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Former middleweight titlist Darren Barker, done in by a chronic hip injury, announced his retirement from boxing Wednesday.
"I'm so proud and happy at what I've achieved. When I won my first national (amateur) title as a kid I could have retired a happy boy then, so to have won all the major titles possible for me I'm a very, very happy man," Barker said. "I did this all for my (late) brother Gary -- we did it mate! I'm now looking forward to sitting back and being a keen fan and wishing all my fellow countrymen all the best in their careers."
Barker's only two defeats came in world title bouts, an 11th-round knockout to lineal champion Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City, N.J., in 2011 in a fight in which he gave Martinez fits and a second-round knockout to Felix Sturm in Stuttgart, Germany on Dec. 7.
It was during the fight with Sturm, Barker's first title defense, when his hip injury flared up. A clearly hobbled Barker could not steady himself and Sturm was all over him, leading to the stoppage loss.
But in the fight before facing Sturm, Barker scored his most glorious victory, returning to Atlantic City on Aug. 17 and engaging Daniel Geale of Australia in a tremendous battle. Barker survived a sixth-round knockdown on a brutal body shot that looked like it would end the fight, only to get up, win a split decision and claim a 160-pound world title.
Barker (26-2, 16 KOs), 31, returned home to England as a hero before heading to Sturm's home country of Germany four months later to make his mandatory defense. Had Barker been able to continue his career, Sturm owed him a contractually obligated rematch.
In addition to winning a world title, Barker also twice won the European middleweight title as well as the British and Commonwealth belts during career from 2004 to 2013."I would like to thank my family for their support, without them none of what I achieved would have been possible," Barker said. "My fantastic friends and all the fans that brought tickets to my fights and traveled the country and world supporting me, I really appreciate it and thank you.
"Tony Sims -- he constantly got the best out of me and he's more than a fantastic trainer. He's a mentor and very good friend. (Promoter) Eddie Hearn and the rest of the guys at Matchroom Sport for getting me the big fights and elevating me to another level and, ultimately, getting me the fight that helped me realize a dream, and I've also met some friends for life there."
Hearn, who has a close relationship with Barker -- the first fighter he ever signed to a promotional deal -- wished him well in retirement.
"It is with both sadness and joy that Darren Barker announces his retirement from the sport today," Hearn said. "Darren has been an exemplary role model for any young fighter and a wonderful ambassador for boxing. The sport of boxing is in Darren's blood."
Barker dedicated his biggest wins to his late brother Gary, who was 19 when he was killed in a car accident.
"Darren has overcome many adversities in his career," Hearn said. "The greatest (was) the loss of his brother Gary at just 19, but a series of career-threatening injuries have made Darren's journey even more remarkable and no one will ever forget that magical night in Atlantic City on Aug. 17, 2013, when Darren realized his dream by capturing the IBF world middleweight title against Daniel Geale.
"Unable to run in his preparation for that fight (because of the hip problem), Darren adapted his training and summoned the most incredible amount of mental desire to win. I will never forget Michael Buffer's words 'and the new…,' a moment that made us all so proud but no one more than his late brother Gary. I feel that night took a piece of Darren's soul and whilst in his preparation for the Sturm fight he showed the same amount of intensity and desire, the damage on his body and numerous operations meant that he was unable to give Felix the fight he needed to defend his title.
"(After) a visit to the hospital for treatment to his hip and the disappointment of losing his world title, Darren's family a friends made their way back to the hotel. We shared a beer and just by looking in his eyes I knew it was all over but Darren Barker was at peace, the struggle was over but he had achieved all he ever wanted."