Darren Barker wasn't always "Dazzling" today in London, but he did enough to get the win over gritty Italian Domenico Spada, reclaiming the vacant European title after a one-year layoff. Barker won on unanimous decision scores of 116-113, 116-113 and 115-113. Bad Left Hook scored it 115-113 for Barker. Sky's Jim Watt had it a fairly hilarious 119-109 for Barker, which I would get more into, but it's really just worth a quick mention.
Barker started the fight strong, opening up a 59-55 lead through six rounds on my card. He was sharp, quick, and mostly able to keep the pressuring Spada away from him. But stamina questions came into play as Barker faded in the seventh, eighth and ninth rounds, letting Spada back into the fight. At that point, I had Spada having closed the gap to 86-85 in Barker's favor.
But it was Barker who had the best last gasp. He took the 12th round off, essentially giving it to Spada's aggression as the Italian fought for the win while Barker apparently felt he had the fight sewn up. But Barker did win the 10th and 11th rounds, which gave him the fight on my card, and may well have given him the fight on the cards that matter.
It was not a spectacular performance by any means (no matter what Jim Watt says -- OK, I'll let it go), but you do have to handicap Barker a bit for having been off so long due to injury, and Spada is no chump. The end result is that Barker is back active in the middleweight division, where he is a fringe top ten guy worldwide. I do think we have learned from this fight and Barker's last that he absolutely does not like fighting in close, and he's always going to have some trouble with pressure fighters. But when he's allowed to show his class at distance, he's going to be tough to beat.
In the co-feature, super flyweights Ashley Sexton and Mike Robinson put on a fun show over eight rounds, with Sexton getting the nod on a score of 78-76. Sexton is now 11-0-1 (5 KO), while Robinson, who was there as an opponent and hasn't won a fight in two years, falls to 4-2-2 (0 KO). Sexton makes so many mistakes, including having a gum shield that fell out four times in this fight, but he's fun to watch and young. They discussed a rematch after, as Sexton said he wasn't pleased with his own performance.