by Jake Donovan
In a week loaded with boxing action, it’s possible that this middleweight title fight proves to be the sleeper of the bunch.
Darren Barker and Felix Sturm have both overcome tremendous adversity to claim title status at separate points in their respective careers. They now have each other to conquer in order to prevail Saturday evening in Stuttgart, Germany.
The bout marks the first middleweight title defense for Barker (26-1, 16KO), who claimed championship status with a hard-fought split decision over Daniel Geale on HBO in August. The visiting Brit was fighting for the third time outside of his native England, with the night threatening to turn out similar to his last trip to Atlantic City.
A crippling body shot put Barker down on the canvas and nearly out for the count midway through the sixth round. The 31-year old not only made it to his feet, but punched his way back into the fight by round’s end. A Herculean effort proved worthwhile, claiming a middleweight belt just shy of two years following his lone loss, when he was stopped in 11 rounds by lineal middleweight king Sergio Martinez, also in Atlantic City and also televised on HBO.
His first defense is also his second straight road trip, traveling to Germany, where his challenger has been grated the benefit of the doubt many times over.
However, it hasn’t been all glory for Sturm (38-3-2, 17KO) in 13 years as a pro boxer. Three title reigns have come of his standout career, though for a long time best remembered for being robbed of victory in a June ’04 title loss to Oscar de la Hoya.
The night served as the lone stateside appearance for Sturm, a member of the 2000 Croatia Olympic boxing team (known at the time by his birth name, Adnan Catic). Of his 22 fights since then, all but one have taken place in his adopted home of Germany, the lone exception a May ’05 showcase in his native Croatia.
Among his three title reigns, Sturm has been accused of home cooking on several occasions. Included are his controversial split decision win over Matthew Macklin (who fights later this evening in Atlantic City) in June ’11, followed by a disputed draw versus Martin Murray later in the year.
His good fortunes ran out in September ’12, dropping a split decision to Geale in a fight many felt – ironically – could have gone the other way.
The fall from grace continued in suffering a loss to Sam Soliman in his next fight, only for the verdict to be overturned when the Australian was popped for a banned substance found in post-fight drug tests. A 4th round stoppage of previously unbeaten Predrag Radosevic has since followed, his last fight to date heading into tonight’s affair.
Can Sturm turn back the clock one more time and ignite the starting point of a fourth middleweight title reign? Can Barker overcome the challenge of defending in his opponent’s homeland, and escape Germany with his middleweight title still intact?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes this evening’s middleweight title tilt will play out.
PREDICTIONS – DARREN BARKER vs. FELIX STURM
“Barker does enough to avoid getting robbed.”
- Damien Acevedo (Barker SD)
“I like Barker to edge out Sturm.”
- Mitch Abramson (Barker SD)
“I think Barker will win in the realm of 116-112 or 117-111 type scores but the judges in Germany will make the results eyebrow-raising to say the least.”
- Ryan Burton (Barker SD)
“I’ll be the one guy to play the role of optimist. Barker overcomes early threats from Sturm, pulls ahead in the second half of the fight and is properly rewarded on all three cards by fight’s end.”
- Jake Donovan (Barker UD)
"A few fights ago, Sturm would have been a smart-money pick. But he’s been beaten recently at home and away and will need help end the skid here.”
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Barker by decision)
“Controversy will abound in the closely contested match fought in Sturm's home country.”
- Richard Najdowski (Sturm SD)
“Sturm is a skilled contender, though fell against Geale and Barker defeated Geale. In addition, Barker lose against Martinez in close fight. Barker should win this fight.”
- Reynaldo Sanchez (Barker UD)
“Sturm time is over. He was defeated by Geale in an even fight, and then looked old against a more mediocre badass in Soliman. He will stink against Barker as well. The German will make it surely competitive, but the Brit will look brighter and better.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Barker UD)
Darren Barker 7
Felix Sturm 1
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox