The Sweet Science was on display as middleweight Darren Barker took the IBF middleweight championship from Daniel Geale in Atlantic City Saturday night.
The fight was a beautiful display of boxing skill, punching power, heart, strategy and stamina on both sides.
In the end, Barker had just a little bit more than Geale, as he took a split decision, even though a cut had been opened over his left eye, and he had suffered a brutal knockdown from a punch to his side in the sixth round
That punch was actually the turning point in the fight. When Geale threw his hard left to Barker's body, it took an instant for the blow to cause a reaction. Then Barker fell to his knees and finally face-first on the ground. He was literally kicking his feet from the pain caused by the punch.
For an instant, it seemed doubtful that Barker would beat the count. He did, survived the rest of the round and then beat Geale to the punch from that point forward.
"I take my hat off to Daniel Geale," Barker said to HBO's Max Kellerman (through ESPN.com) "He hit me right in the solar plexus and completely took my breath away."
While some fighters would have tried to get off the deck the same way Barker did following the painful knockdown, few would have been as effective from that point forward. His ability to sustain his consistent punching from that moment on is a testament to his conditioning and his drive.
Geale rallied in the final round and rocked Barker with a couple of hard punches, but Barker once again reacted by throwing effective punches of his own.
Barker has now won three consecutive fights since getting knocked out by Sergio Martinez in 2011. The 31-year-old Barker is in the prime of his career, and he is the kind of fighter who gives everything he has every time he enters the ring.
He proved his mettle against Geale, and the two came up with a show that is worthy of fight of the year consideration.
He should be an in-demand fighter, and here's a look at his foreseeable future:
With the IBF middleweight belt securely around Barker's waist, he will be required to fight Felix Sturm of Germany in a mandatory challenge.
Sturm is a capable fighter who has won some controversial decisions in his home country. Barker's promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sports, told Dan Rafael of ESPN.com that a fight with Sturm could come in December and would come in Barker's home country of England—and not Germany.
After that fight, look for a possible rematch with Geale. Not only was this fight a true crowd-pleaser, both fighters displayed respect for each other after the boxing match was over. Barker praised Geale's ability and competitiveness, while Geale acknowledged his opponent's work ethic and ability to throw punches.
Hearn said he would talk with Geale's promoter Gary Shaw after the mandatory defense with Sturm. As long as Barker can handle Sturm, the Geale rematch seems quite likely to come off.
The two put on a thrilling fight and a second engagement would be a can't-miss fight for all boxing fans.
If Barker proves himself in those two fights, a rematch with Martinez or a fight with ferocious Gennady Golovkin could be next.
However, he must take care of business against Sturm to get that scenario started.
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