By Ezio Prapotnich
The European Middleweight showdown between Darren Barker (23-0, 14 ko’s) and Domenico Spada (32-4, 16 ko’s) did not quite live up to the expectations. It’s hard to tell if this is due to the fact that they were equally matched and their contrasting styles neutralized each other, or, may be, because of Darren’s ring rust.
In the end, Barker prevailed by landing slightly more of the few clean punches of the fight.
After a cagey first round, Barker came out aggressive in the second but Spada took charge connecting with body shots, a straight right, and a jab.
The third session turned out even: although Darren opened with a good punch to his co-challenger midsection, neither man seemed able to find openings.
Spada got his opponent’s attention with a left hook in the fourth, but the former champion was able to land a sharp 1-2 combinations and was successful attacking the body.
The pace picked up a bit in the fifth with the Italian pressing the fight and scoring a 1-2 and a right hand, but Barker came back with his own straight punches, that will turn out to be his best weapons and the key to his victory. In the sixth, the house fighter took the inititiative and managed for the first time to back Domenico on the ropes and nail him with his left and right, in spite of being at the wrong hand of an early rally.
With the exception of the 9th, where Spada leaned intentionally on the ropes waiting for Darren to come in to welcome him with a good right hand and solid uppercuts, from the 7th onwards, the bout turned into a scrappy toe to toe affair where the action was constantly broke by holding. In spite of being at times the more negative of the two, Barker edged it landing the cleaner shots, namely straight punches, single or in combination. As in the fight with Belgecham last year, Barker, instead of boxing, chose to engage in close exchanges most of the time. Although coming on top both times, this is a tactical mistake that keeps Darren from fighting at his true potential and needs to be addressed if he is to challenge at world level.
The Spada camp was dissatisfied with the scores of 115-113 and twice 116-113 of the judges and complained about the fact that Barker was keeping his head low most of the times and never got a warning.
Super Flyweight Ashley Sexton (11-0-1, 5 ko’s) win against Mike Robinson (4-2-2) was similar to Barker’s in the sense that he could have been much easier if he chose to box from the outside instead of accepting his opponent invitation to a war of attrition. Ashley worked beautifully behind his jab in the first round doing most of the scoring, but as of the second he engaged in exchanges at close quarters trading blow for blow and getting tagged on a number of occasions until he established his supremacy from the 6th onwards wearing out Robinson, whose nose started bleeding, with body shots.
Being overall the busier man, Sexton earned a hard fought 78-76 decision. The most peculair thing about this bout was the number of times both fighters lost their gumshield. Even in this, Sexton gained the decision over Robinson by losing it 3 times in the first two rounds while Mike dropped it once in the third and once in the eight.
It’s the first time in the history boxing that the need to have a ringside dentist has ever been felt.
Prizefighter Supermiddleweight champion Patrick Mendy (11-4, 1 ko) outworked veteran Paul Samuels (21-8-2, 12 ko’s) over 6 rounds. But, although throwing and landing more and harder punches, his approach was reckless and his attacks left him open. His age and conditioning enabled him to keep coming although getting hit clean several times, but these tactics might prove dangerous with a livelier opponent. The bout ended with a 59-56 decision in Mendy’s favor.
The evening was opened and closed by upcoming prospects Chris and Andreas Evangelou. Light Welterweight Chris (7-0, 1 ko) survived a rocky first round at the hands of Ibrar Ryiaz (4-20-1) and boxed a smart and disciplined fight to win a 40-36 decision, while Light Heavyweight Andreas (2-0, 1 ko) stopped Jamie Norkett (3-22) at 2:04 of the second after knocking him down in a totally one sided match.
Patrick Hyland bt Daniel Kodjo Sassou 58-56
Tyler Goodjohn bt Mark McKray by technical decision.Rd 5
John Ryder bt Lee Noble 59-56
Phil Gill bt Scott Evans, by tko at 2:31 of round 1