By Keith Idec
ATLANTIC CITY — Fulfilled fight fans obviously will want to see a Darren Barker-Daniel Geale rematch after the slugfest they produced Saturday night, but it’ll have to wait.
Eddie Hearn, whose company, Matchroom Sport, promotes England’s Barker, said after Barker’s split-decision defeat of Geale at Revel that Barker must first make a mandatory defense of his IBF title against Germany’s Felix Sturm.
“We’ve got the Sturm mandatory,” Hearn said. “We’d be happy to make it in the UK in December.”
Hearn added that the 31-year-old Barker (26-1, 16 KOs) won’t fight Sturm in Sturm’s home country of Germany.
Sturm (38-3-2, 17 KOs, 1 NC), whom Geale (29-2, 15 KOs) defeated by split decision Sept. 1 in Oberhausen, Germany, is ranked No. 2 in the IBF’s middleweight ratings. Australia’s Sam Soliman (42-11, 17 KOs, 1 NC), who is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, beat Sturm by unanimous decision Feb. 1 in Dusseldorf, Germany, only to have the result changed to a no-contest because Soliman tested positive for an illegal stimulant.
If Barker beats Sturm, Hearn would welcome a rematch against Geale sometime early in 2014. Gary Shaw, Geale’s promoter, has options on Barker’s contract and will work as a promotional partner with Hearn moving forward.
Wherever they go from here, Hearn was thrilled he and Barker, the first fight his company ever signed, will leave New Jersey for London with a middleweight title nearly two years after Sergio Martinez knocked him out in the 11th round of their 160-pound championship match.
“It was a great fight,” Hearn said. “He showed so much heart to get up from that body shot [in the sixth round]. I knew this time he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“I thought they were going to give [the decision] to Geale. I thank everybody for [Barker’s win] because it was the right decision.”
Judges Barbara Perez (116-111) and Carlos Ortiz (114-113) scored the highly competitive fight for Barker. A third judge, Alan Rubinstein, scored Geale the winner.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.