Darren Barker believes an impressive performance against Simone Rotolo in Betfair’s ‘London’s Finest’ live on Sky Sports from Wembley Arena on Saturday night will lead to a massive fight in the summer.
Barker is looking to set the seal on his comeback from a over a year of injury frustration against the Italian middleweight champion, and after stopping former European champion Kerry Hope in style before Christmas, the 30 year old is hunting another big statement victory to prove he’s back on track for a second World title shot.
“It was good to get back in there before Christmas and get rid of the rust – I feel I am almost there now,” said Barker. “Rotolo is a tough and durable guy who knows his way around the ring so I might get a few more rounds out of him. I am not taking him lightly, it is a big fight and the one after this will potentially be a big title fight or a domestic clash.
“I am feeling really good, I am in fantastic shape and I had a good training camp out in Spain. I am where I want to be, if not slightly in front. It is good to be back doing what I do best and we aren’t going to stop here, hopefully we will get a few more fights in this year.”
Victory over Hope came 14 months after his brave World title challenge in Atlantic City against pound-for-pound legend Sergio Martinez. The Barnet stylist was forced out of a comeback fight with Rotolo before his win over Hope and admitted that the pressure was on to show he could mix it in a division full of potentially huge fights.
“Against Kerry I had to prove to myself that I still had it,” said Barker. “I knew preparations had gone well but it is not until you actually get in the ring and put in a good performance that you really know where you are at.
“I am really happy with how I performed and, as I think a lot of people have said, it is a new Darren Barker. I have got more belief, I am not worried about my body – the injuries are completely gone – and I am feeling like a new fighter. It is a like a new adventure and it is exciting times.
“I don’t want to be naïve to overlook Rotolo but after tonight I’d like to be looking towards a World title shot. I don’t think I will be fully satisfied until I win a World title because I believe I have one in me.
“I suppose there is a sense of unfinished business as well where I had to pull out of the September fight so it will be good to get in there and put this one behind me, put on a good performance and then really crack on.”
With Matthew Macklin, Martin Murray and Andy Lee all on Barker’s radar, Darren predicts that the quartet could rekindle the magic of the famous middleweight rivalries of the 90s – and that he can emerge on top.
“Macklin, Murray and Lee are guys that are mentioned a lot,” said Barker. “I think it would rekindle the likes of the Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Steve Collins era. Not only does it generate interest from boxing fans but the general public is captivated by it and that is what we want as boxers, we want to push boxing out there and the more publicity the better.
“Andy actually beat me in the amateurs by a couple of points and it would be nice to get revenge. I think I’ve got Andy’s number — as I do the rest of the guys in the division. But they also believe that as well — that’s what makes it so exciting. We all believe we’re number one, so maybe fighting Andy could kick-start us all getting in the ring.
“In an ideal world I have this fight, then one end of May/June and a couple when the season starts again September time. It would be brilliant to be able to get four fights in 2013.”
Barker is top of the bill at the Wembley Arena along with some of Britain’s best. Lee Purdy defends his IBF International welterweight title against former World title challenger Cosme Rivera while unbeaten Commonwealth super middleweight champ George Groves fights under the Matchroom Boxing banner for the first time in a ten-round clash with Argentine Dario German Balmaceda.
There are three tasty title tussles with Chris Evangelou aiming for revenge in the rematch with Danny Connor for the Southern Area light welterweight belt, Wadi Camacho taking on China Clarke for the vacant English cruiserweight title and unbeaten pair Ryan Taylor and Liam Shinkwin battle for the vacant Southern Area lightweight crown.
English light middleweight champion Erick Ochieng is in eight-round action against Frenchman Frederic Serre, unbeaten Islington middleweight John Ryder also gets an eight-round test in the shape of Farai Musiyiwa while Martin J. Ward steps up to six-round action for the first time against Kevin Hanks.
Tickets for Betfair’s ‘London’s Finest’ are on sale now priced £20, £30, £40, £60 and £80 from the Wembley Arena box office on 0844 815 0815 and www.wembleyarena.co.uk. VIP tickets priced £150 are available through Matchroom Boxing on 01277 359900 and at www.matchroomboxing.com.