Barker Comes Back from the Brink to Capture Split Decision Victory

by Eric Raskin

Photo: Will Hart

It only takes one punch to end a fight. And it only takes one punch that nearly ends a fight to define a man's character.

British middleweight Darren Barker, who came up achingly short against lineal champion Sergio Martinez in his previous trip to Atlantic City, came through by the slimmest of margins in his return to the Jersey shore, winning a split decision over Daniel Geale by a single point. And halfway to the finish line, in a stirring sixth round, he was less than one second from defeat. Geale capped a mid-ring exchange with a single, crushing left hook to the liver, and Barker collapsed the canvas, his legs kicking in agony. It looked like he wasn't going to get up. But he willed himself to a standing position just barely on the bright side of referee Eddie Cotton's 10-count.

"He caught me right on the solar plexus, took my breath away from me," said Barker (26-1, 16 KOs). "When I was down on the ground, it was all going through my head—my wife, my family, my daughter. And it all made me get up."

Read the Complete Geale vs. Barker Fight Recap on HBO.com.

CompuBox Analysis: Geale vs. Barker

by CompuBox

Like most other sports, boxing boasts a global presence. Three of the four "major" sanctioning bodies are based beyond U.S. shores, as have many of its greatest practitioners. But it's only in recent years that international fighters have come to our shores to be featured on U.S. premium networks and it's rarer still when both participants arrive here without considerable American fan bases.

Such is the case Saturday when IBF middleweight titlist Daniel Geale, an Australian, defends his belt against Briton Darren Barker, whose only defeat occurred the only other time he fought on American soil. Of course, anyone who fights Sergio Martinez anywhere would likely have an "L" -- or in Barker's case a "KO by" -- added to his record. The fact that Geale and Barker would eschew hometown money to fight on neutral ground is a welcome display of ambition and confidence in an era where boxing's marketplace is pockmarked by extreme caution.

Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:

Read the Complete CompuBox Analysis of the Daniel Geale vs. Darren Barker fight on HBO.com.

Read the Complete CompuBox Analysis of the Nathan Cleverly vs. Segey Kovalev fight on HBO.com.

Read the Complete CompuBox Analysis of the Jonathan Romero vs. Kiko Martinez fight on HBO.com.

Streaking Meteor Kovalev Looks to Become Shining Star

by Kieran Mulvaney

Earlier this year, the morning skies above Chelyabinsk lit up as a meteor streaked across the sky, detonating in the atmosphere with a concussive explosion that shook buildings, set off car alarms, and shattered windows.

In January, a month before the meteor loudly announced its entry in Earth's atmosphere above the Ural Mountains, Chelyabinsk's native son Sergey Kovalev underlined his emergence as a major contender in the light-heavyweight division with a three-knockdown, third-round stoppage of former beltholder Gabriel Campillo. Prior to that, Campillo had not been stopped in almost six years. But Kovalev, who makes his HBO debut on Saturday against Britain's Nathan Cleverly, left no doubt.

It was, the Russian tells HBO.com, the fight that "brought me the most attention and notoriety" among boxing fans. But it was merely the culmination of a boxing career that began in December 1994 when, as an 11 year old, he walked into a boxing gym next to a cinema behind the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. That led to an amateur career that brought gold, silver and bronze medals at national championships, gold medals at World Military Games and a reported amateur record of 193-22. In 2009, not enamored of his opportunities in his home land, he moved to the United States to pursue a professional career.

After an unhappy spell in North Carolina ("I had a feeling of being alone in a strange country," he says), he moved to Los Angeles, hooking up for a while with Abel Sanchez – formerly chief second for Hall-of-Famer Terry Norris and now  for Gennady Golovkin – before ultimately settling with middleweight champ-turned-trainer John David Jackson.

The four fights to date that he has worked with Jackson have coincided with perhaps the most impressive run of his career, with none of his opponents in that time lasting past three rounds. Part of that, says Kovalev, is that as the level of opposition has increased, "I can show my boxing skills." Part of it also is the evident comfort level he enjoys with Jackson.

"The beauty with Sergey is, the first day he gets to camp, I tell him what I'm thinking and he tells me what he's thinking, and he comes up with a plan," Jackson says. "From that point on, I don't really mess with him, because as the weeks progress, he's working on it. I might just add small things to his game, because he knows how to fight. We work real well together, because I let him do what he likes to do best."

Discussion of Kovalev's record inevitably focuses on the fact that his 21-0-1 record includes 19 KO's. But, says Kovalev, he doesn't enter the ring with the intent to knock out his opponents: it just happens. "I never felt like I was a Superman in boxing," he shrugs. "I don't even know how to describe it."

Jackson, however, does.

"He knocks people out because he sets them up a certain way," he says. "He has a great boxing style because his foot is always right, and he plants it really well before he throws punches. That doesn't happen because he's lucky."

Indeed, Jackson insists, Kovalev's knockout percentage disguises his boxing abilities:

"He's a really intelligent fighter. He just hasn't had the chance to show the public how intelligent he is, because he's been knocking people out by the third round, and honestly I wouldn't care if he never got the chance to show his true boxing skill. But one day he will. He'll face a guy who can take his punch pretty well, and he'll have to rely on his boxing skills to win the fight."

That day may come on Saturday against Cleverly, a skilled boxer with a high punch output who holds a world title belt, and who, like Kovalev, is undefeated. It stands to be by far the toughest test of his career, and Cleverly's backers are confident of upsetting the apple cart.

But Kovalev, while recognizing the magnitude of the task in front of him, sees it as an important bridge to the next phase of his career, one that he hopes results in him not only moving to another level but also staying there long enough to make his mark. It is, after all, one thing to be a meteor that streaks across the sky, leaving an impression but soon disappearing forever; it is another entirely to be a star that shines for years to come. 

Battle of the Clones: Geale and Barker's Twin Trajectories Collide

by Hamilton Nolan

Daniel Geale (29-1) and Darren Barker (25-1) are, superficially, exactly the same fighter. Both are middleweights in their early 30s who’ve made their names overseas -- Geale in Australia, and Barker in the UK. Both have a single loss on their records -- Geale a close decision loss to the veteran Anthony Mundine in 2009, and Barker a somewhat more defensible 11th round knockout loss to pound-for-pound contender Sergio Martinez after what had been a remarkably close fight. Neither are enormous punchers. Both are seeking to step up to a big money fight at the top of the middleweight division. Their fight this Saturday night would seem to be a meeting of clones. But it will be their slight differences that will matter much more than all of their similarities.

Geale, in a way has the better pedigree: he’s avenged his loss to Mundine, cleaned out the ranks of Australia, and last year notched a win over the solid (but fading) Felix Sturm in Germany, cementing himself as a contender on the world stage. He holds the promise that always comes with those who have dominated their own far-flung corner of the world -- the vague hope that the talent that proved so overwhelming in one place may translate to The Big Time. It is the crackle of possibility that makes boxing’s nature as a global sport so fun. As men like Daniel Geale conquer their home countries, they all must step into greater arenas in America to see if they can conquer the very best of the best.

Read the complete Daniel Geale vs. Darren Barker Fight Overview on HBO.com