A recap of the highest-profile boxing matches of the weekend.
On Saturday night in Atlantic City, a pair of middleweights waged the kind of physical battle every fight fan loves.
Darren Barker and David Geale traded punches for 12 rounds, displaying enough heart for a dozen Rocky movies, as Barker (26-1-1, 16 KOs) persevered to take Geale's IBF championship.
It was a melding of two willing combatants, two complementary styles and comparable but not world-class punching power that led to one of the more remarkable contests of the year.
It was all the more compelling considering it almost didn't get past the sixth round, when Geale (29-2-0, 15 KOs) hit Barker with a perfect left hand to the body from which Barker nearly couldn't recover. Barker was knocked down at the 1:25 mark but rose at the count of nine, looking battered and beaten, and proceeded to withstand a barrage from Geale.
So it was shocking to see Barker land some combinations to rally with 36 seconds remaining in the round and then pin Geale up against the ropes in an epic recovery.
For the remainder of the bout, the fighters stood in the middle of the ring and traded punches, with Barker being a little busier and gaining the edge in punching volume. Barker was hurt again in the 12th, but once again displayed the kind of heart that would not permit him to crumble.
The judges scored it 114-113 Geale, 116-111 Barker and 114-113 Barker.
What's next? Felix Sturm, who lost the title to Geale in September 2012, is Barker's mandatory challenger after a TKO victory over Predrag Radosevic in July. Barker should get past the 34-year-old, but then what? Barker was stopped by Sergio Martinez in the 11th round in 2011 in what, up to that point, had been a pretty competitive bout. But who knows when Martinez, recovering from various injuries, will fight again. What everyone wants to know about is Gennady Golovkin, who will reportedly fight Curtis Stevens next. Honestly, as hard as Barker fought against Geale, it's tough to see him lasting against 'GGG.' Barker obviously was hit a lot against Geale, who is by no means a slouch, but he doesn't have nearly the power of Golovkin.
The broadcast card: Light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev, who many view as one of the hardest pound-for-pound punchers in the world, lived up to that reputation by taking Nathan Cleverly's WBO title with a fourth-round TKO in Cardiff, Wales. Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 KOs) suffered a cut over his left eye in the second round, but responded by knocking down Cleverly (26-1-0, 12 KOs) twice late in the third, with Cleverly out on his feet and clearly being saved by the bell. The bout was quickly stopped at 2:39 of the fourth round.
In Atlantic City, IBF super bantamweight titleholder Jhonatan Romero (23-1-0, 12 KOs) fought one of the most perplexing bouts of the year. Instead of using the entire ring, his boxing skills and his height advantage, Romero elected to hang on the ropes and in the corner and let veteran Kiko Martinez (29-4-0, 21 KOs) bully and batter him. Needless to say, the hard-hitting Martinez relentlessly worked the body, excelled fighting on the inside and stopped Romero in the sixth round.
The last words: "It's so difficult. Not many people know the journey I've been through. It's been a real 'Rocky' story, but, ya know, I'll just dedicate this to my late brother. Everything I've done is for him and ... Gary ... this is for you, mate." -- an emotional Darren Barker, reflecting on the death of his brother, who died in a car accident in 2006 at the age of 19
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