- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Middleweight titleholder Darren Barker of England, who won his belt in a dramatic August slugfest with Daniel Geale, will make his first defense against former titleholder and mandatory challenger Felix Sturm on Dec. 7 in Stuttgart, Germany, Sturm's home country.
With a purse bid looming, Barker and Sturm made a deal for the fight. Barker promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport said Wednesday the agreement includes the option for Barker to face Sturm in a March rematch in England in the event he loses.
The fighters will meet face-to-face at a news conference scheduled for Oct. 9 in Stuttgart, with a second one the following day in London, Barker's hometown. Barker won his 160-pound world title in dramatic fashion from Australia's Geale on Aug. 17 in Atlantic City, N.J., getting off the deck from a brutal body-shot knockdown that nearly ended the fight in the sixth round to go on and win a split decision.
After the fight, Hearn said he would do everything he could to secure Barker's mandatory defense against Sturm in London. But the deal to go to Sturm's turf in Germany was too good for Barker and Hearn to pass up.
"We have been in discussions with Felix Sturm's team since the Daniel Geale fight, and with purse bids approaching they made their intentions quite clear," Hearn said. "Felix is the fight we want both financially and from a legacy perspective and once we were able to introduce our necessary demands, which included a potential second fight in the UK and neutral officials, then this was an opportunity Darren could not turn down.
"Even though defeat would lead to an immediate rematch in London, we are all confident that Darren will defend his title in style on Dec. 7 in Germany."
The 31-year-old Barker (26-1, 16 KOs) tweeted that it was his decision to accept the fight in Germany.
AND STILL!!!! Just to let you know I had choices and I picked this fight over there and come 7th December you will see why! #BarkervSturm
— Darren Barker (@DarrenBarker82) October 2, 2013
Barker's victory against Geale came in his second title opportunity. In 2011, Barker also fought in Atlantic City and, while he was competitive against champion Sergio Martinez, he was knocked out in the 11th round.
Sidelined by injuries after the fight, Barker eventually came back to win two fights in a row before getting the shot at Geale.
Sturm (38-3-2, 17 KOs), 34, faced Geale in a September 2012 title unification fight and lost a split decision, a surprise considering the fight was in Germany.
In his next fight, in February, Sturm, a three-time titleholder, lost a decision to Australia's Sam Soliman in a title eliminator. However, Soliman tested positive for a banned substance after the fight and the result of the bout was changed to a no contest and Sturm was inserted back into the mandatory position.
In a July tuneup fight, Sturm stopped Predrag Radosevic of Montenegro in the fourth round in anticipation of the title fight.