By Ezio Prapotnich
DARREN BARKER: “AFTER SPADA, I WANT MARTINEZ. MACKLIN IS NO LONGER AN OPTION, UNLESS HE HOLDS A BELT”
After a year long forced lay off and a change of promoter, former European, British, and Commonwealth Middleweight champion Darren Barker (22-0, 14 ko’s) is back in the mix, with bigger goals and bigger means to achieve them. His upcoming challenge for the vacant EBU strap against equally driven Italian champion Domenico Spada (32-3, 16 ko’s) is the first of a three fights deal with Sky Sports, which Darren hopes will peak with a world title fight.
Boxinginsider.com: Along with former stablemates John Murray and Carl Froch, you left Hennessy Promotions after a long term partnership. Can you explain your reasons and how did the deal with Matchroom Sport come along?
Darren Barker: The reason is the lack of TV exposure. It was a hard decision, as Hennessy has been good to me. I had some good fights under their banner and I am thankful for that, but I have a family to support and fighters careers do not last forever. The transition happened gradually. I kept running into head of Matchroom Hearn at boxing shows and we started talking. They have a deal with Sky and it just felt right.
Boxinginsider.com: Do you consider Domenico Spada a step up in opposition?
Darren Barker: Definitely. He is highly ranked both by the EBU and the World sanctioning bodies, and for good reason. He is a good fighter, experienced, and has faced good opposition. He is an opponent I respect but I know I am capable of beating him.
Boxinginsider.com: Are you familiar with his style? Did you study him?
Darren Barker: Yes, I checked him out. I watched clips on the internet and we also got a dvd. He is very aggressive. He comes forward and throws a lot of punches, but I had a fantastic training camp and I am in the best condition I have been in years.
Boxinginsider.com: How do you fancy the chances of your domestic rival Matthew Macklin against WBA champion Felix Sturm?
Darren Barker: He hits hard, so I give him a puncher chance, but, as far as boxing ability goes, I don’t think he is in the same league with Sturm.
Boxinginsider.com: Do you feel you have unfinished business with him? Is he still on your radar as opponent?
Darren Barker: Only if he wins. We had the opportunity to meet but he chose to go after Sturm instead. If he loses, I don’t think the fight would have the same appeal. But, if I get past Spada and Macklin holds a world title, it would be fantastic to fight him.
Boxinginsider.com: Who would be your target at world level?
Darren Barker: I am not concerned right now. I respect all the champions out there and I would fancy any opportunity to fight one of them. Obviously, as every fighter does, if I was to win a world title in my division, I would like to do it against the best, which, in this case, would be Sergio Martinez. I would love to test my skills against his.
Boxinginsider.com: You have been out of the ring for exactly a year now because of a hip injury. How do you feel now?
Darren Barker: A lot better. I could not run because of it and that’s why my last performance, against Affif Belgecham, was not great: I ran out of gas. I have been training really hard for a long time now. I spar 12 rounds without any problem. It feels great to be back in shape.
Boxinginsider.com: Any comment on last Saturday fight between Amir Khan and your stablemate Paul McCloskey?
Darren Barker: It was really disappointing. To fight for a world title is the pinnacle of a fighter career and I feel for Paul. I saw much worse cuts than that in lower level fights that were allowed to continue. But, obviously, I don’t blame Khan for that.
Boxinginsider.com: Did you give Paul an actual chance to win if the fight went on?
Darren Barker: You never know what can happen in boxing. All it takes to end a fight is one shot. You can’t write anybody off.
That is very true and we cannot wait to see who will land that shot on April 30 in what promises to be a competitive match.
Tickets for Darren Barker v Domenico Spada on April 30 are available now from Matchroom Sport priced £35 unreserved, £60 ringside, £80 inner ringside and £120 VIP – to buy call Matchroom Sport on 01277 359900.