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Brutal battle proves Barker belongs

Steve Bunce October 4, 2011 « Balotelli the bright light for City | Chartbeat test »
Barker: Good defeat or bad defeat?

Darren Barker may look at the Sergio Martinez fight again and think: 'What if I kept up my early pace throughout; what if I had a bit more confidence in my ability?' But he proved he can mix in top company, and that's massive for him.

Having watched the fight, we can now say Darren has a chance against any of the other world champions - you have to rate him 50-50 or, in one or two cases, as a favourite.

Yes, he slowed down a bit in the late stages, but that's what happens when you're in with a guy like Martinez, who suddenly decides to step it up. If he moves across you a few times, if he closes down your space, you have to work doubly hard just to stay with him.

Whenever someone gets stopped down the stretch, there are always concerns about stamina - but you have to remember that Martinez is exceptional. If Darren was fighting just a good champion - Felix Sturm, Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr, Dmitry Pirog, whoever - and faded in the last few rounds, you'd maybe say: yeah, he got his conditioning wrong. This was Martinez, the best active pound-for-pound fighter in the world. There was nothing wrong with Darren's camp.

And because it was Martinez, we got some champion scoring from the judges, which is a side effect of top-level boxing. The announcer called him Baker in the ring - and if he doesn't know him, you can bet that the men and women sitting in judgement don't either. I had it closer than the one judge at 99-91; the other two were about right at 97-94 and 96-94.

So Barker's star is on the rise, and it's going to be very interesting to see the way his promoter, Eddie Hearn, takes things from here. Hearn's company, Matchroom, had a good win on Saturday night in Germany, when Darren's old European title was claimed by Grzegorz Proksa. He's a possibile opponent for Darren, or he may walk into a world title fight - I can't see him taking an easy six or eight rounder to feel his way back in.

'I hope for Kell Brook's sanity that he gets a title shot' © Getty Images
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The one Barker really wants is Matt Macklin, but it looks like he is going to fight Martinez next in what promises to be a hard and brutal affair. However, there will be a time in Martinez's career where he fades, having been in hard fights for a long time - and maybe Macklin will be the lucky recipient.

Conversely, maybe Martinez will be razor-sharp after being given such a scare by Barker, who he underestimated to an extent. That could spell bad news for Macklin if they meet. However, Macklin is a good operator and he would have taken a lot of positives from the fight.

The Kell tolls
I hope for Kell Brook's sanity, and the patience of his fans, that Rafal Jackiewicz is his last fight before he gets a proper world title shot. The problem is, the welterweights out there aren't just getting on with their career - they're all waiting for a call from Manny Pacquiao, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto or Floyd Mayweather Jnr. They want a money call, not one from Kell's people.

My understanding is that a lot of the guys at welterweight - none of them particularly jaw-dropping names - are asking for fortunes to fight Brook. That's no good for anyone: in an ideal world he should be able to knock off one or two of them: bish, bosh and bang.

Hopefully Hearn can put a bit of pressure on the ranking organisations, see if they can force someone to come to the table and fight. Kell's ready now: he was 21 forever. He's ready for the world title right now.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.