Darren Barker stops Kerry Hope in four to put his injury hell behind him
Darren Barker marked his return from a 14-month absence from the ring with a fourth-round stoppage of Kerry Hope.
By Rob Lancaster - Tweet me: @SkySportsLanny
Last Updated: 09/12/12 12:53am
Fighting for the first time since losing in his bid to win the world title against Sergio Martinez back in October of 2010, the middleweight showed there's still plenty of life left in him yet by recording his 24th professional victory.
Although he understandably showed some signs of ring rust in the early stages, 'Dazzling' Darren did just as his nickname suggests as the bout wore on.
Hope was by no means an easy outing after such a lengthy lay-off; the Welshman is a former European champion himself, and a tough nut to crack.
That certainly proved the case in the first couple of rounds, Hope putting his head down and walking forward towards his opponent to get within range.
However, by the third Barker had his timing working, allowing him to unleash the shots and then get out of the way of anything coming back in his direction.
It seemed a finish could come about in the third when Hope was twice forced back onto the ropes, but instead it wasn't until the next that the Londoner thrilled his home crowd by putting his rival on the canvas.
A short right uppercut was followed by a superb hook from the same hand that had the wide open Hope heading to the floor. He bravely beat the count but his corner decided they'd seen enough, throwing in the towel.
"It is good to be back," Barker told Sky Sports afterwards. "We'd been working on the right hand and obviously with him being a southpaw the right hand down the middle is always a winner.
"I was loading up a little bit too much, got a bit frustrated in the first round due to ring rust, but once I got my eye in I knew the opportunities would come and I found the opening.
"Tony Sims got me in great shape again. I'm a late maturer and I think I'm finally finding my 'man-strength' and I it showed there."
Barker will now hope to rise through the rankings and get another tilt at a world belt, something promoter Eddie Hearn believes will happen in the future.
"We're just so pleased," he said. "Three months ago we nearly lost Darren Barker out of boxing. He was constantly having bad luck and we're so pleased we got him back in the ring, he's such a talent.
"He can win a world title, I know he can. The key is to get him boxing regularly again and he'll be out again in March before hopefully a world title in the summer."