In mid-August when Darren Barker stepped into the ring to face Daniel Geale at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City, he was battling his own personal demons as well. He’d lost to Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City in 2011. Just three months earlier he’d come up short as the lead trainer for Lee Purdy’s valiant attempt to unseat Devon Alexander at Boardwalk Hall.
Entering the fight he was in a confident mood: “I’ve got a bit of redemption, I’m 0-2 over there. I lost there and Purdy lost, so I’m counting that as a defeat. So it’ll be bittersweet winning the title there. Third time lucky as they say.”
During the build-up a confident Barker proclaimed, “What’s really exciting is the battles we’ve been having with Australia. The Lions (rugby) have been successful over there, the Ashes (cricket) and I’m [guaranteed] to beat Geale. I said on Australian radio, they can start to rebuilding their sport on August the 18th because they’re going to come unstuck with our rivalries,” adding extra spice to an already big sporting rivalry between Britain and Australia.
But while looking to achieve his boyhood dream he would also need to reverse the fortune of British middleweights. Over the past decade it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground. Finding a title contender hasn’t been a problem, quite the contrary; finding a champion, on the other hand, is a whole different story.
It’s been 14 long years since Jason Matthews stopped countryman Ryan Rhodes to pick up the interim WBO laurels and was shortly thereafter elevated to full champion status. He lost it just four months later to Armand Krajnc. Since then many have tried, none had succeeded. All told, British fighters went 0-8-1 (Barker’s loss vs. Martinez was for the WBC Diamond belt, and Martin Murray’s win last year was for the WBA interim belt) since Matthews held his crown all those years back.
After winning a close split decision over Geale – 116-111, 114-113 and 113-114 – whilst recovering from a liver shot that nearly broke him in half, Barker with a tear in his eye touchingly paid tribute to his brother who tragically passed away several years ago, saying “I seen my brother, I seen my daughter, someone, something picked me up.”
Here’s a list of the “nearly men”:
Nov. 17, 2001: William Joppy MD 12 Howard Eastman (Las Vegas) WBA. Joppy was to win the vacant WBA title via majority decision, getting off the canvas late in the final round to eke out a 115-112, 114-112 and 113-113 decision.
Feb. 19, 2005: Bernard Hopkins UD 12 Howard Eastman (Los Angeles) WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO and RING. Eastman lost a unanimous decision in his second world title attempt 119-110, 117-111 and 116-112.
Dec. 8, 2007: Arthur Abraham KO 5 Wayne Elcock (Basel, Switzerland) IBF. Brave Elcock was out of his depth, dropped twice before being stopped in the fifth round.
June 7, 2008: Kelly Pavlik KO 3 Gary Lockett (Atlantic City) WBC, WBO and RING. The Welshman simply couldn’t live with Pavlik’s power, touched down three times before the towel was thrown in.
June 25, 2011: Felix Sturm SD 12 Matthew Macklin (Cologne, Germany) WBA. Despite many believing Mackin had done enough to win the title he was on the wrong end of a split decision 116-112, 116-112 and 113-115.
Dec. 2, 2011: Felix Sturm D 12 Martin Murray (Mannheim, Germany) WBA. Sturm again kept his title, earning a split draw 116-112, 113-115 and 114-114.
June 16, 2012: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. KO 7 Andy Lee (El Paso, Texas) WBC. Lee built an early lead before Chavez’s pressure told in the seventh round. At the time of the stoppage Lee held a 58-56 lead on all three judges’ cards.
April. 27, 2013: Sergio Martinez UD 12 Martin Murray (Buenos Aires, Argentina) WBC and RING. Though Murray dropped Martinez in the eighth he was unable to keep him there, losing a close unanimous decision 115-112 across the board.
June 29, 2013: Gennady Golovkin KO 3 Matthew Macklin (New York) WBA. From the get-go it appeared as though Macklin had bitten off more than he could chew. Golovkin had Macklin going backwards until he caught him with a devastating liver shot in the third stanza.
Aug. 17, 2013: Darren Barker SD 12 Daniel Geale (Atlantic City) IBF. Finally, a British boxer ends the streak, recovering from a debilitating bodyshot in the sixth round to win a split decision 116-111, 114-113 and 113-114.
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