By Niall Doran
“Dazzling” Darren Barker Retires – Yesterday it was announced that former IBF Middleweight Champion Darren Barker had called it a day on his boxing career and hung up his gloves once and for all. Lets take a look back at what was a memorable journey for the always popular and well respected Englishman from Barnet.
Although his career on paper may have looked perfect at the point of racking up a record of 23-0 before he lost for the first time when challenging for the world title in 2011 against Sergio Martinez, it was far, far from easy.
Throughout his career Barker had to deal with many, many injuries, the worst of them emanating from his hip. So much so that by the end he couldn’t even run when preparing for some of his bouts, instead forced to adapt his training to a unique and more controlled indoor format to get himself into the best shape he could. Not many people know that he couldn’t even run with this agonising, crippling pain he had to contend with other than his opponents throughout his career. For any boxer that can’t do their roadwork to win a world title in itself, is a fairly amazing accomplishment.
Not forgetting that he almost walked away from the sport years ago when he had to face the tragic loss of his younger bother and best friend Gary who was killed in a car crash after Darren had warned him the night before the accident to not drive on the motorway due to bad driving conditions. Darren has always contended that Gary was the more talented boxer of the two growing up and the loss of such a close person in his life effected him very deeply, so much so that when he did finally return to boxing and start training again he broke down on his first day back. He persevered though and kept going.
In 2011 he was beaten and left for dead by a gang of thugs after trying to break up a fight. No one was ever arrested for the cowardly attack but the judge in the case said Barker behaved in a way “most of us are not brave enough to do”. Perhaps this says it best about the man and personifies what Darren Barker’s career stood for more than anything else, which is also a vital ingredient needed in the make up of any champion fighter – bravery.
Not deterred by these tough hurdles in life that most men would be broken by, Barker did what he always did and battled on. So much so that he after tasting defeat for the first time against Argentinian great Sergio Martinez he battled back to earn another crack at the world title against Daniel Geale in 2013. This time he was not to be denied scoring a hard fought points win to lift the IBF middleweight championship of the world. He had finally realised his dream while once more going to the well and calling on that massive heart and bravery to get up from a crippling body shot in round 6, a shot that without doubt would have kept most men down. He somehow got up and credits his brother Gary as his inspiration for winning on the night
For me, I think “Dazzling” Darren Barker will be remembered for two key things. One – for being one of the genuinely nicest guys in boxing who everyone really had time for and two – for the massive heart he had.
His career for me shows what determination, heart and perseverance can really achieve for someone in life. All the best in retirement Darren, you earned it.
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