Darren Barker (left) lands a sweeping left to the head of Simone Rotolo during their scheduled 12-round middleweight bout at Wembley Arena on March 9 in London, England. Barker scored a fourth-round stoppage.
There’s no shame in losing to the middleweight king Sergio Martinez as Britain’s Darren Barker showed the better part of two years ago. He gave Martinez trouble early before valiantly succumbing midway through the penultimate round.
Since then the now 31-year-old contender has battled through well documented injuries that initially kept him sidelined for 14 months after the Martinez setback. Now with the help of a new training regime that takes the burden of rigorous training sessions and road work off his previously injured hip.
He stopped both fellow Brit Kerry Hope and Italian veteran Simone Rotolo in the fourth round in his two comeback fights and is now set for his second world title tilt when he meets IBF ruler Daniel Geale on Aug. 17 at Revel Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey in an HBO-televised main event.
Barker is fully aware of the qualities Geale brings to the ring saying.
“He’s a typically tough Australian, he’s busy, he works hard, he throws a lot of punches, he’s got an awkwardness to his style,” Barker told RingTV.com, before confidentially adding, “but when I look at the fight it’s not so much his weaknesses, I just personally think I’m better than him in every department. I think I’m quicker than him, I think I hit harder than him, I think I’m stronger than him. I look forward to proving it.”
Time will tell if “Dazzling” Darren is able to make good on those words when he meets the underrated Geale. Here’s what Barker had to say when RingTV.com caught up with Barker at his gym in Hainault, London shortly before he headed to America.
Anson Wainwright: You challenge Daniel Geale for his IBF middleweight crown on Saturday, Aug. 17 in Atlantic City. What are your thought s on the fight and what do you see that Geale brings to the ring?
Darren Barker: “He’s a worthy champion. He beat Felix Sturm, (Sebastian) Sylvester, he unified two of the belts, so he’s no mug. They don’t hand titles out for nothing. But when I look at the fight it’s not so much his weaknesses, I just personally think I’m better than him in every department. I think I’m quicker than him, I think I hit harder than him, I think I’m stronger than him. I look forward to proving it on 17th August.
He’s a typically tough Australian, he’s busy, he works hard, he throws a lot of punches. He’s got an awkwardness to his style as well that I think a lot of people can’t see from the outside but I think when you’re in with him he comes across a lot more awkward as some of his opponents have found out.
We were saying the other day he hasn’t really lost. The one to (Anthony) Mundine he did lose was controversial and he avenged that so he’s obviously doing something right. But with my amateur pedigree I just think I can outbox him quite easily and even force a stoppage.
AW: This will be your second world title fight. How do you think the experience from your first attempt will help you?
DB: It’s a great thing it’s in Atlantic City as well ’cause I know what goes on there. I know the surroundings. I know how it all operates out there with the New Jersey state commission. I’m comfortable. I’m aware of what’s happening there. I was there recently for the Lee Purdy (vs. Devon Alexander) fights so I got another taste for the atmosphere and the American way of doing things in Atlantic City. I’ve got a bit of redemption with the place as well, I’m 0-2 over there. I lost there (Sergio Martinez) and Purdy lost so I’m counting that as a defeat (for me). So it’ll be bittersweet winning the title there. Third time lucky as they say.
AW: Can you tell us a little about your training camp?
DB: As far as nutrition is concerned we’ve taken on a nutrition list called Mike Jones from Insite Nutrition and he’s been fantastic, he’s put my diet right which I haven’t ever really done properly. It’s something I’ve put in place now and I’m feeling the benefits in training, that’s one box ticked.
My injuries have been well documented with my running, so I’ve had to change the way I train, so every morning I’m in Fulham or Chelsea either swimming, I’m doing work on a trampoline, I’ve introduced lots of yoga and I do a lot of my strength work in the pool (with) the resistance from the water and I’m not feeling any injuries. It’s given me a love back for the sport that I haven’t had for ages. Being in the gym injure, it’s so frustrating, so being able to train injury free it’s given me a new lease of life, a new buzz so from there I go home relax have some food then I’m back in the gym doing sports specific stuff. I do trampoline work sometimes, running on the spot because there’s no heavy impact. There’s the give on the trampoline and it’s really good on my hip.
