Darren Barker celebrates during the last round of his hard-fought IBF middleweight title-winning bout against Daniel Geale on Aug. 17, 2013, in Atlantic City.
Former middleweight titleholder Darren Barker has been forced into retirement by his latest potentially-crippling hip injury.
Last month the 31-year-old from north London, England, suffered a recurrence of the long-term problem while losing his IBF belt to Felix Sturm in Stuttgart, Germany. Barker was in agony midway through the first round before his corner threw in the towel early in the second.
Many suspected then that would be likely spell the end of his decade in the pro game. Sadly, those fears were confirmed on Wednesday in an emotional statement from Barker, which included heart-felt tributes to late brother Gary, long-time trainer Tony Sims and promoter Eddie Hearn.
“I’m so proud and happy at what I’ve achieved. When I won my first national title as a kid I could have retired a happy boy then, so to have won all the major titles possible, I'm a very, very happy man,” said Barker (22-2, 16 knockouts). “I did this all for my brother Gary – we did it mate! I'm now looking forward to sitting back, being a keen fan and wishing my fellow countrymen all the best in their careers.
“I would like to thank my family for their support, without them none of what I achieved would have been possible. And to my fantastic friends and all the fans that bought tickets to my fights, and travelled the country and world supporting me, I really appreciate it. 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. Then there is 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 realise my dream.”
That came in August last year in Atlantic City when Barker climbed off the floor to take the IBF belt from Aussie Daniel Geale on a split decision. It was the pinnacle moment in a career that, despite personal tragedies and relentless injuries, had brought British, European and Commonwealth straps, as well as gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Matchroom supremo Hearn, undoubtedly integral to Barker eventually making it to the summit, has nothing but praise and glowing accolades for the Barnet boy known as ‘Dazzling Darren.’
“It is with both sadness and joy that Darren Barker announces his retirement from the sport today,” said Hearn. “Darren has been an exemplary role model for any young fighter and a wonderful ambassador for boxing, having won the Southern Area, British, Commonwealth, European and IBF middleweight titles in a career spanning nine years.
“The sport of boxing is in Darren's blood. He learnt his trade at the world-renowned Repton club, his Father Terry captured the ABA flyweight title and his brother Gary, who some say was the one of the best young talents the country had ever seen, donned the green and gold vest.
“Darren has overcome many adversities in his career. 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 her realised his dream by capturing the IBF title.
“Unable to run in his preparation for that fight, 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 the changing-room tears, a visit to the hospital for treatment to his hip and the disappointment of losing his title, Darren's family and 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 and he had achieved all he ever wanted.”