Boxing: darren barker

Darren Barker triumphs in A.C.

August, 18, 2013
Brit Darren Barker was the busier man against Aussie Daniel Geale in Atlantic City at the Revel on Saturday night, and was rewarded with a split-decision victory as well as the honor of wearing the IBF middleweight belt.

The scrap, which ended with Barker getting love from two of three judges, clarifies things a bit in the middleweight division. You must forgive me, because by all accounts Barker is a solid citizen, a nice lad who has had to surmount, arguably, more hurdles to get to the big stage success than most, but the win solidified for me that finding a stern test for Kazahk detonator Gennady Golovkin won't be easy.

That doesn't take away from my appreciation of a solid prizefight, and my admiration that Barker got the W in honor of brother Gary, a boxer of some promise who died in a 2006 car crash; or my regard for Barker's decency, on display in fall 2011, when he intervened to help a stranger getting attacked on the street in England -- and was pummeled by about 10 guys for his trouble, to the tune of major dental damage.

Barker (26-1) and Geale (29-2) showed desire galore, and gave the fans at Revel's first fight card a solid showing, but no, neither looked to be the type who'd throw a scare into Team Golovkin, and give the ascendent hitter a taste of losing.

I asked Tom Loeffler, the U.S. rep for Golovkin's promoter, K2, his takeaway from the Barker win.

"My take is that we know why Geale wouldn't fight Golovkin (27-0), completely different level of champion," said Loeffler, with a reference to his assertion that then WBA champ Geale had avoided fighting GGG after the WBA ordered him to do so. He then pivoted away from the mild critique, to give a thumbs up to both combatants. "I thought both Geale and Barker showed a lot of heart and both seem to be good guys outside of the ring. It's nice to see classy guys in the middleweight division."

The rumor mill is saying that Golovkin will next tangle with Brownsviller Curtis Stevens, who is also on a KO tear, albeit on a lesser scale. A source at Main Events, Steven's promoter, said that was not a done deal, but signs point to that bout unfolding in N.Y. on Nov. 2.

Sergio Martinez, being a beltholder at middleweight, has to be in theoretical discussions for what comes next for Barker. I asked Team Martinez's Nathan Lewkowicz* his take on the Barker triumph. "I think it shows that Sergio fights top fighters," he said, referring to Martinez's Oct. 2011 KO11 victory over Barker, which at the time didn't draw universal praise for Sergio. "People said Barker was not that good and obviously he is. Sergio's next fight will be in April or March. We're looking to make a big splash with his return." Lewkowicz said Martinez' recent knee surgery is playing out well, that he is working out twice a day already.

Some names in possible play for Martinez' next go, we've heard, are Miguel Cotto, who would move up from 154, Floyd Mayweather, who wouldn't, Golovkin, Barker and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who dropped a lopsided decision to Sergio in Sept. 2012 but spurred rematch interest with a 12th-round knockdown of the champ. We hear Team Martinez would entertain that sequel only if Chavez Jr. agreed to rigorous PED testing.

Readers, lay out your best-laid plans for how you'd like to see the middleweight puzzle pieces get moved about in the near future.

Follow Woods on Twitter.

*=Lewkowicz on Sunday clearly wanted to exult some in the win by Kiko Martinez at Revel. Martinez, a 27-year-old Spaniard managed by Sergio Martinez and promoted by Nathan's father Sampson Lewkowicz, is 5-5, but he fought twice as tall and nasty against IBF super bantam champ Jhonatan Romero of Colombia. Martinez, now 29-4, scored a TKO6 win, one of three title changes shown on HBO. "Kiko is the Lucas Matthysse of the super bantamweights," Nathan told me. "He put in hard work and it shows that having the right trainer (Pablo Sarmiento) and a great team can produce some positive changes in a fighter."
Confession: I was out of town on Saturday, upstate in Hudson, visiting friends along with the wife and kids. So I didn't see the Sergio Martinez-Darren Barker clash in Atlantic City that night. I did sneak peeks at my Twitter feed, and from that, I deduced that Barker was performing far better than most if not all folks outside of his camp thought he would. Well, guess what? When I fired up the TiVo and watched the fight, I didn't give the Brit a single round.

Now, before you bloggers-in-your-underpants go into critique mode, I will say the scoring system we use now deserves some scorn when utilized in fights such as this one. This was the sort of fight in which I'd like the Mike Woods Scoring System to be in place. The rounds were close. Real close. And if given the chance, using my soon-to-be-patented scoring system, I would have scored a bunch of them for Martinez, 10-9.5.

Under the current scoring system used everywhere, rounds are scored from 10 points on down. So Martinez could have won a round comfortably, but since he didn't score a knockdown, he would be given a 10-9 margin. Or, the round could have been super close, with Martinez landing just three or four more punches than Barker did ... and the round would be scored the same way, 10-9. A good eight of the 10 full rounds could have featured fractional numbers on judges' scorecards using the Woods System, in my mind.

When I am installed as Commissioner of Boxing, I will lobby for my system to be put in place, but until then, scores will not be as effective a measure of performance as they could be.

Martinez stopped Barker in Round 11. End of the day, I was disappointed to see Barker do something he told NYFightblog he wouldn't do. "I'm not here to make up the number (to go the distance)," he told us. But, in fact, he did just that. (It's critical to note that I am not busting on him without mercy here. Martinez still remains one of the best handful of fighters on the planet, pound for pound. He can and will make the best pugilists out there seize up, with his hand speed, movement and unorthodox launches.)

Barker threw fewer than 40 punches a round, and that tells me he simply didn't work hard enough offensively. I will assume it was subconscious, but in the end, he fought like he was there to make up the number.

Martinez wins the fight of his life in AC

October, 3, 2011
I've been doing this long enough to know the value of a contrarian mindset. As NYFightblog mentioned on Wednesday, what people look like on paper can appear radically different in the ring. I wrote, on the topic of Saturday's Sergio Martinez-Darren Barker title clash at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, "It goes without saying, but it should be said anyway, what looks to be on paper can look quite different in person. Maybe Barker fights his face off on Saturday, channels every drop of energy, strength and stamina he possesses, maybe Martinez comes down with a flu bug the night before the fight, maybe Martinez has romantic woes that we don't know about which sap his focus."

Nobody was much giving Barker a sniff of a chance against Martinez, who was answering more questions about whether he'd be able to lure Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao into a tussle than he was about the Brit underdog the last few weeks. But by Round 4, as Martinez's nose was a leaky faucet of crimson, all talk of lottery-ticket fights was dead. Barker was fighting the fight of his life, making a man universally regarded as one of the handful of best fighters on the planet look like an semi-ordinary hitter. But then the skill gap widened. Martinez got more accurate, and Barker's buzz dimmed. By Rounds 7 and 8 Martinez had the edge in volume, and in Round 11, a right hook to the temple landed over Barker's earmuffs. He went down, and tried to beat the count, but was discombobulated. The time of the KO finish was 1:29 of the 11th.

Back to that contrarian mindset -- it's entirely possible that Martinez helped himself in landing a megafight with his sub-stellar showing. He didn't look like a pound-for-pound ace for much of the night, and that might make Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao a bit more likely to give him a crack.

Barker fights for his late brother

September, 29, 2011
I haven't found the pundit yet, if he exists, who thinks Darren Barker will upset middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City on Saturday. We will say this for Barker, he moved our dial a half notch towards believing he could upset Martinez when he with total conviction told NYFightblog that he's come to the States to shock the boxing world.

When asked to describe his style, he said he adapts to his foe, can punch "a bit," is elusive, has good handspeed, and that "I am here cause I truly believe I can win...I will win. I'm capable of pulling off a big upset."

"I'm not here to make up the number (to go the distance). I dedicated my life since I was 12 to boxing, it's all I've done, my family were fighters, all I've done since I was a kid, I'm here because I want to prove I'm the best middleweight in the world. I wouldn't let myself down. I haven't seen the best of Darren Barker and I believe you've seen the best of Sergio Martinez but you haven't seen the best of Darren Barker, so I'm looking forward to showing the fight fans across the world what I'm made of."

