Tonight on HBO Pound-for-Pound contender Sergio Martinez takes on untested British fighter Darren Barker. Martinez has a free pass to the elite of his division after his stunning one-punch knockout of gatekeeper Paul Williams. Why Martinez chose Darren Barker for his next opponent is debatable, but the fight could be interesting. Martinez has an unusually effective awkward style, finding angles that other guys just can’t predict, decent power and defense. Barker, while not a big name fighter, has some tools of his own. A southpaw, like Martinez, Barker prefers straight punches over the swift, looping combinations Martinez throws. From the video I’ve seen, Barker moves well, shifting his stance after every combination, slipping punches at range. He even mixes it up with a skilled uppercut and some body work, now and then. Unfortunately, Barker likes to fight tall, which I suspect Martinez can use against him even though Barker’s head movement is impressive and his hands are fast. You be the judge:
A little further off the radar is the undercard for tonight’s main event. The first bout on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights between Andy Lee and Brian Vera led to a surprising result, Andy Lee had been presented as a top-level fighter but was badly exposed. In their first fight, Lee scored an early knockdown, but later suffered a cut over the eye and began taking vicious haymakers from Vera, causing the referee to stop the fight at a controversial moment when Lee was still throwing back. Loyal boxing fans know that sometimes the undercard is the one to watch for, and tonight, that’s what I’ll be doing.