By Frank Warren
Barnet’s Darren Barker will need to sustain a beaver like work rate if he is to retain his IBF middleweight title at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart, Germany this evening.
In return for a reported one million Euros, the likeable 31year old family man has conceded home turf to challenger Felix Sturm. Could that prove a dud move in a fight that seems destined to last the full 12 round championship trip?
‘Dazzling Darren’ enters a marginal 5-6 on favourite but the Fatherland has never been an easy manor for an overseas fighter to find favour with the judges. In 2011, Brit’s Matt Macklin and Martin Murray both appeared to deserve the nod when challenging then WBA champ Sturm in Cologne and Mannheim respectively. Both returned to the UK empty handed though Murray had the consolation of being awarded a draw. Still, Team Barker has made their choice, let’s hope they don’t live to regret it. Herr Sturm effectively promotes his own shows in Germany where he is a massive ticket seller and big TV draw.
And he is a quality operator. Formerly a European amateur champion at both junior and senior level, the 2000 Sydney Olympian has been beaten just three times in a 43 fight career that spans almost 13 years.
Back in 2004, he appeared to get the rough end of a decision with the legendary Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas and tonight’s bash will be his 20th at world championship level. Victory will establish Sturm as Germany’s first ever four time world champion, having previously reigned on the WBO and twice on the WBA thrones. But all is not doom for Barker. Sturm turns 35 next month – four years Barker’s senior – and his form over the past 30 months has been decidedly sketchy.
In addition to scraping past Macklin and Murray, Australians Daniel Geale and Sam Soliman both edged him out over 12 rounds in his homeland – the latter blip was subsequently amended to a no contest when Soliman flunked a drugs test.
Barker is unlikely to be fazed by boxing on foreign climes. A former Commonwealth Games gold medallist, he boxed in every corner of the globe during an extensive amateur career and both his previous world title fights were held in Atlantic City – albeit neutral terrain against Argentina’s Sergio Martinez and Australia’s Daniel Geale.
However, while Darren is some distance from being the best 160lb fighter on the planet – that honour belongs to Kazakhstan’s increasingly invincible looking Gennady Golovkin – I think he has the tools and temperament needed to triumph tonight.
The confidence a world title brings should give added spring to his step and, provided he stays super busy, his superior skills could be sufficient to sway the neutral judges. Don’t be surprised if the scorecards are far closer than they should be.
BoxNation continues to deliver fight fans with quality fare from both sides of the Atlantic week after week and tonight is no exception.
The Channel of Champions kicks off at 7pm by broadcasting my epic show from Liverpool’s Echo Arena which features five title fights and the three from the US.
World class super-fly Paul Butler and reigning British light-middle Liam Smith will be seeking to outdo each other and dominate tomorrow’s headlines while quality lightweights Stephen Ormond and Derry Mathews collide in what will probably be fight of the night and a possible contender for fight of the year.
Later, the station switches to The Barclays Center in New York to showcase the ‘Battle for Brooklyn’ between world grade welter rivals and serial trash talkers Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah. Three cracking world title fights garnish the undercard. To subscribe, visit www.boxnation.com.
Scouse light-heavyweight Tony Bellew was left to choke on humble pie in Quebec City last weekend.
Despite tweeting that ‘I gave it everything, the self-styled ‘Bomber’ lost every round before being dropped and stopped in the sixth by WBC Champion Adonis Stevenson. I’ve watched it 161 times!
In the build-up, 6ft 3in Bellew taunted the compact champion, labelling him a ‘midget’ and a ‘dwarf’. Ultimately, he exposed himself as ‘Dopey’. At the weigh-in he stuck his nut on Stevenson – just as he did to Nathan Cleverly in a previous failed challenge in his home city in 2011. But while bullying might succeed in the playground, it has clearly failed twice to intimidate world class prizefighters.
Christmas shoppers beware. After logging his fourth successive stoppage of 2013 by mauling tough Czech Ondrej Pala in three at the Copper Box last weekend, European heavyweight champion Dereck Chisora is promising a charity streak down Oxford Street!
Already world rated by the WBC, WBO and IBF, fun loving ‘Del Boy’ collected the WBA International strap so can also expect a ranking from them soon.
He’ll return to ‘The Box That Rocks’ on 8th February against a fellow top ten contender with the hope of navigating his way into a mandatory challenger position as quickly as possible.
Frank Buglioni also came through in impressive style last Saturday in his first 10 rounder.
Don’t shed any tears for disgraced former heavyweight Herbie Hide who was jailed for 22 months at Cambridge Crown court this week after confessing to a conspiracy to supply cocaine.
Earlier this year the ex-two time WBO champion, 42, had bragged he could ‘fix fights’ to an undercover reporter. Though there was no substance to his claims, such slurs potentially do untold damage to our sport’s credibility. Boxing is well shot of the scumbag.
Big-hearted Georgie Kean is going to make a donation to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children to go towards Christmas presents.
The young, up-and-coming, Islington prospect, who won by fourth round stoppage last Saturday night at the Copper Box Arena, says he's lucky to be fit and healthy and doing something he loves, whereas some children are in a less fortunate position.
Kean also fights with the wording "RIP Ben Kinsella" on his shorts in memory of the murdered teenager who was a close family friend.
Fans will have to look twice when top prospect Josh Leather is in the ring, or it could be his identical twin brother Callum!
ABA Champion Josh turned pro with me earlier this year and recorded his second win last week in Gateshead with a stunning fourth round KO.
Highly talented Callum, who's 15 minutes older than Josh, is intent on joining his sibling in the pros after he's competed in next year ABA senior championships.
The brothers have made it their ambition to become British and World Champions at the same time.