By Kevin Francis, courtesy of The Daily Star
WEMBLEY is playing a huge part in the life of boxer Darren Barker - and he hopes his love affair with the place continues.
It was at an empty Wembley Stadium that former British and European middleweight champion Barker proposed to his girlfriend Gemma Kao last month.
And it's in the shadow of the stadium, at the Wembley Arena, that he meets Italian Simone Rotolo for the vacant IBF inter-continental belt tonight.
Fanatic As if that isn't enough, Chelsea fanatic Barker, 30, will be hoping to visit Wembley twice more - in the FA Cup semi-finals and final - if his team can overcome Manchester United tomorrow.
"Wembley has been on my mind a great deal lately - and I hope it will continue," said Barker.
He will put football right out of his mind tonight, though, when he takes on Rotolo.
"I am facing the Italian champion and I am not taking him lightly," said Barker. "It is a big fight and the one after this will potentially be a big title fight or a domestic clash."
Barker returned from a 14-month ring absence to defeat Kerry Hope in December and he said: "You are now seeing a new Darren Barker.
"I have got more belief. It's like a new adventure and it's exciting."
He reckons a win tonight will catapult him back into the world title picture.
He said: "I don't want to be naive to overlook Rotolo but after tonight I'd like to be looking towards a world title shot.
"I know I won't be fully satisfied until I win a world title because I believe I have one in me and I aim to make that come true."
Rotolo, 37, has lost just three of his 38 fights and, not surprisingly, he is confident of racking up yet another success tonight.
He said: "We should have met in September but it was cancelled so now it is a case of me sorting out some unfinished business."
PREDICTION: Barker is looking exceptionally sharp and can get nearer another world title shot with a win around the sixth.