts and he's won every British, Commonwealth and European middleweight title that is not locked down. He was an impressive 55-13 as an amatuer.
"I've got the pedigree in boxing," Barker said.
I mean, it could be worse as they could call awsome 160 pound champ Sergio Gabriel Martinez's Saturday night challenger "Carnival Barker."
I met and spoke with the British invader on a typically warm Indian Summer afternoon Monday at Mendez Gym.
For me, the British lad was "Disappointing Darren" and I mean that in a good way.
You see, Barker is no mealy-mouthed, just happy to be here type fighter from overseas. He does not look at his boxing boots when he speaks. There's no false modesty or cocky braying. He doesn't mumble about doing his "talking in the ring."
Barker comes off as a realist who knows the odds are loaded against him but he admits to dreaming about next Sunday's screaming sports headlines in the national British newspapers.
"A star would be born," Barker said, as he sat on the ring apron in the West 26th sweat emporium. "It would be a massive upset. I'm up for the job, I really am.
"I want to put on a great show and go back with the title."
The articualate fighter, whose male model looks are similar to that of his buddy Joe Calzaghe and the handsome Argentinian Martinez, said that, if he should be victorious, it would be wrong to label him an overnight sensation.
"This is (the culmination) of 17 years work. It's after training and fighting for 17 long years. I am strong, I am mature at 29 and I've got a big job to do."
Barker explained that this match, which was partially made via some optimistic and respectful tweets on Twitter, said he was a bit stunned when his promoter Eddie Hearn told him the bout hads been against Martinez, the hard-hitting southpaw almost universally regard as the sport's third best pound for pound fighter.
"I's been a dream come true for me," Barker said. "I think about starting in boxing at 12 when my Dad (Terry), never a pro but a national champ im 1981, helped me. I think about my brother, Gary, who died in a car wreck at age 19.
(Gary Barker was also a boxer. Darren took about 10 months away from boxing after the tragedy.)
Barker said he's got a positive plan, which he's keeping close to the vest, and a negative one which he freely revealed.
Martinez's biggest claim to fame is perfect, one punch KO of Tall Paul Williams, hyped by many as a real superstar.
"We've got a game plan. I won't be like Williams, walking into Martinez with my chin up. I'm a full six-footer, a bit taller than Martinez, but I don't fight tall in that I've got a lot of head movement and I know how to and I like slipping punches. I also know how to move my feet. You've got move your head and your feet," Barker said.
Barker said his tension ends when he enters the ring.
"That's when I really can relax, once I am in the ring. Then I am in my element. I like the strategic side of boxing, when it becomes like a game of chess."
Last British fighter I recall who compared boxing to chess was Lennox Lewis.
Maybe this Barker lad, this thinking man's fighter from Barnet, is on to something.
With the fading away of Calzaghe and Hatton and stumbling heavyweights, UK boxing is not shining brightly.
One "massive upset" produced by Barker and that all changes.
Martinez like to put the lights out for his foes.
A Barker victory would turn them back on for British boxing.
He's got the lottery ticket. All he's got to do now is cash it.
I'm hesitant to pick an upset just yet but I will say this.
Barker looks like someone in Central Casting cast him in the role.
This bloke, you've got to like the cut of his jib.Tags: Sergio Martinez , Darren Barker , Martinez-Barker , Martinez vs Barker