Darren Barker rekindles middleweight golden age

The Times online Ron Lewis25th May, 2009

The middleweight division in Britain could be on the cusp of another golden age, to judge by Darren Barker's four-round stoppage of Darren McDermott for the Commonwealth title on Saturday in Watford. Barker is next due to face Matthew Macklin, the exciting British champion, a match that conjures up memories of great domestic middleweight clashes of yesteryear.

Barker won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, but his professional career was held up by tragedy when his younger brother, Gary, one of the brightest hopes for the 2012 Olympics, died in a car crash in December 2006. Barker did not box for a year and considered quitting, but the large tattoo on his back ensures that his brother's memory is always with him.

"When Gary died, I wasn't ready to go to the gym," the 27-year-old Londoner said. "As the months went on, it became obvious something was missing and it was boxing. The biggest shock when I did go back was not having my partner there. But I'm a religious man and I believe I will see Gary one day again, so it's a matter of keeping Gary there and having his spirit by my side, helping me get along."

McDermott was expected to provide a severe test, but Barker took two rounds to find his range and then landed repeatedly with his right cross, knocking McDermott flat on his back in round four. Dave Parris, the referee, refused to let the boxer from Dudley continue, despite his protests.

"If the referee had let it go on, he would have eaten right hands all night," Barker, who trains with Carl Froch, the WBC super-middleweight champion, said. "People have always said I've got the talent, but I'm only now starting to show it. That was my best performance so far. The prospect of fighting for the British title next is very exciting for me."