Darren Barker (26-1) became the new IBF middleweight champion on Saturday night by virtue of a split-decision victory over reigning champion Daniel Geale (29-2) in Atlantic City, N.J.
From the opening bell Geale was looking to defend his championship belt by turning the bout into a slugfest. He threw power punches in bunches early and often; however, it was Barker who displayed a wise approach as he patiently countered the champion with better efficiency that scored.
As ESPN Boxing noted, Barker's approach likely won him the opening frame:
R1: Geale is definitely throwing the higher volume of shots but Barker landed the cleaner, heavier shots to take a close round, 10-9.— ESPN Boxing (@ESPNBoxing) August 18, 2013
That first round would prove to be a trendsetter for the rest of the early rounds as Geale relied on his pace and Barker answered by being the better technician. As Douglass Fischer of Ring TV noted, Geale was going to have to keep up the pace all night if he wanted to break through:
Geale's pressure finally started to catch up with Barker as the fight progressed to the middle rounds. By the fifth round, the defending champion had seized the momentum, catching Barker with multiple power shots.
Those shots would add up in the sixth as he put Barker on the ropes and scored a knockdown. However, Barker would recover before the referee counted him out and had Geale in trouble by the end of the round.
As Brian Campbell of ESPN noted, the whole encounter was a beautiful mess for fans of the sweet science:
I like this fight. It's a much sloppier version Froch-Kessler II, but it's a heck of a ride so far.— Brian Campbell (@BCampbellESPN) August 18, 2013
Barker appeared to catch a second wind after the knockdown, though. From the sixth round on he was right back in the thick of things and made his own case for the judges as the fight approached the later rounds.
Carl Froch chimed in with his own encouragement for the challenger:
Effort! Guts! Determination! Come on Barker you're winning this... Big finish!— Carl Froch (@Carl_Froch) August 18, 2013
Through 10 rounds, Barker had claimed a slim lead on ESPN's scorecard thanks to his perseverance:
R10: Heavy shots in return from Barker late in the round. Geale is busy but his shots aren't having the same effect. Barker leads 96-93.— ESPN Boxing (@ESPNBoxing) August 18, 2013
Geale turned up the pace once again in the closing rounds and was able to hurt Barker in the 12th and final round, but he didn't take advantage as he was content to simply take the round from his opponent. It was a mistake that would cost him dearly as the challenger became the champion with a split decision.