It was considered a 50-50 fight on paper, with a possible hometown edge if it went to the cards, which most expected it would. Instead, Felix Sturm demolished Darren Barker today in Stuggart, Germany, to win the IBF middleweight title, giving the veteran fighter his fourth world title at 160 pounds.
Sturm (39-3-2, 18 KO) started abnormally fast even considering he's been a faster starter in recent years than he used to be, coming out throwing big shots at Barker (26-2, 16 KO) in the opening round. But the British titleholder held his ground fairly well and dug to the body of the challenger. Though Sturm had a good first round, the action was going both ways, and Barker seemed to have something of a game plan, even if it was clear he did need to defend a bit better.
The 34-year-old Sturm didn't give him that chance. A right hand put Barker on the canvas in the second round, and he looked in trouble right away, as the shot landed behind the ear a bit, which is what got Barker stopped by Sergio Martinez back in 2011. Barker did gamely fight on, but another right hand put him back on the floor not too long after, and as he got up, he appeared to have possibly reinjured his hip, which he's had problems with in the past. After the fight, Sky reported that Barker likely dislocated the hip.
Still, Barker got up and looked to get back into it, though his corner were taking a close look, as was American referee Mark Nelson. With Sturm continuing to land, looking to finish the fight while he had his man hurt. With the referee eager to pounce at the first sign of real trouble, he had his job done for him when Barker's corner threw in the towel, ending his world title reign just shy of four months, and returning Felix Sturm back to the upper echelon of the 160-pound ranks.
It's a tough pill to swallow for Barker, 31, who worked very hard to make his way to the world title level, overcame some adversity outside of the ring, and then climbed the mountain against Daniel Geale in August. But the fact is, Sturm was impressive today, and simply the better man. He fought like a man possessed, who knew his back was against the wall, and that a loss here could have ended his time as a top contender.
Sturm got his "one more shot," and he made it count. His determination to do damage early was a good read, as he got Barker in trouble and then went for the jugular. He did what he had to do, and he's back in the mix.