Boxing Report: Darren Barker defeats Jason McKay
By Daniel Cann (Dec 14, 2008)  
This fight was notable for two things: Firstly it was bright prospect ‘Dazzling’ Darren Barker’s second defence of his coveted Commonwealth Middleweight belt and secondly it was veteran referee Mickey Vann’s last contest due to the British Boxing Board of Control’s ruling that referees must compulsorily retire upon attaining the age of sixty five. The Leeds referee final officiated contest was entertaining but ultimately one-sided.

Undefeated and sporting heavy stubble, a sharp looking Barker wearing black and silver trunks looked menacing as he prowled the ring during the preliminary announcements. His weight of eleven stone five and a half pounds just inside the limit was testament to a tough training camp in Ireland with stable-mate and new WBC Super-Middleweight Champion Carl Froch. In contrast, his opponent Irishman Jason McKay looked pale and slight at eleven stone four pounds. He looked relaxed and had a lanky frame, which suggested he would try to keep this one at range. McKay wore white and green trunks and had a decent record of twenty wins in twenty-two contests. He would be up against it tonight though in champion Barker’s back yard.

Round one saw both protagonists meeting at the centre of the ring exchanging jabs. Barker landed a decent right over McKay’s jab. McKay looked wary early on and wisely carried his hands high. Barker looked loose and rangy, easily slipping the shots coming from McKay. They exchanged hooks then fell into a clinch. On the break McKay jabbed and landed a decent right to the body followed by a left to the body. Both men looked sharp and there was plenty of lateral movement and feinting and moving as they looked for openings. Towards the end of the round I was thinking what an even contest it was shaping into until…Barker landed a measuring straight left before detonating a heavy overhand right that sent McKay back sprawling and off balance. Another overhand right wobbled McKay and he looked distinctly uncomfortable and nonplussed as the home crowd roared their approval. At the bell McKay had clearly felt Barker’s power early.

The second round showed a sharp contrast in the pair, Barker looking composed and relaxed whereas McKay appeared tense and wary, unsurprising after the last round. Barker was up on his toes jabbing and McKay countered with a jab of his own but with not much conviction behind it. Barker circled his man and bided his time; he managed to land a grazing right. I noticed that McKay was flapping rather than planting his shots. Barker’s feet were firm on the ground when he unleashed his heavy artillery. The more confident and forceful work was coming from the Barnet born man. Barker kept his chin tucked in and was moving and jabbing well. At one point Barker displayed the difference in strength and power as he easily shoved McKay off. He landed a good left to the body and was taking control. McKay missed with a jab and received a left hook in return for his trouble. As the round went on however, McKay grew in confidence and his work had greater conviction towards the end. He was getting bolder, but Barker was patient. At the bell the area underneath McKay’s right eye looked very red.

Barker doubled his jab to begin the third and landed a decent right as well. McKay responded with a good left before landing with a stiff jab. Despite these successes for the visiting Irishman he had a mouse emerging under his right eye, which must have impacted on his vision. McKay continued his good spell with more jabs and landed to the body for good measure, plenty of grit and determination was displayed by the plucky fighter. Barker in contrast, was looking for single big shots rather than working for openings. He landed a good right with about two minutes gone in the round but McKay took it well. More jabs came from the visitor and it was shaping into a much better round for him, as he appeared the busier of the two. Barker had some success with a body shot but the higher volume was from McKay. A big right at the end of the round let McKay know who was the boss but I awarded him the round solely on his grit and higher work-rate.

Barker jabbed to start the fourth, he looked so loose and relaxed. McKay’s right eye was clearly worsening. A good right from McKay landed high on Barker’s cheekbone but no damage was done. Barker landed with a good left hook, he was accurate but only throwing single punches. A body shot landed and Barker was holding the centre of the ring and stalking his man. McKay found himself in that terrible position of having his back against the ropes as big hitting Barker unloaded, McKay bravely fought his way off them but it looked futile. Barker was clearly dictating things, pressing and controlling the action, looking to slowly bust up the Irish fighter. McKay showed admirable heart as he hung in there. His gum-shield flew out and referee Vann stopped the action to replace it. When hostilities resumed a big overhand right from Barker connected on an increasingly vulnerable and ragged looking McKay. The round ended with more hurtful punches from Barker finding their mark and it looked like it was getting too much for the visitor. I could see no way back for him.

Early in the fifth McKay again found himself with his back to the ropes and taking punishment as Barker pressed ahead. McKay had some success with a right of his own but the momentum of the fight was clearly with the home boxer. As Barker worked the body he looked so much stronger. McKay was rallying valiantly but got nailed by another big right. He bravely came back but it was like watching a man fighting against an unstoppable wave as Barker kept pressing. To add to McKay’s woes his left eye was looking puffy as well as his now nearly closed right.
Barker still kept trying to close the show with one big punch rather than working off the jab. He was one-dimensional at times. This was fine against this level of opponent (no disrespect to the brave McKay) but when Barker steps up in class he will need to have a greater repertoire and move through a few more gears than he did tonight. A good left nailed McKay in a corner to close the round. Barker had to be miles ahead; even being generous McKay perhaps had won one round and shared another at this stage.

So onto the sixth round, Barker kept throwing looping shots, looking for the knockout that would not come. The home crowd showed superb support as they cheered and stomped their feet. McKay was just trying to ‘hang tough’ in there at this stage. Barker hit his man with another looping right and a decent jab later. Perhaps he was trying too hard to impress the home crowd and the live television audience as he elected to throw bombs instead of working steadily and throwing combinations.

McKay was staggered yet again by another booming right and he found himself in a corner, he was to put it blunt, getting steadily worked over. McKay pawed with his punches, there was no venom behind them. He was displaying raw courage but that is not enough to win a fight like this. As the bell sounded he cut a sad and dejected figure, his right eye nearly swelled shut, his left eye worsening. He held his head down and looked utterly spent. He simply had no answer to Barker’s class and aggression. It was a huge relief when his corner consisting of John Breen and Eamonn Magee signalled to referee Vann that their man could not continue. He had given his all and showed tremendous heart but it was a wise compassionate decision and McKay can come again.

For Barker it was a good win and showed that while he has masses of potential he is far from the finished article yet. The modest and self-deprecating man admitted as much himself. He dedicated this fight to his late brother and showed class in paying tribute to his opponents’ heart. He can look forward to contesting the British and European titles and has plenty of time to improve.

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