We’re going over (to the U.S.) just under two weeks before the fight. We’re going the 5th August. The work’s done then, you can’t get much fitter. We’ll get there the Monday, train the rest of the week, taper it down then. I think we’re going to organize some sparring out there, probably two, three spars out there and then (I’m) ready to rumble. Unlike other fights, because of injuries, I’ve always been saying I wish I had another week or another couple of weeks to prepare, but this one I’ve been ready for awhile, my weight’s been great.
AW: It’s a big day for British sport. It marks the start of the Premiership, Nathan Cleverly kicks off the British leg of the boxing when he fights Sergei Kovalev and of course your fight.
DB: Yeah definitely. Sport in this country is doing really well. What’s really exciting is the battles we’ve been having with Australia. The Lions have been successful over there, the Ashes and I’m a guaranteed cert (smiles) 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.
AW: You’ve won British, Commonwealth and the European twice. The world title is the only one missing.
DB: 100 percent. It’s the final piece of the jigsaw, it’s my ultimate goal, something I’ve set out since I was a kid. I’m proud of everything I have achieved but I won’t be totally satisfied until I do win a world title and I think the fight against Martinez proved to myself that I am world class and worthy of being a world champion. You’ve got to remember when I fought Martinez he was of the same sort of stature that (Gennady) Golovkin is now. Everyone was petrified of him. He’d just come off the great win over Sergei Dzindziruk, before that the knockout of the year against Paul Williams. So, I went in there not with probably 100 percent belief in myself. There were things going on behind the scenes that not many people were aware of but no excuses the best man won, but it’s what I’ve taken away from that fight. I never really knew what the saying “invaluable” meant, people say it all the time but until you’ve experienced doing something invaluable you can’t understand what it is. I take great knowledge from that fight into this fight and that’s why I truly believe I’m going to win.
AW: How did you first become interested in and then involved in boxing?
DB: Typical upbringing really, as far as boxing was concerned. No one ever pushed me into boxing but my dad was an amateur boxer. He won the ABA and was a top fighter and if it wasn’t for my mum getting his trophies out of the loft and cleaning them up, I don’t suppose I’d have got into boxing because my dad is very modest. He doesn’t say much as far as boxing is concerned. You want to make your dad proud and my thing was boxing so I started in a gym around the corner, Finchley Boxing Club. He didn’t show much interest until I came home and said I’m fighting I’ve got my medical card, since then he’s been my biggest supporter along with my other family and friends. It took off from there, I really enjoyed the sport, I became quite successful boxing for England, picked to go to the Commonwealth games, winning that, traveling the world representing England, which I’m so proud of. Obviously, I’ve progressed and matured as a decent professional.
AW: As you mentioned, you won gold at the Commonwealth games down at light welterweight. Can you tell us about that and your other amateur accolades?
DB: Yeah, funnily enough, Geale won gold at welterweight at the same games, so our careers have mirrored. I went to every major tournament but the Olympics. I missed out on qualification tournaments but they changed the weights, they got rid of light middleweight at 71Kg which would have been perfect for me so I was campaigning at middleweight weighing in at 71kg (limit 72.5Kg) but 69kg would have been too difficult. So it was the natural thing was to turn pro. But looking back on my amateur career I boxed so much pedigree. I’ve traveled the world, I’ve been to some hostile countries that put me in good stead, as has Geale I think it’s helped him in the pros. It’s not always the case but with a lot of the top fighters they’ve got a good amateur background, it’s certainly helped me. I would have had near on a hundred fights but I lost a fair few as a junior. I was a really immature kid and only really started performing quite when I moved to Repton (amateur club) when I was about 15, 16 . Then I started improving and making my mark on the game.
AW: Domestically, the middleweight scene is strong with the likes of Matthew Macklin, Martin Murray, Andy Lee, you; and Billy Joe Saunders is close to adding his name to the elite of the British middleweight division. But so far none of you have fought.
DB: For whatever reason Macklin and I had to pull out of fights. It’s unfortunate, genuine injuries where nothing could have been done. I could have gone in and got beat and I’d be kicking myself now ’cause I believe I’m a better fighter than Macklin. I’m sure me winning this title will kick start these fights. They could end up being rematches, trilogies, really try to rekindle the (Nigel) Benn-(Chris) Eubank era.
AW: With all respect to Daniel Geale but do you see those domestic fights as ones where they will secure your legacy?
