By Alexey Sukachev
Wembley Arena, London - Middleweight contender Darren Barker (25-1, 16KOs) easily stopped Simone Rotolo (35-4, 15KOs) in four rounds. Barker dropped Rotolo with a flurry of punches in the first round and then the Italian boxer's corner three in towel after four, citing a bad hand injury suffered by their boxer. Barker captured the vacant IBF Inter-Continental middleweight title.
37-year old Rotolo was no match for the younger Brit. Barker was faster, busier and his punches were well felt by the Italian. One of them - a lean long right hand - dropped Rotolo in the first round but Simone survived the oncoming assault. He tried to box his way out of harm in rounds two and three. Barker, bigger and stronger, simply prevented him from doing that. In round four, he scored more nasty shots with his right. Rotolo looked dazed and also had some problems with his right hand. His team signalized between the rounds, that the Italian could no longer continue fighting. Barker was also ranked #8 by the IBF and #10 by the WBO, coming in, although in the super middleweight division.
WBO/WBA #2, WBC #5 and IBF #7 ranked super middleweight "Saint" George Groves (17-0, 13 KOs) stayed active with an overwhelming victory over Argentinean tune-up Dario German Balmaceda (11-7-2, 7 KOs). There were no problems for Groves in this fight, especially given the fact that Balmaceda came in to trade punches with the British hard-hitter. That was exactly what Groves wanted. The Argentinean survived the onslaught in the first stanza but was dropped with a right hand to the ribs at the end of the second. Early into the third Groves got the job done with yet another big right hand. Time of the knockout was 0:58 of the third round.
IBF #10 welterweight Lee Purdy (20-3-1, 13 KOs) didn't look very impressive but scored yet another stoppage win - his fourth in a row - when referee Marcus McDonnell considered the late sub Cosme Rivera (35-16-3, 24 KOs) unable to continue due to several bad cuts over both of his eyes in round nine.
Rivera, 36, came in as a late sub for American Carson Jones. And he started accordingly being dropped by Purdy with the first left hook of the latter. However, Rivera wasn't hurt badly and continued to fight back. Purdy was in and out, being aggressive and landing solid shots in bunches. Rivera used his experience and survival skills to frustrate Purdy and to limit his activities. Purdy was faster of the two all fight long and was landing more crisp punches in the first five rounds. In the midst of the bout, the Mexican veteran started to time Purdy's punches much better and had some success with his huge uppercuts. He even rocked the Englishman in the seventh round and pinned him to the ropes but failed to capitalize. One of the reasons that he was rapidly gasing out were his cuts. His left eye was specifically horrible, and Team Rivera failed to close the cut with vaseline. Cuts got worse as the bout progressed, and finally the referee had seen enough and waved the fight off at 0:56 of the ninth.
The heated rematch between Danny "Cassius" Connor and a proud English Cypriot Chris Evangelou has certainly lived up to the hype and repeated a thriller of their initial encounter, which ended in favour of Connor last September. This time there was no doubt of who should be crowned the winner, as Connor (8-5-1) scored two hard knockdowns in round seven and finished the fight very strong to get a well-deserved 97-93 sole score from referee Terry O'Connor and to retain his BBBofC Southern Area light welterweight title. Evangelou has lost his second in a row to the same opponent and drops his record to 9-2, with 1 KO.
Both fighters, not known for their puncher's abilities, struggled to rock each other in the opening rounds. However, Connor was busier and more consistent of the two, despite a slow start in the first couple of rounds. He turned back the tide in the third round and forced Evangelou to move backwards. The Cypriot "Flash" had some mild success in the midst of the bout but Connor came back very strong to put his foe on the canvas twice at the end of the seventh with hard, damaging left hooks to the liver section. Evangelou was very lucky to survive till the bell and then through round eight. Both fighters did what the could to finish the contest powerfully, but Connor was one to deal much more damage. BoxingScene had it 98-90 - also for him.