The story of Repton's fabulous Barker boxing family

Darren Barker celebrates winning the world title with Eddie Hearn (pic: Lawrence Lustig)

Darren Barker celebrates winning the world title with Eddie Hearn (pic: Lawrence Lustig) - Credit: Archant

Terry Barker and two of his boxing sons, Darren and Gary, who sadly died in a car crash in 2006, are arguably the family who have made the most impact on Repton ABC and Bethnal Green’s amateur boxing folklore in recent times. 

Terry Barker won a Junior ABA crown (class B under-45kg) in 1979 and in 1980 was Senior ABA light-flyweight champion, outpointing legendary St Helens boxer John Lyon MBE (Lowe House  ABC) who went on to win no fewer than eight Senior ABA titles (four at light-flyweight and four at flyweight).

In fact, Barker won both National Junior and Senior titles in the same season of 1979-80, when aged 17 - all while he was continuing to help nurture the family painting and decorating business.

Given that Lyon is the most successful domestic boxer in English amateur boxing history, Barker’s feat was remarkable, and should not be overlooked, even though it was achieved in the early part of the St Helens man’s domestic career; he rarely lost at home, if at all, after the loss to Barker.

Barker, who was an England international representative, resisted overtures to “turn over” to the pro game and later on encouraged in a very big way both Darren and Gary to make their own success in the ring.

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Both Darren and Gary wore the green and gold vest of Repton with pride and distinction, with Darren becoming a most successful professional boxer winning a plethora of paid titles, including a world crown.

Darren Barker (left)

Darren Barker (left) - Credit: Archant

Terry, Darren and Gary all owed much of their success to Repton’s former top senior coach Tony Burns MBE, who sadly passed away recently, aged 80.

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Darren initially joined Finchley ABC, with whom he stayed for a good number of seasons and was trained by Jimmy Oliver (father of former European champion, Spencer Oliver) amongst others; before switching to the famous Repton outfit in search of more success and ultimate recognition internationally.

He had a fine and successful international amateur career and pride of place is likely to be the gold medal he secured at light-welterweight in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, when he had to box five times for his triumph.

He boxed at welterweight in the 2003 Senior World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, winning two bouts before being very narrowly and controversially outpointed by American Andre Berto in the quarter-finals.

A year later, he took part at middleweight in the European Senior championships in Pula, Croatia, but was outpointed (18-8) in his second contest by Ireland’s outstanding Andy Lee, who reached the semi-finals in these championships. 

Earlier in his amateur days there was a Class C NABC victory, a gold medal at the Vestjsyk Cup in  Denmark in 2003-4; and further back, he reached the semi-final stage at lightweight of the British ABA semi-finals in 2001, only to lose on countback after a 7-7 tie with Tristan Davies.

It is understood that prior to his decision to turn professional, Barker’s amateur record stood at 68 contests, 55 wins and 13 losses.

If his amateur career was littered with success, his professional career was a fantastic success in the middleweight division. He engaged in 28 paid contests, winning 26 (16 inside) and losing but two, both by stoppage when world titles were at stake.

He made his paid debut in September 2004 at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham, outpointing Midlander Howard Clarke over six rounds.

Darren chalked up 23 victories on the spin and in the process he acquired first, the Southern Area middleweight title, outpointing Hussein Osman over 10 rounds in September 2006. 

He remained unbeaten in 14 paid contests and then sadly in December 2006, disaster hit the family, when younger brother Gary was killed in a car accident. 

Darren took a year out of boxing as he pondered his future, returning to the ring on October 5, 2007 with a stoppage win over Greg Barton at York Hall, Bethnal Green.

Thereafter, his career moved on at championship level and Barker won the vacant Commonwealth middleweight crown with an unanimous points decision over 12 rounds against the then undefeated Australian Ben Crampton in 2007.

He successfully defended the Commonwealth belt on four occasions. The final time in November 2009, was against Bristol’s Danny Butler when the vacant British middleweight title was also up for grabs. Butler was stopped in seven rounds thus making Darren a dual middleweight title holder.

Next stop was Europe and on April 9, 2010 Barker won a unanimous decision over French southpaw Affif Belghecham in a very tough contest at the Alexandra Palace in north London to claim the vacant European middleweight title.

A hip injury sustained by Barker ended a potential title defence against Matthew Macklin and in effect he was out of the ring for a year; before returning to box for the by now vacant European middleweight belt, which he made his own for the second time by unanimously outscoring Italy’s Domenico Spada at the Olympia in London.

This contest was Barker’s first under the promotional banner of Matchroom Sports, thus linking up with Barry and Eddie Hearn. 

Now it was time to shoot for world honours and Barker met tough Argentinian southpaw Sergio Martinez for the WBC Diamond middleweight title in October 2011 in Atlantic City.  

But, trailing on all three judges scorecards, Darren suffered a first career defeat with an 11th-round knockout.

Back on the comeback trail in March 2013, Barker won the vacant IBF Inter-Continental middleweight crown against Italy’s Simone Rotolo, the Italian retiring in the fourth round with an injured hand.  

In August 2013, Darren challenged Tasmanian-born Aussie Daniel Geale for the latter’s IBF middleweight world title in Revel, Atlantic City, New Jersey and won by a split decision.

But Barker’s first title defence against Germany’s veteran Felix Sturm proved to be his last performance in the ring.

The bout took place on December 7, 2013 in Stuttgart in Germany and Barker was floored twice in the second round before trainer Tony Sims threw in the towel.

Darren had dislocated his hip in the first knockdown and in 2014 he announced his retirement from the ring.

The late Gary Barker died in a car accident on December 10, 2006 on the M1 near Luton, aged just 19 but had already in his short life achieved so much in amateur boxing.

His major domestic junior honours are as follows: 1999-2000 National Schools Class A under 36kg champion; 2002-3 NACYP Class A 54kg champion and Schools Class 4 54kg champion and 2004-5 ABA Youth Class 6 60kg champion.

In the senior ranks in 2006-7, he was London ABA Senior light-welterweight champion, but outpointed in the English ABA quarter-finals by Bradley Saunders. His senior career was only just getting underway when tragedy struck in December 2006.

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