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LONDONER targets big things after unanimous points win over tough Italian

Dazzling Darren Barker returned to the ring in style on Saturday night, regaining the European Middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Domenico Spada at London’s Olympia.

Barker first won the belt a year ago but a hip injury forced him to vacate. The 12 month wait to get back in the ring was worth it though as he outclassed the tough Roman in front of a packed crowd in west London.

Darren Barker celebrates winning back the European belt
Darren Barker celebrates winning back the European belt

After such a long time away there were doubts over potential ring-rust and stamina problems, but the 28 year-old answered all those questions by dominating the early portion of the fight with superior boxing ability then showing he had plenty in the tank by forcing the pace right to the end of the twelfth round, where he was awarded the fight by the three judges at ringside with scores of 116-113, 116-113 and 115-113, although most pundits and fans had a much greater margin of victory.

“I'm not a judge I'm a fighter, I'm not there to score it but at no point was I ever worried about the outcome,” said Barker, whose unbeaten pro record stretches to 23 wins. “He was always in the fight though and he's tough and durable, he knew his way around the ring so that 12 rounds has done me the world of good.

“Spada’s experienced and that's what I needed to do, fight a proper name to get things moving again. I was too eager to fight against Matthew Macklin and that caused the injury to flare up but now it's perfect, and I am going for a run in morning with a smile on my face and enjoying it rather than wincing.”

Macklin’s name comes up time and time again when Barker is sat in front of the press and after such a commanding performance, Barker was pressed on whether the hotly anticipated clash would happen, subject to Macklin defeating Felix Sturm in June.

“Matthew's name keeps coming up and it's getting a bit annoying now really,” said Barker. “I had a job to do tonight against Spada and I did it against a top class opponent, we can talk about Macklin some other day if the fight ever happens.

“I've been boxing for 16 years now and I've got nothing to fear, I'll get in with anyone in the world in this division. I've got a good 12 rounds in there and I know that I'm better than that too so we're moving on now.”

Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn added: “We're already talking to some World champions about a fight - the bottom line about tonight was that there are not many boxers in this country fighting guys of Spada's quality for titles on TV. When we signed Darren we asked him about doing an eight round warm up and he said no, I want to go straight in. I'd like to get Darren back out in July for a defence, but life and sport is about taking chances and should something come up we'll look at it. He's been out of the ring too long and now it's about building momentum and if an opportunity comes up with a Zbik, Chavez Jr or more interestingly a Pirog then we'd certainly look to take it.”

Barker’s trainer Tony Sims was delighted with his charges performance, with his accuracy and variety particularly impressive, and paid tribute to the strides he has made recovering from an injury that had plagued him for almost two years.

“I'm really pleased for Darren tonight – after 12 months out it's a phenomenal achievement,” said Sims. “Darren was out for a year with a major hip injury where he was on crutches and he's fought a highly ranked guy and beaten him convincingly – much more convincingly than the scores suggested.”