Athletes in most sports often find it hard to get motivated when they face supposedly inferior opposition. If you watched Sergio Martinez (48-2-2, 27 Kos) take on Darren Barker (23-1. 14 Kos) in their middleweight tilt at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic city on Oct. 1 you’ll realize that boxing is no different. Martinez might have won via an 11th-round knockout, but he looked far from being at the top of his game.

You can either blame the formerly undefeated Englishman Barker for this since he was basically a no-name opponent or give him credit for making Martinez look mediocre throughout most of the fight. It was probably a little bit of both as Martinez didn’t look his usual motivated self and Barker was a frustrating opponent.

It’s a good bet that the WBC Diamond Middleweight Champion from Argentina would have looked a lot sharper against the likes of Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao. Martinez suffered a nose injury in the fourth round and breathing became harder for him after that, making him look even more troubled.

He was still the better fighter though and seemed to pick up the pace as the fight wore on. He finally stopped Barker with a series of right hooks in the middle of the ring, with the last one landing to the side of his opponent’s head, putting him down for the count. It was his third defence of the title and while it was pretty labored, he finished it explosively once he knew he had Barker in trouble.

Barker held his own during most of the fight and while he wasn’t what you’d call an exciting fighter he likely made a few fans and a decent name for himself with his performance. His biggest problem was he didn’t let his hands go and throw enough punches. When he did, he was pretty effective, especially with his right hand. He also showed a pretty good defence by holding his hands up high.

The 36-year-old Martinez said he had prepared for a tough fight and wasn’t surprised by the 29-year-old Barker, adding that his nose was broken by a Barker right hand. Barker said he didn’t really remember the knockout just that his legs gave out and that was it at the 1:29 second mark of the 11th round. He reportedly suffered a perforated eardrum when being knocked out.

Martinez was leading on the scorecards of all three judges when the fight was halted by scores of 96-94, 97-94, and 99-9, showing that it was a lot more competitive than many fans and experts thought it would be.

The champion will now be looking for a big-name opponent and said he’d even come down to 150 lbs. to take on Pacquiao, Mayweather, or Miguel Cotto. He could also take on fellow middleweight champ Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., but that’s unlikely to happen. There are some other decent middleweights out there, but none of them are household names, such as Dmitry Pirog and Matthew Macklin.

As for Barker, he can hold his head up high and might return to the States for another bout with a name opponent in the near future. He at least earned that with his performance.


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