icon Updated at 03:59 AM EDT, Sat Apr 30, 2011

Barker Grabs EBU Crown With Spada Win at Olympia Hall

By Alexey Sukachev

At Olympia Hall in London, England, "Dazzling" Darren Barker (23-0, 14 KOs) returned after a year-long layoff and got back what was rightfully his after a hard-fought but well-earned twelve-round unanimous decision over tough and rugged Italian Domenico "Vulcano" Spada (32-4, 16 KOs) for the vacant EBU middleweight crown. The title was previously held by Barker's bitter rival Matthew Macklin (on two separate occasions) and once by Barker (he won it in April 2010).

The fight was a difficult affair for the elusive and techincally obcessed Brit. With his superior height (6'1/2'') and reach advantage, highly ranked Barker chose to employ a wise stick-and-move approach to continuously frustrate his stocky and slower opponent. Barker, 28, used various angles to land quick, measured jabs and crisp one-two combinations with a leading straight right hand. He was also using his left uppercut well on the inside. Shorter Italian, 30, was content boxing his way inside but had problems doing so. He was trying to establish his sneaky jab to no effect; later in the fight he applied wider and wider pressure firing big swings and using clinches and barely legal head punches on the inside to trouble the British fighter.

However, aside rounds two and seven, the contest was slowly heading into Barker's favour. Spada gave everything he got in later rounds but he was soundly outboxed by lighter and smarter local fighter. All three judges saw it closely in his favour: 115-113 (Francisco Vasquez Marcos - Spain) and 116-113 (Esa Lehtosaari - Finland, and Francisco Allosa Rosa - Spain). Sky Sport's expert Jim Watt (former WBC lightweight champion) got it 119-109 - also for Barker, while BoxingScene was in between with the 117-111 score. Barker was WBC #5, WBA #6, IBF #10 and WBO #14 ranked fighter coming into this clash; Spada, who dropped to close decisions to the reigning WBC middleweight titlist Sebastian Zbik, was ranked at the 6th position by the WBC. Referee was Daniel Van De Viele.

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Under a Barry Hearn promotion, Ashley Sexton (11-0-1, 5 KOs), who is currently one of the best British flyweights, had a tougher-than-expected collision with unheralded but brave and tough Mike Robinson (4-2-2). The explosive knockout artist from Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, looked too wide with his punches and too unbalanced in his stance to finally get his short and light-hitting, but also courageous and busy opponent.

Both fighters threw one combination after another, and Robinson was the more active of two in the midst of this eight-rounder. However, Sexton finished strong to prove his slight superiority over his worthy and determined counterpart. The referee, who was also the lone judge of the fight, scored it 78-76 - for Sexton. BoxingScene is in the same line with him, having it 77-75 - for the hard-hitting former English flyweight beltholder.

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