Barker can rule the world
Our Simon Crawford thinks Darren Barker can take the IBF middleweight world title from Daniel Geale this weekend.
- Related Content
Darren Barker bids to become Britain's latest world champion when he challenges Daniel Geale for the IBF middleweight title in Atlantic City this weekend.
The 31-year-old Barnet puncher's bid to prove himself in the 160lb division has been disrupted several times through injury, while he suffered a painful 11th-round knockout against pound-for-pound kingpin Sergio Martinez in October 2011.
However, he bounced back from that setback with successive fourth-round stoppages against Kerry Hope and Simone Rotolo which rate among the best wins in a career that reads 25-1 with 16KOs.
Australian Geale (29-1 15KOs), making the fifth defence of his title, represents a step up in class but it's certainly not a gulf that Barker cannot overcome.
The Briton is vastly experienced, has underrated power, a tight defence when required and you would argue is currently at his peak.
As his record suggests, Geale is a worthy champion with his only defeat coming against fellow Aussie Anthony Mundine four years ago, one which Geale, 32, avenged in his last outing in January this year.
He is a busy fighter who has a venomous jab and throws accurate hooks.
His victory over German Felix Sturm is the standout success on his record but there have to be question marks over some of the opponents he has faced in the past.
Barker will be a hugely dangerous opponent and believes it will be his destiny to take the world strap.
"I truly believe I'm better than him. Whilst I would never underestimate him, I truly believe it's my time and my destiny," he said.
"I feel I've matured from it (the Martinez defeat) and I'm in my prime now."
I expect a close contest between two very naturally gifted boxers but I believe Barker can edge a tight points decision after out-working Geale - especially in the early part of the fight.
Geale starts as favourite and 8/13 is the best price you'll get on him with Barker a best of 13/8 with Stan James.
But the Londoner is more than capable of upsetting those odds and I'm going to get involved with the 5/2 being offered for a Barker win by decision or technical decision.
On the same night in Cardiff, Nathan Cleverly defends his WBO light-heavyweight title against Russian power-puncher Sergey Kovalev.
Cleverly, 26, will put his 26-0 unbeaten record on the line against the formidable power of Kovalev, who has secured 19 of his 21 professional wins via knockout, with 18 of those coming within three rounds.
Saturday's Cardiff bout presents a potential stumbling block for Welshman Cleverly - Kovalev is the bookmakers' favourite - and is a considerable step up from his last title defence in Cardiff, where he secured a convincing unanimous points decision victory over Tommy Karpency.
Frank Warren has admitted he has taken a risk but, with a contract with American cable network HBO on offer should Cleverly win on Saturday, fighter and promoter believe it is a gamble worth taking.
Cleverly said: "It is going to be great on home soil, the fight is almost sold out. It is going to be very special.
"It is going to be a great fight, we like to fight on the front foot and it is going to be explosive.
"It is the most important fight of my career, potentially the best fight of my career as well. Potentially the best opponent I have faced so this is a tremendous fight."
There is no doubting Kovalev's raw power but Cleverly is a well-schooled boxer who showed against Tony Bellew that he can take a big shot and fire back with his own.
If he dangles his chin out on Saturday then he could pay a heavy price but I think he will use his skills to keep out of danger and pick off the Russian to ease to a points decision.
I'm almost tempted by the 13/8 being offered by Paddy Power but I'm going to leave it alone and simply enjoy what should be a cracking contest.