Boxing: Beware the hungry British underdog, Barker warns champion

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The Independent Online

Darren Barker is unbeaten in 23 fights, has held the British, Commonwealth and European middleweight titles and is close to losing his patience after 10 weeks of being the anonymous opponent for Sergio Martinez in tonight's main event in Atlantic City.

Martinez is acknowledged as one of the very best active champions and holds the World Boxing Council's ludicrous diamond version of their middleweight title, but lacks fans and selling power – hence his failure to secure the superfight that he deserves.

It is no secret that Martinez is looking two or even three fights beyond tonight's action and understandably Barker and his people, who have remained stoic in their ignored role, are convinced that the Argentinian southpaw, who has been based in Spain and more recently in California, has made a mistake.

"I'm the underdog and I can live with that," said Barker. "He's a good champion and he wants big fights and I understand that. But he has taken his eye off me and that is a danger at any level in boxing."

Martinez, 36, was a professional for 11 years before winning a version of the world title in 2008 and has been in a succession of superb fights that have fallen just short of being major events. He has been mentioned as an opponent for both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, the sport's cash cows, but the veteran has now fallen out of the duo's lucrative orbit.

"There is a great history of world champions looking beyond what they consider to be easy defences, and then they come up short on the night," continued Barker. "[Lloyd] Honeyghan beat [Donald] Curry here in Atlantic City and he was a bigger underdog than me!"

Meanwhile, the troubled 16th World Amateur Championships, the main qualifier for next year's Olympics, have so far been free of any major incidents in Baku, Azerbaijan. Luke Campbell, who won Britain's first European title for 47 years in 2008 and has lost just once in his last 24 international contests, beat an Azerbaijani to reach the last 32 after accusations that the seeding system favoured the locals.

Finchley's super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua stopped his first opponent but is still three wins away from reaching the semi-final stage.

Sky Sports HD1, tomorrow 2.30