DARREN BARKER laid aside long years of frustration and heartbreak to produce the performance of his life and edge out Australia’s defending IBF middleweight champion Daniel Geale in a pulsating title fight at the Ovation Hall in the Revel, the newest and plushest of the Boardwalk hotels.
Geale felt he had done enough to cling on to his belt but he had not: this was the kind of night where nothing was going to deny Barker – not even a shudderingly dramatic sixth round knockdown when a left hook to the stomach knocked the wind out of him could crush his single-minded determination to earn himself a world crown.
British fans know the Barker story well: he lost his younger brother, Gary, in a terrible car crash and for almost a year felt he could not box again. When he did, although he won British, Commonwealth and European titles, injuries sapped his self-belief. He was second best against world number one Sergio Martinez in a first appearance in Atlantic City in 2011, a right hand putting him over for the count in the 11th. More injuries left him ready to retire a year ago, before he decided on one last big effort to become a world champion.