Amidst dramatic scenes Felix Sturm halted IBF middleweight titlist Darren Barker in two rounds and made history by becoming the first German fighter to win a fourth world title on Saturday in Stuttgart, Germany, securing his legacy in stunning fashion.
In Round 2 Sturm (THE RING’s No. 5-rated middleweight) tagged Barker with a bursting right hand to the ear and the Londoner rose minus his equilibrium. He fired back gamely but Sturm smelled blood and released punches with confidence and ferocity.
Another knockdown came courtesy of a brutal combination to the head and Barker (THE RING’s No. 2-rated middleweight) signaled to his corner that an old hip injury was hindering his chances. He rose but limped towards a neutral corner and when the referee allowed the action to commence, there was only going to be one winner.
The towel and the referee’s stoppage were simultaneous as Sturm teed off at will.
“This is the second best performance of my career,” said Sturm. “My best performance was against Oscar De La Hoya (a controversial loss). I’m 34, not 44, and everyone is different. I still have five or six years left in this sport.
“I feel great at the moment and I trained harder than I ever have in my life.”
The writing was on the wall when Sturm hurt Barker in the opening seconds of Round 1. The champion returned fire but Storm confidently released his punches and appeared so much stronger. Either Barker was going to change tactics or the damage would continue to mount and, unfortunately for the champion, it was the latter.
Coming in one got the feeling that Barker was likely to be a tough proposition for Sturm to repel. The British star had overcome family bereavement, multiple injuries and professional defeat to fulfil his world title ambitions, against Daniel Geale in August, and his hunger and drive appeared limitless.
By contrast Sturm has looked like a fading force in recent times. In 2011 the German retained his WBA title with a split=decision victory and a draw against Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray respectively, but many felt the German star was the beneficiary of home town scoring in both defenses.
He finally came unstuck in September 2012 against the aforementioned Geale, dropping a split decision to the rugged Australian. Sturm did perform admirably but his WBA title was gone and the subsequent comeback has been patchy, since his demotion to contender status.
In February another Australian, Sam Soliman, outpointed Sturm old via unanimous decision (later changed to a No Contest after Soliman failed a drug test) and the thirty four year old’s win over the undistinguished Predrag Radosevic proved little, if anything.
Recently he has fought in limited, albeit impressive, bursts and one expected Barker to be busier and perhaps pull away on points. The Londoner’s engine is one of his primary assets, but Sturm didn’t allow proceedings to get that far, switching his tactics to stun Barker with a brutal two fisted assault.
Barker’s inspiring story has come to a shuddering halt. A rematch clause had been written into the contract, presumably to protect the Englishman from a hometown decision, but it was all academic. Sturm was irresistible tonight and this victory will have sent shockwaves through the middleweight division.
Sturm improves to (39-3-2, 18 knockouts) and Barker suffers his second defeat in 28 contests.
Photos / Simon Hofmann-Bongarts
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing