Sergio Martinez is a massive favorite tonight, and the only question may be how easy the fight will be for him. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Note from Scott: As I mentioned earlier, I simply forgot to send out the weekly email asking our staffers for their picks on this fight, and for that I apologize. But I did happen to catch Andrew Fruman, who sees the fight differently than I do, so here's a head-to-head preview between the two of us.
Darren Barker is a quality fighter and a good enough contender to be in this fight with no complaints from me. I would give him a fighting chance against anyone in the division -- except Sergio Martinez.
What I don't like here is that Barker has no exceptional qualities. He's not a big puncher, though he's respectable. He's not fast, though he's not slow. He's not got great technique, though he also isn't some wildman swinging away haphazardly. Across the board, I'd give Darren Barker about a seven in every category, except stamina, where he might get a generous five.
But Sergio Martinez is operating at peak powers these days. In his last fight, he took on another really good fighter, Sergiy Dzinziruk, and laid waste to him. I'd call Barker vs Dzinziruk a 50-50 fight on paper, I believe. But Martinez vs Barker is going to be a one-way street. Barker will give it a go, but Martinez should out-quick him severely and use his unorthodox southpaw style to rip him with power shots. Barker goes somewhere around the seventh round.
Sergio Martinez is a better fighter than Darren Barker. There can be little doubt over that. But sometimes the right style match-up can go some ways to bridging the gap in overall ability - and this might just be one of those match-ups.
Barker has a few weaknesses, most notably a lack of ability to mix on the inside, and questionable stamina that has betrayed him over the late rounds of his last two contests. But from long distance, he's an excellent fighter - and Martinez prefers to fight at long range. Martinez is not going to be up in Barker's grill, mauling, pressing, and barging away - so when it comes to Barker's major weakness, he will be up against the type of opponent that likely won't be exploiting it. Barker also uses his height well, throws straight shots and isn't nearly as aggressive as Williams, or even Dzinziruk, so he might be able to avoid walking into the type of heavy counters that Martinez likes to sit down on.
Now as far as Barker's stamina issue, that could very well be his undoing - but it probably won't show up until the later stages of the fight. Until then, I think he'll do fairly well.