Barker dedicates title to brother
Darren Barker dedicated winning the IBF middleweight title to his late brother Gary after a split-decision victory over Daniel Geale.
Barker dug deep after being knocked down by his Australian opponent in the sixth round to win his first honours at world level in Atlantic City in the early hours of Sunday morning, with two judges scoring the contest 116-111 and 114-113 in his favour, while the third had it 114-113 for Geale.
The Barnet brawler has come through his fair share of pain inside and outside the ring, not least in 2006 when his brother Gary, a promising boxer himself, died in a car accident aged just 19.
His sibling was at the forefront of his mind throughout the bout and inspired him to rise from the canvas midway through the fight when a crunching left to the body from Geale looked to have ended things.
"I was in absolute bits. I was gone. But as the seconds went on my brother and daughter, they got into my head," Barker said in comments broadcast on Sky Sports 1.
"I showed I've got heart and a lot of people didn't think I did.
"Not many people know the journey I've been through. It's been a real Rocky story.
"I dedicate this to my late brother. Everything I've done is for him. Gary, this is for you, mate."
Barker's previous world title shot against Sergio Martinez ended in failure in Atlantic City two years ago and his hopes of landing another tilt had been disrupted through a variety of injuries.
Therefore he was determined not to waste his chance against Geale, starting strongly and connecting with several heavy shots.
Yet a devastating left hook to the body from Geale looked to have turned the tide and the end appeared to be nigh as Geale rained punches in on a dazed Barker.
But the Briton composed himself and ended the round swinging before raising his arms in apparent celebration of withstanding the onslaught.
It was developing into a grueling affair and the physicality threatened to take its toll on Barker, who has struggled with injuries in the past.
A lightning combination in the 10th showed Barker, who also landed a big uppercut, still had plenty to offer and he was impressive again in the 11th, but Geale has a reputation as a strong finisher and it was his punches that were landing in the 12th.
Despite that, Barker raised his arms in celebration before the final bell had even sounded and that proved justified.
Domestic rival Martin Murray paid tribute to Barker's accomplishment, believing the 31-year-old proved his mettle by rising from the canvas.
He told 5 Live: "He got put down in the sixth round and I thought that was going to be it, but he just dug deep and there was just no stopping him. It was his time last night and he proved that when he got the decision."
Murray - who has twice come up agonisingly short in his own bid for a portion of the middleweight crown, most recently a close points loss against Martinez - would relish the opportunity to fight Barker although he admits it is too soon to speculate.
"I'm not going to try and jump all over him now. He's just won the title and it's his time at the minute so I'll let him enjoy that," he added.
"Hopefully we can fight; that's a fight I'd love and he would as well, we've spoken about it in the past so he knows where I am if he wants to fight and hopefully I get the opportunity."