In an outcome most fight fans expected, Darren Barker (23-1, 14 KO's) traveled all the way from London to the Atlantic City boardwalk to suffer his first career defeat at the hands of middleweight champ Sergio Martinez (48-2-2, 27 KO's). Despite earning respect for sticking his neck out against a fighter that no one wants to face, the Brit spent most of the night behind his gloves, clipping Martinez with consistent but unsuccessful jabs and the rare power right - one of which did manage to break Martinez's nose in the fourth round.
"That was a good shot," Martinez said after the fight, laughing.
He didn't look so happy, however, when his power shots were deflecting off of Barker's guard throughout the early and middle rounds of the bout, and for a while it looked like Martinez had been effectively stymied. But none of the obstacles stopped "Maravilla" from fighting his typical style - hands at his belt and head stuck out, daring Barker to throw a power punch he could counter with the nightmarish left hand that dropped Paul Williams for the 2010 Knockout of the Year. But Barker wouldn't bite.
Martinez kept busy by driving straight left hands squarely into his opponent's gloves, and as the fight wore on, more of the power started to seep through. In all, Martinez landed 138 power punches to his opponent's 76, and though the Argentinean wasn't quite as accurate as Barker with his jabs (19 percent vs. 35 percent), Martinez outworked him enough to nearly catch up in total jabs landed.
In the 10th round, Martinez finally landed the clean left that his fans had shown up to see, staggering Barker. But when the swollen Brit stepped out of his corner in the following round, it was a flurry of right hooks that finished the fight - the last of which sent Barker to the canvas and left him there.
"I kept throwing the right hand because I knew it would start to land," Martinez said. "It landed more and more as the fight went on."
The night's televised undercard displayed southpaw action as well, with Andy Lee - an Irish fighter by way of Detroit - solidly outboxing Brian Vera to avenge a 2008 loss. Lee fought from a distance, refusing to give his opponent an angle while sweeping in with fierce lefts, sometimes two in a row. Lee ruled the first seven rounds of the 10-round bout - knocking Vera down in the second - and by the time the steel-chinned Texan fired back with any intensity, he was already too far down on the cards and with too few remaining rounds to score a knockout. The fight ended with a unanimous decision for Lee.
"With Brian Vera, offense is his defense," Lee said after the fight. "He's not a counterpuncher, so I had to keep the pressure on." When asked what middleweight he wants to face next, Lee spoke the magic words to hopefully summon Sergio Martinez: "I'll fight anyone. No middleweight wants to fight me."
Martinez and his promoter Lou DiBella both answered the call-out, saying that Lee was a possibility. "There are a lot of possibilities," DiBella added. Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito are both on that menu, and DiBella insisted weight would not be an issue: "Martinez didn't skip a meal all week." Moving up the scales is not an option, however, which nixes any chance of Martinez taking on the winner of October's Hopkins-Dawson fight.
"I'm ready to fight whoever's there," Martinez said. "As long as we come to a good deal for myself and a good deal for my rival."