By Mitch Abramson
Tony Sims, the trainer and manager of Darren Barker, was highly critical of Sergio Martinez, taking shots at his quality of opposition and pointing out his lack of experience at middleweight. Martinez and Barker will meet in the main event on HBO on Saturday in Atlantic City for Martinez's WBC Diamond middleweight title.
Sims called Barker (23-0) the first true middleweight that Martinez will fight, dismissing Kelly Pavlik as a “dead man walking” when they faced off last year. Sims also characterized the two other big names on Martinez’s resume, Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron as fighting above their true weight when they met Martinez, so those fights should be viewed with that in mind, he said.
Sims, wearing his managerial hat, made a very compelling case for why Barker, who Brit in his first appearance stateside, has a good chance to upset Martinez, pointing out that Martinez was knocked down against a British fighter named Richard Williams early in his career. Williams is a fighter that Barker used to play with in sparring, Sims said.
“I think the last three fights he’s had, he’s met people at the right time,” said Sims to BoxingScene.com of Pavlik, Williams and Cintron, all opponent of Martinez. “The last three fights he’s had, have obviously given him that name. Before that, he had no name. For us, we want to be that pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I think [Martinez] is going to be in for a long night’s work because we’re prepared.”
During a training session for Barker at the Mendez Boxing Gym in Manhattan that was open to the media, Barker moved with a sparring partner, the 7-0 Juan Rodriguez of Union City, N.J., going six rounds. Barker appeared tall and athletic, often fighting with his hands down and digging uppercuts and whipping hooks.
“He’s a proper middleweight,” Sims said of Barker. “Martinez isn’t a proper middleweight, he’s a light middleweight. He’s fought one middleweight in his whole career, which was Kelly Pavlik.”
Sims, while respectful of Pavlik’s career, doesn’t believe the “Ghost” was at his best when he lost a decision to Martinez in Atlantic City last year.
“Don’t get me wrong, Kelly Pavlik is a good fighter,” Sims continued. “But not at that time when he fought [Martinez]- he was a dead man walking at that time. Everyone knows Pavlik’s got a drinking problem. Everyone knows that he was dead at the weight, so he’s never really fought a true middleweight yet, which will be to our advantage. Darren has always been a middleweight, and he’s a big middleweight as well.”
Sims broke down Martinez’s recent opposition, hinting that Martinez might be a tad overrated, given his status as one of the best fighters in the world.
“If you go back before the three good wins that he had,” Sims went on, “he got beat on points by Paul Williams. Paul Williams is a welterweight. He’s not a middleweight. He’s a welterweight who jumped up to light middleweight. And then the fight before that- Kermit Cintron- was another welterweight in reality. He drew with Kermit Cintron. If you go back at least two or three fights before that- there were guys with like who won two and lost 16 records.”
Sims said that Martinez once hit the canvas twice against Williams, who last fought in 2006, earlier in his career. Barker used to spar with Williams when he was maybe 5-0 and did well in the sparring, further proof that Barker will not be out of his depth on Saturday when he faces the biggest test of his career, he believes.
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.