Darren Barker will defend his IBF title against Felix Sturm. [Lawrence Lustig]
Darren Barker travels to Germany to defend his IBF middleweight title against home town favourite Felix Sturm at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart on Saturday 7 December.
Where to Watch Live
The fight can be seen live on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1 HD from 21:00 BST.
Darren Barker makes his first world title defence after winning the belt in stunning fashion by climbing off the canvas against Australian Daniel Geale to earn a split decision victory in Atlantic City. Most newly crowned champions would look for a defence on home soil after such a gruelling fight but 'Dazzling Darren' will instead step into the lion's den and attempt to secure victory in a notoriously difficult country to earn a decision.
Barker's fellow British middleweights Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray both felt aggrieved when they failed to earn a decision against Felix Sturm in Germany but the Barnet fighter is confident he can overcome the odds. The 31-year-old has a new found confidence now that he has realised his dream of becoming a world champion and is reportedly being paid close to £1m for the fight.
A slick operator who has become more aggressive in recent fights, Barker has twice fought against world class opposition - losing one to Sergio Martinez but then defeating Geale to claim the IBF crown. He knows a fast start is vital as he cannot afford to fall behind on the score cards and in the back of his head he will be thinking about the numerous occasions when fighters have received poor decisions from the judges.
For Sturm this fight is make or break. The 34-year-old has been a great champion and held on to his WBA belt for some five years before losing to Geale. There were visible signs of his skills declining in the fight against Sam Soliman earlier this year but a fourth round stoppage of Predrag Radosevic gave him some confidence.
The Cologne resident has just three losses on his record with one of those defeats coming against the legendary Oscar De La Hoya - who was taken 12 rounds by Sturm. A vastly experienced fighter with 38 victims on his record, he does not boast genuine knockout power but he comes on strong in the final stages of the fight.
Sturm is also known for targeting the body and will have seen how badly hurt Barker was in the Geale fight when being caught around the rib cage. The 12-year veteran knows that he will have huge support from a biased home crowd and will want to quickly get into his stride in order to prove to the judges, and himself, that he can still produce a world class performance.
What They Said
Barker: "When preparation has been perfect you look forward to getting in there and that's where I am right now - I just can't wait to get in there and do my thing. Coming out to Germany to fight one of their great champions is a big statement. I've won the title abroad and I'm defending it abroad - it's a sign of my belief that I will beat him and move towards securing a legacy in this great division."
Sturm: "I believe I'll beat him clearly. I have great experience in big fights and I'm in fantastic shape. Trust me, my time is far from over and whoever thinks I'm done is making a big mistake. I re-dedicated myself to the sport I love and it payed off. I had no trouble making weight. I'm as fit as they come. He'll be in for a surprise on Saturday night. I can't wait!"
Even though it is scandalously difficult to claim a points win in Germany for an overseas fighter Barker should be confident of successfully defending his hard earned world title. He must use all his ring craft and sharp skills and he certainly cannot afford for it to be a close contest like against Geale.
If he can assert his dominance early and quieten down the crowd then Sturm is likely to feel somewhat disheartened and there may even be a chance of Barker securing a late stoppage. However, it seems more likely that he will convincgly defeat the German over 12 rounds and by such a clear margin that the judges will have to award him the contest.
Barker to win by a unanimous decision after 12 rounds.
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