By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Darren Barker’s promoter doesn’t just think his fighter has a legitimate chance to upset Sergio Martinez on Saturday night in Atlantic City.
Eddie Hearn thinks Barker, though anonymous among most American fight fights, will emerge as the most competent opponent Martinez has faced since the Argentinean’s ascent to boxing stardom began.
“We feel that we’re the toughest test Sergio will face over his last few fights,” Hearn said. “Paul Williams is really a welterweight who came up to light middleweight and beat Sergio [in their first fight]. Kelly Pavlik was a washed-up fighter at the time, struggling to make the weight. So we feel this is going to be the biggest test for Sergio that he’s had. And we’re fine, like I said, to be the underdog. We’ll just do our thing. Darren deserves a massive amount of respect for being here and getting to this point. Anyone who knows him will echo this sentiment.”
Barker’s unblemished record lacks noteworthy wins, which is part of the reason handicappers have made Martinez as high as a 25-1 favorite over the 29-year-old contender from London on some Internet sites. Hearn couldn’t care less.
“We’re looking forward to a good fight,” Hearn said. “We believe we’ve got a real, real chance, to be honest with you. … People feel that Darren is a big underdog. But we’re fine with that tag and I think that anyone that underestimates Darren is in for a big shock themselves.”
Barker (23-0, 14 KOs) feels relaxed approaching by far the biggest fight of his seven-year pro career, largely because Barker and his handlers believe all the pressure is on Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs) in a fight HBO will televise from Boardwalk Hall.
“For Sergio, it’s very difficult because when you come into a fight where you’re expected to win easily,” Hearn said, “you have to put together a devastating performance and you have to look very, very good. And if you don’t, you will be booed and you will be criticized. Now, I don’t think he’s going to be able to do that. So there’s extra pressure on Sergio to do that and extra pressure on him to perform on HBO.
“And for Darren, as the underdog, just go out and express yourself. Do everything you’ve ever worked to do in your life. Everything you’ve ever done is to work for this moment. … Anyone who thinks it’s going to be one-sided is in for a big, big shock.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.