ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Looking up from the canvas, Darren Barker felt that they were looking back at him – his wife, his family, his daughter. One of those life-flashing-before-your-eyes moments. Only this was happening with a searing pain ripping through his right side and a live audience watching.
Barker got up. He had to get up.
His sides burning with each painful step to his feet, Barker gathered himself firm in knowing something greater could be ahead – and it was.
It’s why the kisses felt so sweet as they spilled over from everywhere. His mom, his sister, his promoter, Eddie Hearn, all laid one on the “new” IBF middleweight titleholder after Barker pulled off a hard-fought, rugged 12-round split decision over Daniel Geale Saturday night at Ovation Hall at the new Revel Resort.
Barker (26-1, 16 knockouts) won by scores of 114-113 on judge Carlos Ortiz’s scorecard and 116-111 on Barbara Perez’s card; while judge Alan Rubenstein had it for Geale, 114-113.
Barker survived a vicious knockdown in the sixth round after taking a hard left hook to the liver.
“I started loading up and I got careless and got hit too much, and got knocked down,” Barker said. “The occasion kind of got to me a little. If I would have stuck to my game plan and boxed, I would have won easily. But when I was knocked down, it was all going through my head – my wife, my family, my daughter. I knew what I was up against.”
Barker knew he had to get up.
Composed, regaining control, he went on to win five of the next six rounds on each of the judge’s scorecards.
A disconsolate Geale (29-2, 15 knockouts) just shook his head after the decision was announced.
“I thought I won the fight – I was never hurt,” said the Australian veteran, who had made four defenses of the IBF title. “I definitely want a rematch.”
Much of the fight was sloppy, with both fighters falling into each other and swatting at air. Geale actually landed the higher percentage of total punches, connecting on 259-693, while Barker threw and landed more, 292-862, according to CompuBox.
The real difference was in power shots.
Barker connected on 244 of 582 power shots, and Geale scored on 211 of 503 of his power punches thrown.
Martinez surprises Romero with sixth TKO
From the opening bell, Kiko Martinez kept plowing forward, head down, burrowing in on Jhonatan Romero. Martinez (29-4, 21 knockouts) never let Romero (23-1, 12 knockouts) get into a rhythm, never let him use his considerable reach.
Martinez, 121.5 pounds, chopped down the taller Romero, and then finally stopped him, under a fusillade of punches, forcing referee David Fields to step in and wave it over at 2:40 of the sixth round.
Martinez wrested the IBF junior featherweight belt from Romero, the first major title in the Spaniard’s career.
“I felt very strong tonight,” Martinez said. “Today is a great day. I’m going to have a big party when I get back home. I had to keep throwing punches, because I knew the referee would eventually stop the fight, because I had him hurt. I want to fight Nonito Donaire next.”
Martinez set the pace in the opening round, pinning Romero against the ropes and firing away to the body. In the second round, Romero used more lateral movement to get away from Martinez, but fell back under Martinez’s pressure again in the third.
Romero began using his reach and height a little more in the fourth round to stay away from Martinez, but Martinez’s shots began taking a toll on Romero’s face. Romero’s left eye was swollen and by the fifth, closed almost shut – setting up the dramatic sixth.
The sixth round was a classic.
Martinez kept coming forward, borrowing in, and Romero was fighting back, making Martinez pay each time he drew within punching range. Then finally, in the last minute of the round, Martinez, head down, threw himself at Romero, and pinned him against the ropes.
Martinez kept smashing away, until finally referee David Fields intervened and ended it.
In the first fight of the six-fight card, lightweight Jonathan Maicelo (19-1, 12 knockouts) stopped the very game Jose Rodriguez (19-12, 11 knockouts) at 22 seconds into the 10th round, in a fight originally scheduled for eight rounds.
Junior welterweight prospect Thomas Dulorme (19-1, 14 knockouts) stopped overmatched Frankie Figueroa (20-5-1, 15 knockouts) in the eighth round of a scheduled 10 rounds. Dulorme tallied knockdowns in the third and fifth rounds before referee Ricardo Vera stopped it 47 seconds into the eighth.
In a spirited battle between two tall junior welters, Yordenys Ugas (15-1, 7 knockouts) won a unanimous 10-round decision over John Williams (11-3-1, 5 knockouts) by scores of 98-91 (twice) and 99-90.
Ausie featherweight Olympian Joel Brunker (27-0, 15 knockouts) overcame a cut left eye and a swelling under his right eye to beat Mike Oliver (25-5, 8 knockouts) to win an eight-rounder by unanimous scores of 78-74 on all three scorecards.
Photos / Rich Schultz-Getty Images