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Darren Barker talks about new book, ‘A Dazzling Darkness’

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Darren Barker (right) wins a close split decision over Daniel Geale (left) in Aug. 2013. Barker won the IBF middleweight title with the victory.

 

Everyone who is anyone in British boxing circles knows the bare bones of Darren Barker’s tragic but ultimately triumphant story.

The affable Londoner lost his younger brother, Gary, to a car crash in 2006 and fought every bit as hard to overcome that personal loss as he did in a celebrated ring career which saw him capture the IBF middleweight title.

During his professional journey, Barker would be continually tested and only a close-knit family, a special group of friends and the fighter’s own extraordinary courage pulled him through when many would have thrown in the towel.



Devastating grief which led to therapy, horrendous hip injuries which required surgery, trouble outside of the ring which saw him arrested and a stoppage loss to pound-for-pound entrant and then-RING champion Sergio Martinez could not deter the man who vowed to win a world title in memory of his late brother.

The autobiography, which is co-written by acclaimed author Ian Ridley, is a lasting tribute to a man who simply refused to take no for an answer.

RingTV.com caught up with “Dazzling” Darren Barker to discuss some of the topics which are explored in the new book.

 

RingTV.com: How hard was it to put your story on paper, given the memories you would have to revisit regarding your brother’s passing?

Darren Barker: I always think about my brother and I’ll always miss him but it was really difficult going over everything in detail. I trust Ian [Ridley] a lot, so I was comfortable talking to him about it but it was still very tough.

Gary and I were always together, so winning a world title in his memory became a real obsession with me. Getting across how special he was as a fighter and a person was also very important because this book will be around forever. He was a caring, lovely kid and he had all the talent in the world. I’m not saying that because he’s not here. It’s true and that’s the way everyone remembers him.

RTV: You had your fair share of scrapes outside the ring didn’t you?

DB: I went to some dark places. There are a lot of things that I’m not proud of but I don’t back down to people who cause trouble. I’m not a bully and didn’t go looking for fights but when you’re out and about in London, trouble can find you.

My mental state wasn’t good at the time and I was drinking too much, to be honest. I was at rock bottom, lying alone in a jail cell afterwards, but luckily my family and friends pulled me through some hard times. I learned from that period and I’m proud of myself for turning it all around.

RTV: A whole team of people seemed to come together and guide you when times were hard. You must feel blessed in that sense?

DB: Definitely. You get fair-weather friends who want to be around when there’s a lot of success but I’ve always had genuine people in my life. My family, first and foremost, was key but I also found true friends when I was struggling with life, with injuries and with my career.

I could not have won a British title, far less a world title, without my trainer, Tony Sims. Bryn Robertson introduced me to Bruce Lloyd, who helped me through so much with my therapy. And Luke Chandler, who sponsored me, became one of my best friends.

RTV: Before you won a world title, your promoter, Eddie Hearn, had to talk you into continuing with your career. You must be glad he did.

DB: (Laughs) I’d told Eddie that I wasn’t going to fight again. I hadn’t won a world title but I’d won British, Commonwealth and European and accomplished more than I’d ever dreamed of. Eddie asked me what I was going to do and I remember being quite offended at the time.

Eventually I saw the light and everyone, including Eddie, knew that I had more left to give. Even though the discussion may have been hurtful at the time, he planted the seed in my head and I’ll always be grateful to him for that.

RTV: A lot of fans might not know that you took on Andre Berto in the quarterfinals of the World Championships in Thailand in 2003. You thought you won that fight, right?

DB: I thought it was controversial. It was the old computer scoring and I was seven points up after two rounds. Berto got me down and won the third but he only edged that round by three or four points at the most. Anyway, they gave him the nod but that’s amateur boxing.

Berto and I spent some time together after our fight and he was a nice bloke. I cheered him on against Floyd Mayweather but didn’t fancy him to win that fight. My Dad always told me if I stuck at the sport, I’d travel the world. I remember flying into Thailand for that competition and being absolutely amazed.

RTV: You reveal the brutal hip problems that plagued you throughout your career. Do you look back at those times and wonder how you came through?

DB: My family and friends are happy that I’ve explained my hip problems fully because I didn’t go into detail about it when I was fighting. I struggled for years because those injuries were horrific and that, combined with the fact that I’d won British, Commonwealth and European titles, would have made it much easier to quit.

Everyone knows boxing is hard when you’re 100%, never mind when you’re carrying hip injuries. I had two hip operations and I also had eight cortisone injections into my elbow. When I lost to Felix Sturm, in my final fight, a lot of fans criticized me for fighting injured but I’d fought injured for three or four years.

I’m sitting talking to you now and I have a horrible feeling in both my hips. It’s just the price I’ve had to pay but it was all worth it. In later life, I’ll need hip replacements but I’d do it all again to win that world title for my brother. It was a great journey and I’ll always be thankful to the sport.

RTV: You give a lot of credit to Sergio Martinez who beat you in 2011. Despite the fact that you lost that fight, the experience you gained was invaluable; wasn’t it?

DB: That fight gave me more belief in myself. Afterwards I was pissed off because I thought I could have beaten him, if I’d only had a little more experience at top level. I just wish I’d gotten to him a year later.

On the night, the better man won. I mean he perforated my eardrum and stopped me but that loss definitely made me a better fighter. I gave him one of the toughest fights of his career but he was a great champion.

RTV: Was getting up from the body shot against Daniel Geale in the sixth round almost as gratifying as winning the world title from him?

DB: If I could have written how I wanted to win a world title, that would have been it and nobody can take that away from me.

I was never known as a tough fighter and I always wanted to prove myself in that sense. I wanted people to say, “He’s a tough man.” I’m proud of the fact that I got up against Geale because I was in absolute agony. It was a terrible body shot and I couldn’t breathe whatsoever. The nine seconds I was down for felt like nine minutes and my whole life flashed before me. I saw my family, my daughter, my brother and that’s what got me to my feet. Another little voice was saying, “Don’t get up; you’ve had enough.” So many things go through your head. That’s what separates boxing from other sports. In other sports, people pretend to be hurt but in boxing. You spend all your time disguising the fact that you are hurt.

RTV: Do you plan on staying in the game?

DB: It’s too early for me to say right now. I’d like to give something back to my old amateur club [Repton ABC in London]. It’s good to give back but it doesn’t have to be for financial gain. It would just be nice to help the kids and be a mentor down there. Anyway, that’s something for the future because, right now, I’m just enjoying life outside of the game.

 

“A Dazzling Darkness: The Darren Barker Story” is available from Amazon and all good book stores.

 

Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Gray_Boxing.

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