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Sergio Martinez Stalls Darren Barker's Brave Stand

By Jake Donovan

Maybe now, some of the best fighters in and around the middleweight division will be more willing to step to Sergio Martinez.

In the very definition of “win today, look good the next time”, Martinez overcame a sluggish slow start and a broken nose to win an 11th round knockout over Darren Barker of England on Saturday evening at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Martinez came into the fight as a huge favorite, with Barker as high as an 18-1 underdog on several sportsbooks. The first few rounds hardly resembled such a mismatch. Barker made his presence felt early, enjoying success with a right hand that Martinez - who customarily fights with his hands by his waist – didn’t expect to come in as fast and hard as was the case.

By the third round, Barker was able to force Martinez to fight at his pace and desired distance. While not necessarily winning rounds, the Brit was creeping closer and closer to giving the impression of an evenly contested affair.

Momentum shifted all the way in his favor in the fourth, by far Barker’s best round of the fight. Martinez seemed befuddled by his challeger’s activity and success, and was also forced to contend with a broken nose that was gushing like a geyser.

Martinez’ cornermen deserve accolades for keeping the flow of blood relatively under control, especially in the second half of the fight when the transplanted Argentinean would begin to resume control of the fight. Barker was still competitive, but might have enjoyed his last stand in the eighth round, where he found a way for his hands to outwork his feet.

By the ninth round, Martinez appeared more confident in what he sought to accomplish, though insisting afterwards that frustration never factored into his performance.

“It wasn’t frustrating at all, just a good job by Barker,” Martinez insisted of his strategy to eventually take out Barker. “I had to neutralize his attack. It didn’t work as well as it needed to, but I had to break him down.”

The well-conditioned southpaw did just that, taking control in a ninth round that saw Barker suddenly slow down and not let his hands go. Within inches of scoring one of the biggest upsets in years, Barker no longer had enough fight in him to keep a resurging Martinez off balance and out of sorts.

Instead, it was Martinez who began to look more like the middleweight champion of the world with each passing round. The ninth was by far his best round of the fight to that point, but it was about to get much better.

A huge right hook late in the tenth had Barker in a world of trouble, but he managed to somehow survive the round by doing nothing more than keeping his hands up and absorbing more punishment.

That same tactic didn’t work anywhere nearly as well in the 11th. The right hook was once again the weapon of choice for Martinez, though it appeared to catch Barker on the glove before catching the side of his head. It was still enough to put Barker down and out, who was flat on his back before rolling over on all fours as he was counted out.

The official time was 1:29 of the 11th round.

It was hardly a time capsule performance by Martinez, but enough to rack up the third defense of the lineal middleweight championship – all by knockout, including his second round blitzing of Paul Williams last November in what was recognized as 2010 Knockout of the Year.

Martinez also racked up Fighter of the Year honors in 2010, though a lack of viable competition will undoubtedly prevent him from repeating such honors this year. Nevertheless, he improves to 48-2-2 (27KO) in scoring his fourth straight win, beginning with his title-winning effort over Kelly Pavlik last April.

Barker offered his best possible performance – as evidenced by the closer than expected official scores of 99-91, 97-93 and 96-94 at the time of the stoppage, but heads home to England with the first loss of his professional career as he falls to 23-1 (14KO).

The sluggish performance – or at least the start – could be enough to entice other fighters to get in the ring with Martinez. Middleweight titlist Dmitry Pirog, fresh off of a stoppage of Gennady Martirosyan last Sunday, flew in from Russia to take in the action from ringside, as did contender Matthew Macklin, who joined Martinez under the Dibella Entertainment stable earlier this year.

A more notable presence at ringside was record-breaking former middleweight king and current light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins. Five months after becoming the oldest fighter in boxing history to capture a championship with his rematch win over Jean Pascal, the 46-year old takes on Chad Dawson in Los Angeles in two weeks.

Should he emerge successful, Hopkins floated the idea of a catchweight fight with Martinez.

The reaction suggested it’s the one fight Martinez most likely won’t consider.

“170 is a lot of weight for me. Just before the fight, I was 165 lb.”

Perhaps a more realistic option would be Andy Lee, who opened up the telecast with a 10-round revenge fueled win over Bryan Vera. Lee has served as the opener for Martinez’ last two fights, clearly with the intention for HBO to eventually match them up.

Martinez remained non-committal to such a fight, as he would prefer more lucrative assignments against the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather or the winner of the December 3 rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. But if it’s on the table by the time he’s ready to return to the ring, it remains a distinct possibility.

“I’m ready to fight whoever is there. It’s possible (to face Andy Lee). I won’t say no to anything.”

After Saturday’s vulnerable-yet-effective performance, perhaps some of his middleweight and pound-for-pound rivals will share the same mentality.

ANDY LEE STRIKES BACK, BEATS VERA IN LANDSLIDE

Andy Lee finally emerges as a middleweight contender.

Once a can’t miss prospect, Lee’s lone setback – a stunning stoppage loss at the hands of Bryan Vera – has held him back for more than three years. The Irish southpaw went on a tear, scoring 11 straight wins since then and has been floated as a future opponent for middleweight king Sergio Martinez.

Lee can now move forward with his career, having now exorcised past demons after scoring a dominant 10-round points win over Vera in their HBO-televised rematch Saturday evening at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Scores were 99-90 (2x) and 98-91 in their co-feature bout. Full recap can be found by clicking here .

Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Ravens Fan on 10-04-2011

[QUOTE=GRUSTLER;11249699]I saw that fight and while Margarito came on strong in the end. Paul Williams never let Margarito control the fight and kept throwing punches. what matters is what the official judges saw because at the end of the day,…

Comment by GRUSTLER on 10-04-2011

[QUOTE=Ravens Fan;11248789]Just for future reference, and for what its worth, here is the list of boxing writers and other notables who scored the Williams-Margacheato fight. Unofficial Scores Harold Lederman, HBO: Williams, 116-112 Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports: Margarito, 116-112 Tim Smith,…

Comment by daggum on 10-04-2011

[QUOTE=mathed;11240758]I don't put Vera and Barker even remotely close to the same level. Martinez would beat Lee no quams about it. Barker isn't the goat farmer mushacolonstain hoped he would be. [B]funny you call the [B]19-5 (12 ko) a "contender"[/B],…

Comment by TaurusJ27 on 10-04-2011

This fight reminded a little bit of Martinez's win against Kelly Pavlick where he was in trouble in that fight like this Barker one but overcame it.

Comment by Ravens Fan on 10-04-2011

[QUOTE=GRUSTLER;11247437]No way. Paul Williams won that fight.[/QUOTE] Just for future reference, and for what its worth, here is the list of boxing writers and other notables who scored the Williams-Margacheato fight. Unofficial Scores Harold Lederman, HBO: Williams, 116-112 Kevin Iole,…

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