Memories of Gary drive Darren on

WHEN Darren Barker stepped out of the ring at the Goresbrook Centre, Dagenham on Friday December 8 2006, after stopping Welsh rival Paul Samuels in 118 seconds for the quickest victory of his unbeaten 14 fight career, he felt great.

But he did not know just 24 hours later fate would deal it’s cruellest blow with a tragedy that threatened to wreck his ring career – and his whole life.

For on the next day his younger brother Gary, also an outstanding boxing talent, set out on a late-night car journey to the Midlands and suffered a fatal accident, crashing on the M1 Motorway.

The two brothers had been very close – both coming through the ranks of the famous Repton boxing club in Bethnal Green where their father Terry, had enjoyed an ABA title triumph as a light-flyweight during his outstanding ring career 30 years ago.

Darren had climaxed his amateur career when he claimed a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 2002 tournament in Manchester and went on to launch a successful pro career.

His younger brother was hailed as one of the brightest teenage prospects in the country, winning a string of titles at home and earning gold medal success against top international opposition at the 2002 Junior Olympic Games.

The brothers would spend hours discussing their careers and their future ambitions, but following the tragic accident Darren admits he was on the point of quitting the sport.

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“Gary was someone I would talk to all the time about boxing,” he recalled.

“At first, after he died, I had enough of it. I couldn’t do it on my own.

“It took me a while, and I was out of the sport for nine months.”

However, since then he has resumed his career with outstanding success, capturing British Commonwealth and European title belts and he remains unbeaten after 21 fights with his late brother as his driving force.

“He’s my inspiration,” said Barker. “It’s as if he’s behind me, spurring me on.

“When I get in the ring, it feels like there’s two of us. I want to win the world title for him.

“I want to keep his memory alive through my success.”

It’s that inspiration that has swept him through his title triumphs and enabled him to overcome his latest injury setback, the hip problem that forced him to withdraw from his European title defence against Matthew Macklin in December.

He sportingly gave up the title and allowed Macklin to win the clash for the vacant title in Liverpool last month when he defeated Spaniard Ruben Varon with a disappointing performance.

However, Darren has been able to return to his training regime and renewed his world title ambitions with an important contest planned at Wembley Arena next month.

He has been looking good at trainer Tony Sims Hainault gymnasium: “Darren had been really impressive in sparring and is keen to get back in action with a good win at the big Wembley promotion in February,” said Sims.

An American opponent is being lined up for the opposite corner on the night and the fighter, with a record of 22 straight victories, including 14 stoppages, sees it as a vital step towards his dream of a world title challenge.

“I want to get into the ring in February and line up an American and work towards a world title shot during the year,” he said.

A line-up of fighters from Sims gymnasium are also booked alongside Barker on the bill, but the Hainault-based stable hopes to be celebrating another title success before that date.

The opportunity comes for his super-middleweight stablemate and another former Repton amateur title winner, Danny Cadman, a 30-year-old looking to highlight his seven-year professional campaign by claiming the Southern Area championship belt.

He gets his chance at York Hall, Bethnal Green on January 22 when he faces Portsmouth rival Paul Morby for the vacant title as the top-line contest on a show promoted by ex- TKO gym fighter Graham Earl.

A new champion for the Tony Sims stable would certainly be a great start to launch 2011 and Darren Barker looks to make the year even more memorable as he hits the world middleweight title trail.