Interview: Darren Barker

Darren Barker
© PA Photos
Sports Mole chats to Darren Barker as he maps out a bid to become world middleweight division in 2013.

Darren Barker has declared that despite failing to land a fight with Andy Lee, he will be focused and ready to return in March.

Barker came back from 14 months out to stop Kerry Hope in December and will continue his march up the middleweight ladder by headlining the 'London's Finest' bill at Wembley Arena on Saturday, March 9.

The Barnet middleweight targeted a scrap with Lee but has insisted that he will stay professional and build towards a world-title tilt against an international contender.

Sports Mole caught up with Barker to talk fitness, form and a push for top honours in 2013.

Hi Darren. You're back on March 9 for your second fight in four months. How pleased are you to return so quickly?
"To be honest I can't believe it. It's an honour and a relief at the same time. Wembley Arena is a top venue and one I'm proud to be fighting at. I just want to push on now, put in another big performance and look towards that world title shot I feel ready for."

How quickly were you back in the gym after the Kerry Hope win and did that drive you on to get going again so quickly?
"I was back in the gym a week after the fight just ticking over again. I suppose at 30 you appreciate why you're boxing that bit more. I've got a little daughter so I can't afford to mess about. I need to get back in there and earn some money. That's exactly what I'm doing and I'm feeling good for it."

Have you had a chance to sit down and assess the Hope performance and if so, what is your take on the win?
"I was really happy, more than anything to see things I'd worked on in the gym put into practice and paying off. On the night I was over the moon, I really was buzzing. The actual finishing combination came from something we'd worked on many times so dissecting the performance it was something to really build on. We've built a real focus on strength and conditioning with our coach Chris Kemp and I think that has really started to pay off big time."

How are things on the fitness front? Are you still feeling strong after the last bout?
"I still feel fit, which hasn't been the case in a long time. I usually fight, get back to the gym and it's a really hard process building myself back up to that level again. This time I've kept on the ball. I know it's a rebuilding process but at the moment it's going on really well. I'm happy to say I'm over the injuries and I honestly mean that. I've had no wars in my career and I suppose you could say I'm a new, fresh contender in the middleweight division."

What is the plan of action for the March date? Is there anything specific to work on and target as you build towards world title contention?
"Well we're off to Spain for 10 days on Saturday. It's nice to head out there being fit rather than using it as means to build fitness from the off. We'll head out there and get some real good quality training in, come back and steam into our specifics for the 9th."

You currently don't have an opponent named. Do you have anyone specific in mind and how important is it to get a target to focus on as soon as possible?
"I'll be honest it does help, every time you hit the bag or the pad it helps to visualise who you're going up against. But I am a professional, you're being paid to act like one, so have to keep that mentality. The preference for me was to get one of the British or Irish guys. I asked for Andy Lee but he wasn't quite ready for whatever reason. The fight I wanted wasn't there but I need to keep going, and whoever they put in front of me I need to act like a professional."

Are you conscious at this stage of your career that there's no time to waste, that you need an opponent who is going to advance you towards world honours?
"I am because I believe I am a top middleweight fighter and the future is bright in this division. As far as my own career goes I have to keep moving forward. Sergiy Dzindziruk and Brian Vera have both been mentioned. I'm happy to take the winner of their fight on. Dzindziruk's southpaw jab is a weapon but that's a fight I would relish. I couldn't quite get the Andy Lee fight this time but any international name they get for me I'm quite confident of taking out. As cheesy as it sounds I'm ready to fight them all."

The Wembley bill marks another night where you share the card with a number of your gym mates, with John Ryder and Lee Purdy also featuring. Does that drive you on, having a group of guys all trying to further their careers?
"Definitely, as much as it's an individual sport, having a close-knit team is brilliant. We do get behind each other and it can push you on to achieve more in training or sparring. And it helps break the boredom sometimes, we have a right laugh in every session."

So is the plan for 2013 to target a world-title fight for the summer or look a bit more to the long term and aim for the end of the year?
"As I've said I do feel like a new, fresh contender. The plan is to get through this test in March and line up a really big fight for the summer. If Andy Lee comes through and we can make that fight, I'd still be interested 100%. If not and a world title opportunity comes along I would grab that with both hands. As much as want to be fighting for world titles, there is no huge rush. Either way, I'm in a win-win situation. Good things come to those who wait, and believe me, I've had to wait some time."

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