Darren Barker climbed off the canvas to dethrone Daniel Geale and become the new IBF middleweight champion in Atlantic City on Saturday night.
The Londoner was overwhelmed with well-wishers in the build-up to the fight, ranging from stable mate Carl Froch to domestic foe Martin Murray, and the 31 year old did not disappoint, pouring heart and soul into a brilliant contest.
Barker looked sharp in the opening rounds, hurting Geale in the third round with a crisp right but the Australian responded with a powerful uppercut which was always a weapon for the champion.
The sixth round provided a dramatic crisis point for Barker as he was stung to the solar plexus by a devilish shot from Geale sunk the Brit. He gathered himself and rose with the count at nine, and while the champion sniffed a stoppage with a minute of the round remaining, Barker dug deep to see off the attack and showed great character to fire back.
A great round for Barker in the tenth and further good work in 11 steeled him for a final onslaught from Geale, and Barker took the split decision with two judges giving him the bout 116-111 and 114-113.
“I just wanted it so much and that’s what got me through the tough times,” said Barker, who dedicated the win to his late brother Gary. “When I stuck to my boxing and kept it simple, I was winning the rounds comfortably but it was just the occasion and wanting it so much that I was loading up with big shots, but there was no stopping me because I wanted it so badly and when I was on the floor, even though I couldn’t breathe there was no way I was staying down.
“He was a lot more awkward than I thought he was going to be, he was good at getting in and out of range with his footwork. I was taking a lot of shots on the gloves with my guard up and it might have looked like I was getting hit then but I wasn’t, I was almost having a little breather in there. But the body shot completely took the wind out of me, I was gone.
“I was confident that I’d done enough and it was out of my hands, I had done my job for 12 rounds then it was up to Michael Buffer to read out the scores and find out my fate, I thought I won the fight and without the knockdown, I think it would’ve been a unanimous decision - and he got my name right too! He apologised about that beforehand which was nice of him too, so it was a great night.”