Martin Murray was hoping to face Darren Barker next, but that fight appears to be off the table. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)
A potential all-Britain middleweight bout between Martin Murray and Darren Barker is now off the table, according to RingTV.com's Harry Pratt, who spoke with Ricky Hatton (Murray's promoter) about the negotiations. Hatton is laying the blame on Barker's promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing.
"Eddie Hearn initially made an offer for Matchroom Boxing to stage the fight, which we bettered by a considerable amount. Eddie responded and only matched what we put on the table, which was strange, and added it was his final offer. But we again countered and bettered it by a fair amount."
Hatton also says that Hearn has told their side that he "thinks" he has a world title fight for Barker in May, which Hatton says would be fair enough if true. The titlists at 160 are Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, who fights on February 4 and is tentatively scheduled to return in July; Dmitry Pirog, which could be possible; Daniel Geale, who fights March 7; and Felix Sturm, who is due back on April 13 and is reportedly close to a deal with Andy Lee.
So basically, we're looking at Hearn trying to match Barker with Pirog, I guess. The issue there? Barker (23-1, 14 KO) is not ranked in the WBO's top 15.
BoxRec currently has Barker listed on the March 17 card in Sheffield, promoted by Matchroom, with a main event of Kell Brook vs Matthew Hatton. That's tentative at best for the time being.
Really, a Murray vs Barker fight makes a lot of sense given what seems to be the landscape at 160 right now. Both are still contenders despite Barker losing to champion Sergio Martinez in October, and Murray drew a lot of good press for a draw against Sturm in December. It doesn't appear as though there's anything bigger out there for either man at the time -- Sturm isn't going to rematch Murray, and a potential world title fight for Barker in May seems unlikely unless the WBO changes their rankings (which they could, and whatever, Barker's a better fighter than at least half the guys they have ranked anyway).
I get the feeling this could be revisited pretty shortly, and this is a fight that could happen sooner than later. People are talking about it now, and that's significant.