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Thursday, October 31, 2013
Barker embracing life on the road

By Dan Rafael

Darren Barker
Darren Barker will travel to Germany to fight local hero Felix Sturm in December.

Middleweight titleholder Darren Barker has been in two world fights, both away from his home country of England.

In 2011, he challenged champion Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City, N.J., and although Barker was stopped in the 11th round, he gave Martinez one of his toughest championship fights. In August, Barker returned to Atlantic City and took a well-deserved split decision against Australia’s Daniel Geale to win a belt.

Now, with Barker’s first title defense set, he’ll hit the road yet again, this time going to Stuttgart, Germany, to for a mandatory defense against former three-time titleholder -- and German hero -- Felix Sturm on Dec. 7. Traveling, however, is no issue for Barker. Been there, done that.

“People asked me, ‘What are you going to Germany for? You’re mad, you’re mad,’ but it was if somebody had said, ‘Here is the winning lottery ticket, do you want to buy it for a quid?’ It was a no-brainer, the deal was so good,” Barker said. “Aside from that, I am extremely confident of winning. I respect Felix as a former champion, a great fighter with tons of experience, but he hasn’t experienced Darren Barker yet.”

As the titleholder, Barker (26-1, 16 KOs) would have been entitled to 75 percent of the winning purse bid if the sides had not made a deal, meaning promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport would have had the clear advantage if the fight went to auction. However, Hearn and Barker are realists. They wanted to fight Sturm and knew it if it went to a bid, especially if Matchroom had won, Sturm (38-3-2, 17 KOs) likely would have pulled out of the fight.

So Hearn made the kind of deal for Barker that he said was “life-altering money.” In addition, he got the Sturm side to agree to neutral officials and a rematch clause for a fight in England in the event Barker loses, an almost unheard-of concession in a mandatory fight.

Barker said he viewed going to Germany to fight on Sturm’s turf as though there would be more pressure on Sturm. Barker likes it that way.

“Felix’s shows are always spectacular, and I’m sure it will be a sellout and the pressure will all be on him,” Barker said. “I’ve boxed all over the world as an amateur, in some pretty hostile places, and it’s never bothered me. It inspires me. I don’t worry about the judges. I plan on winning very well, and putting on a fantastic night with lots of my fans coming over.”

With the business side of things taken care of, Barker has the utmost confidence in winning.

“The confidence that comes from winning a title is massive,” Barker said. “I am looking forward to the fight. Training is going well and is only going to get better, and I can 100 percent guarantee I will be leaving Germany still champion. I am the proud owner of that belt and I look forward to a long reign.

“I have worked so hard to win the title and there’s no way I’m letting it go now. [Trainer] Tony [Sims] and I have a game plan in mind and plenty of weeks to work on it day in, day out in the gym, so I am very confident I’ll retain my title and do so in style. Felix is a quality boxer and was a great champion and a massive star in Germany. He’s beaten some excellent fighters and had a couple of great fights with my Brit rivals Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray. But I truly believe I’ve got his number. It’s a great first defense for me because he’s a huge name.”