AW: Yeah, at the moment me beating Geale is the big fight but yeah maybe to make my stamp, make my legacy live on for years to come like Benn and Eubank it’s having them fights. I’m lucky to be blessed with a great domestic division. Macklin and Murray they are the sort of fights that capture the not only boxing public but also the general public. The TV and the press they all get caught up in it. I am sure the other two and Andy Lee. Billy Joe Saunders perhaps isn’t quite ready but he’s not far off. He’s a tremendous talent but unless he gets up to that world stage I can’t see any of us dropping down (British title) a level and that’s no disrespect to Billy Joe ’cause I was thrilled when I won it. But they’re the sort of fights that secure your legacy I suppose.
AW: You were in the Sky Sports studio when Matthew Macklin fought Gennady Golovkin along with Martin Murray. Afterwards you both spoke. Were you both surprised at how clinical Golovkin was, because it was a fight presumably you like most other people figured would go rounds?
DB: I thought Macklin was going to mix fire with fire to be honest. I thought he’d do what he does best and engage in a war. I wasn’t shocked ’cause I know how good Golovkin is. I thought Macklin might land a few and we’d see what his jaw was all about. Hat’s off to Macklin taking the fight but I just think he’s a little bit past it, but credit to him getting in there ’cause not many are willing to get in there with Golovkin.
AW: At world level the middleweight division is buzzing. What are your thoughts on your weight class?
DB: Yeah, that’s the beauty of it, not only have I got these big domestic fights after I beat Geale but internationally it’s absolutely brimming. It’s one of the best divisions in world boxing. There’s some great champions and I’m blessed to be in the top 10. It shows how hard I’ve worked and how I’ve progressed and how well I’ve done. It’s crucial I win the world titles and creep up those rankings and try to unify the belts.
AW: If we go through the top 10 as ranked by us at THE RING magazine, could you share your thoughts on each guy?
C – Sergio Martinez – A superb champion, a middleweight great who’ll go down as one of the best middleweights of all time. It was an honor to share the ring with him.
1 – Gennady Golovkin – He looks the real deal, a talent, a massive puncher, he’s got the amateur pedigree which he’s brought through to the pros. He looks a real danger.
2 – Daniel Geale – A tough, solid professional, worthy world champion but obviously he’s going to come unstuck on Aug. 17.
3 – Felix Sturm – I think Felix Sturm was at his best when he had his close fight with Oscar De La Hoya. A solid professional and he’s been a great champion, defending his WBA title numerous times.
4 – Peter Quillin – I believe Quillin has a lot of question marks. He doesn’t have the amateur pedigree but what we do know is he’s got is a tremendous dig on him. You don’t want to be taking a punch off him, but as you can see against N’dam if it wasn’t for the knock downs it would have been touch and go who’d have got it (the decision)? Maybe the French guy would have got it. So question marks over him.
5 – Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. – It’s hard to class him as a middleweight at the moment cause of his size. Let’s see what weight he does but a big solid guy who’d be a handful for anyone.
6 – Martin Murray – He’s a gentleman, a great guy and a decent fighter, a very good fighter, he pushed Martinez all the way.
7 – Matthew Macklin – A decent fighter who’s put in some great shows against champions and you’ve got to take your hat off to him for fighting Golovkin but I think his best days are behind him if I’m honest.
8 – Hassan N’dam – Yeah like I say if his whiskers were a bit stronger and he didn’t go down the five times I think it was against Quillin I could be talking about him as a world champion now.
9 – Darren Barker – A future IBF middleweight world champion.
10 – Brian Vera – A tough, solid campaigner just outside world class I think.
AW: Tell us about your life away from training and boxing, what will you do when you go home?
DB: Go home, feet up, I’ll have my little bell (laughs). I’ll go home spend some time with family. I’m a family orientated person. I’ve got my friends and family, I’ve got a nice close knit group, spend time with them really. We put so much into training that every day when you get home a rest is just as important as the work load you put in so it’s about chilling out a bit of down time, put the TV on and relax. Aside from that when I’m out of training I’m a big Chelsea (soccer team) fan. I get down there as much as I can. I’m a season ticket holder. I’m a sports enthusiast as many boxers are. If anything a family man.
AW: Finally do you have anything you’d like to say to Daniel Geale?
DB: Yeah take some photos of that belt and savor it ’cause it’s not going to be yours for much longer. I appreciate the opportunity. I’m grateful for the shot and I look forward to lighting a few fireworks with him.
Photos / Scott Heavey-Getty Images, Matt King-Getty Images, Adrien Dennis-AFP, Dean Mouhtaropoulos-Getty Images, Phil Cole-Getty Images