Rotolo won't roll over
Our Derek Bilton reckons Darren Barker and Bernard Hopkins are good things ahead of this weekend's boxing action.
- Related Content
Boxing is a tough old game but few fighters have had it tougher than Darren Barker.
The personable Barnet stylist could have been forgiven for turning the game in after losing his equally gifted brother Gary after a car accident in 2006.
Darren had turned pro two years earlier but admitted those were dark times when he contemplated walking away from a sport he and his brother had shared in the spotlight.
He carried on and has collected British, European and Commonwealth titles at middleweight. However so far a world title has eluded him. In his highest profile fight to date Barker was halted in 11 sessions for the WBC Diamond middleweight title by world-class Argentine Sergio Martinez.
However Barker's recent career has been beset by injury and this is just his fifth fight since the start of 2010.
Despite his accomplishments he is cultivating a reputation as a boxing nearly man and the 30-year-old will no doubt be hoping to stay healthy and active from here on in to finally realise his world title ambitions.
This weekend he goes for the IBF Inter-Continental middleweight crown against Italy's Simone Rotolo (Sky televise live).
It's a fight he is expected to win, with Barker some seven years Rotolo's junior. But Rotolo has a tidy 35-3 (15) record and is the Italian middleweight champion. He has bags of experience and knows his way around a ring. Furthermore, he has not been halted since 2004 when Hamlet Petrosyan took him out in four rounds.
Rotolo likes to box on the back foot and doesn't take many risks in there. Therefore I see a situation whereby 'Dazzling' Darren racks up a lead on the cards but is ultimately frustrated by Rotolo's craft and negativity off the back foot.
Doing the full 12 rounds won't do Barker any harm in terms of shedding rust, and it won't harm punters either who get stuck into current quotes that the Londoner wins a lop-sided decision on the cards.
Meanwhile in Brooklyn this weekend Bernard Hopkins attempts to break his own record of becoming the oldest man to win a legitimate world title when he takes on Tavoris Cloud for the latter's IBF light-heavyweight title.
Hopkins, a legitimate freak of nature at 48, has been proving people wrong for years now.
Nobody fancied him to beat Felix Trinidad to unify the middleweight titles in 2001. He did. Since then he has beaten the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Tarver, Ronald 'Winky' Wright and Kelly Pavlik. He was a betting underdog in most of those fights and in 2011 he made history by beating Jean Pascal to win the WBC light-heavyweight title and thus beating big George Foreman's record to become the oldest world champion in history.
He lost his last bout to Chad Dawson but the old master reckons he has yet more tricks up his sleeve and is looking to put it on a man who is some 17 years his junior this weekend.
Hopkins is a cagey, cunning fighter who gets the job done any way he can. Cloud is a busy, powerful pressure fighter who has won all 24 of his pro fights. You pays your money and takes your choice.
Cloud has admittedly suffered a bit due to inactivity (his venerable promoter Don King is not the force in the game he once was) and looked far from his best last time out as he struggled to beat Gabriel Campillo.
Strong and game, he is just the type of come-forward fighter that Hopkins loves to box however and I have a hunch this weekend that Hopkins will again make a mockery of the odds makers (Cloud is a jolly with the layers).
Look for him to rough up, box on the inside and stifle the younger man while using his feet and his boxing brain to get on top.
I'll leave the last word to Hopkins, who said in a press gathering to publicise this fight recently "I'm letting you know the smart money goes on me. The other money goes somewhere else."