Boxing: Darren Barker becomes IBF world middleweight champion after defeating Daniel Geale by a split decision in Atlantic City

Londoner recovers from sixth round knockdown to secure IBF crown

Darren Barker climbed off the canvas to claim the IBF middleweight title in a gruelling encounter with Daniel Geale in Atlantic City.

Things looked bleak for the Barnet fighter when he was floored by a body shot in the sixth, but the next time he hit the canvas was in a fit of emotion after it was announced he had won the belt by a split decision.

Barker, 31, wept as he dropped to his knees and was congratulated by his team, with tears flowing in all quarters, before dedicating the victory to his brother Gary who died in a car accident in 2006.

“Not many people know the journey I've been through,” he said in comments broadcast on Sky Sports 1. “It's been a real Rocky story.

”I dedicate this to my late brother. Everything I've done is for him. Gary, this is for you, mate.“

Barker, whose previous world title shot against Sergio Martinez ended in failure in Atlantic City in 2011, appeared to take his Australian opponent by surprise by taking the fight to him.

The Briton landed some big early hits and certainly had the better of the early rounds.

But he was down in round six when Geale connected with a left hook to the body.

The end appeared to be nigh as Geale rained punches in on a dazed Barker, but the Barnet fighter composed himself and ended the round swinging before raising his arms in apparent celebration of withstanding the onslaught.

Barker went on the attack again in round seven but, although he was landing plenty of punches, he did not appear to be hurting his opponent.

It was developing into a gruelling affair and the physicality threatened to take its toll on Barker, who has struggled with injuries in the past.

A lightning combination in the 10th showed Barker, who also landed a big uppercut, still had plenty to offer and he was impressive again in the 11th, but Geale has a reputation as a strong finisher and it was his punches that were landing in the 12th.

Despite that, Barker raised his arms in celebration before the final bell had even sounded and that proved justified.

”I take my hat off to Daniel Geale,“ Barker said. ”He's a great champion and a tough, tough man.

“He caught me right in the solar plexus and completely took my breath away from me.”

He added: “I was in absolute bits. I was gone. But as the seconds went on my brother and daughter, they got into my head.

”I showed I've got heart and a lot of people didn't think I did.“

Geale said: ”I'm no going to whinge and cry and carry on. I worked so hard, I did everything I had to do.

“I could tell he was throwing a lot of punches - whether he was catching me or not, that's to be seen. I felt in control. It wasn't my best performance. Darren's a great fighter, I knew it was going to be tight. I'm very disappointed.”

PA

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