IBF middleweight champion "Dazzling" Darren Barker (26-1, 16 KO) isn't taking an easy assignment in his first title defense. Not only is fighting veteran contender and former champion Felix "The Fighter" Sturm (38-3-2, 17 KO) a stiff challenge, but taking him on in his native Germany is usually a formula for defeat.
To say Sturm has gotten the benefit of the doubt in a few fights is an understatement. Namely, middleweight contender Matthew Macklin was robbed in June 2011 when Sturm was awarded a split decision and allowed to keep his WBA middleweight title.
Sturm has since lost his belt, but he's still a dangerous opponent.
Barker took Daniel Geale's title in August in a split decision. He's looking to lengthen his title reign and open up bigger and better opportunities.
Here's how you can watch.
When: Saturday, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Porsche Arena, Stuttgart, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany
TV: Sky Sports
The Book on Sturm and Barker
Not Afraid to Fight in a Hostile Environment
Barker is aware that not only Macklin, but also Martin Murray was seemingly deprived of a deserved win over Sturm in Germany. Still, he craves a huge payday fit for a champion. The road to that price runs through Stuttgart.
A win over Sturm in Germany would be one of the more impressive victories he could have. It may just set up a bout against another of the middleweight champions like Gennady Golovkin. Barker will probably need to clearly outbox Sturm or knock him out to win.
Needless to say, he has a tall task ahead of him.
Looking for Another Title Run
Sturm has also been the victim of horribly bad decisions from judges. In 2004, Sturm thoroughly outboxed Oscar De La Hoya, but didn't get the decision at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Since then, he has fought just one time outside of Germany and never again in the United States.
The Fighter is a two-time world champion making his second run at the IBF crown. He faced Geale prior to the Aussie's loss to Barker in a unification bout when Sturm still held the WBA title. That bout marked just the third loss of Sturm's career and the first time he'd lost on points in his country.
At 36-years-old, Sturm knows his time as an elite fighter is either over, or coming to an end shortly. He will take the ring with a sense of urgency and purpose.
This bout is going to be split into two parts.
Barker has the definite speed advantage, but Sturm's jab could be the great equalizer in the bout. He's physically stronger and should have the edge if the fight is fought on the inside.
I fully expect to see Barker outwork Sturm early, but stamina will be the key for the Dazzling one. He seemed to gas out a bit late in his TKO loss to Sergio Martinez in 2011. Since that fight, his conditioning has been better.
Against an aging Sturm, Barker should have the energy to earn a decision. The question is: Will he get it in Germany?
Let's hope the judges will call it appropriately. Barker will win by a close unanimous decision.
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