Dave Oakes previews Saturday's European middleweight title clash.
Darren Barker returns to the ring after a lengthy absence this weekend when he takes on Domenico Spada for the vacant European middleweight title at the Olympia, London.
It’s just over a year ago since Barker originally claimed the European belt, via a hard-fought points victory over Affif Belghecham, but a hip injury and out of ring problems have kept him out of action since then. To add insult to injury, he was forced to vacate the title, which was subsequently won by arch rival Matthew Macklin.
Spada, 32-3 (16), is a tough opponent when he’s on top form and the fact Barker’s taking him on without a warm-up speaks volumes about his self-confidence, albeit a confidence well hidden beneath his cool, calm and collected persona.
Two of the three losses on Spada’s record were close decisions, the first coming against future Arthur Abraham victim Mahir Oral, whilst the second was against Sebastian Zbik, who comprehensively out-boxed and out-pointed Spada in the rematch.
I think it’s fair to say that the Italian can blow hot and cold, he’s performed brilliantly at times, most notably against Mariusz Cendrowski and the first bout with Zbik, but as he showed in the Zbik rematch, he can be predictable and lacks variety and adaptability.
Barker, 22-0 (14), had sailed through his first twenty-one fights without too many problems but struggled in beating Belghecham. He started the fight brightly enough, dominating the first six rounds, but he was dragged into the trenches by Belghecham and looked untidy at times when he was put under pressure.
It was decided in the aftermath that Barker’s long-term hip injury was having a debilitating effect on him and surgery was required to eradicate the problem. He now says that he’s at 100% and raring to go, his disposition also being boosted by changing promoters – a move that’s guaranteed his future fights will be shown on Sky.
The fight should be an entertaining one for the fans, Spada likes to get in close and bully his opponents, whereas Barker likes to control things using the skills he finely honed during his amateur days. Despite Barker being ruffled at times in the Belghecham fight, I believe he’ll enjoy Spada coming forward and will find the Italian easy to hit.
As well as the gulf in technical ability, Barker’s got massive height and reach advantages over Spada and is undoubtedly the puncher in the fight. Spada’s only got one way of fighting and if he fails to get inside Barker’s rapier like jab and unsettle the Barnet banger then there’s only going to be one winner.
I can see Spada having sporadic successes in the first three or four rounds but he’ll be in trouble as soon as Barker finds his rhythm and starts to pick his shots. Spada’s chin is solid but I feel that Barker, who hits hard and accurately, can take Spada out at any moment, especially if Spada walks onto a big shot.
The fight will be competitive but I can’t see anything other than a Barker win, most likely around the sixth round.