By Jake Donovan
Joe Calzaghe made a surprise appearance in Stuttgart, on the heels of his recent election into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The retired unbeaten former two-division world champion was in town to participate in the weigh-in festivities for Saturday's middleweight title fight between England's Darren Barker and former champ Felix Sturm.
Both fighters came in under the 160 lb. middleweight limit. Barker hit the scales at a lean 159 lb., his lightest weight in more than four years. Sturm was a chiseled 159.4 lb. ahead of his bid for a fourth middleweight title reign.
Barker (26-1, 16KO) makes the first defense of the middleweight belt he earned in a razor thin decision win over Dennis Geale this past summer. The lone loss of his career came in his failed bid for the lineal middleweight championship, suffering an 11th round stoppage in a brave showing versus reigning divisional king Sergio Martinez. He has since won three straight, including the title-lifting effort over Geale.
Sturm enters the fight less than two months shy of his 35th birthday, and his career slowly beginning to show the effects of 16 years in service. Three separate title reigns highlight a pro career preceded by a run in the 1996 Olympics. However, Sturm (38-3-2, 17KO) has struggled in recent years.
A hard-fought split decision loss to Geale ended a five-year stary in his third run as middleweight titlist. The 34-year old was thought to be written off after a narrow points loss to Sam Soliman earlier this year, but a banned substance turning up in his conqueror's post-fight urinalysis turned the result into a no-contest. Sturm has since returned to the win column, scoring a 4th round stoppage over previously unbeaten Predrag Radosevic this past July.
The scheduled 12-round middleweight title fight airs live Saturday evening on SAT in Germany, and on Sky Sports in England in support of Barker and promotional outfit Matchroom Sport.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Joe Calzaghe , Felix Sturm , Darren Barker , Eddie Hearn