If you're the sort who roots for the underdog across the board, then this item will likely have you cheering on the Brit when you tune in to HBO Saturday night. He'll be giving an extra bit of effort against Martinez to honor his younger brother Gary, who was killed in a car accident in 2006. The boys were psyched to be pros together, but Gary's death scotched that plan. Darren held some guilt, wondering if he could have prevented the death, because it was late, and they'd had some drinks, and Gary said he wanted to visit his girl. He texted big bro, telling him he was fine to drive, and off he went. Darren saw the text the next day, after he learned the tragic news. "He was a massive talent, he would've definitely been in this position I was in, he was such a natural," Darren said of Gary.

Promoter Lou DiBella told NYFightblog that he's slightly worried that all he's hearing is what comes next for middleweight champion Sergio Martinez after he beats Darren Barker in Atlantic City Saturday night.

DiBella says Barker is no bum, has nothing to lose and that he would prefer not to indulge in speculation about what comes next for Martinez, who is acknowledged to be one of the top three pound for pound boxers on the planet. But, he understands that fans are hungering for some clarity in the pound for pound picture.

Clarity would be best achieved if Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao would cease their years-long period of flirtation, estrangement and court-room battles (Pacquiao has a case pending against Team Mayweather for alleged libel) and hash it out in the ring. But if that can't occur -- and it seems a fair bet that at the very least it won't happen in the near future, with Mayweather staring down a bunch of assault charges, including one involving the mother of his children -- then Pacquiao-Martinez is an acceptable substitute.

DiBella told NYFightblog that Martinez is willing to "drain himself" to make 150 to fight Pacquiao, and would make 154, agree to a stringent drug-testing regimen and a cap on fightnight weight gain to meet Floyd.
Full slate for NYFightblog starting tomorrow.

I'm hitting a luncheon for Andy Lee (26-1), the middleweight trained by Manny Steward who is looking to make the leap from contender to Contender.

Lee, born in Ireland, living in The City, will fight Brian Vera (19-5; age 29; lives in Texas) on Oct. 1. That bout is a rematch of a 2008 fight Lee lost and will run on the undercard of the Sergio Martinez-Darren Barker scrap in Atlantic City.

Vera is a journeyman, but on the upper crust of journeymen. He will simply beat you if you are not physically and mentally prepared, even if perhaps you supposedly possess more skills than he does. He's the sort of fighter who some smart folks are trying to re-position in the fight game. Yes, he has losses. Yes, he may never advance to to be premium talent. But he simply takes part in fan-friendly fights. Call it the UFC influence, which hasn't been embraced by boxing's suits, but IMO, should be. Just because a man has lost some bouts does not make him less of an attraction. Oh, and Lee, by the way, may also in the near future be assessed the same way as I just did Vera ...

Also looking to have a chat with Brooklyn's Sechew Powell (26-3; age 32). The junior middleweight had a shot at a crown, but came up short for the IBF 154-pound strap against Cornelius Bundrage on June 25 in Missouri. Powell has been on the cusp for many a moon, and I wonder if he's feeling some urgency, if he's wondering if things will ever break his way.

I feel some fondness for him, I admit, because I did a feature on him for the late Boxing Digest Magazine around 2003, when he'd had a handful of pro fights, and so I have always followed his goings-on that much more closely.

Powell has stayed busy giving Floyd Mayweather sparring in Las Vegas the last few weeks, so we'll get some insight on how Floyd has looked. Is he still all that, or does he look like a 34-year-old guy in the ring now, with diminished reflexes?

Also slated to chat with ex-super bantam champ Joan Guzman, once knocking on the door of pound-for-pound lists, now banging on the door, begging to be let back into the mix. The Brooklyn resident is 35; is it simply too late for the Dominican Republic native to get his head screwed on tight enough to have one more title run? He's had more trouble with the scale than anything else recently, so we'll keep a close eye on his poundage sitch when he tangles with Armando Robles (17-1) on Oct. 1 in the D.R.

Follow me on Twitter.