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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Sean Dempsey/PA Wire. Darren Barker (left) lands an upper-cut on Affif Belghecham.
# Corner man
Barker gunning for Macklin
Gavin Grace straps his hands and delivers an impressive combination of boxing news and analysis.

A RELATIVELY QUIET weekend boxing-wise is headlined tonight by Darren Barker’s challenge for the European Middleweight Title against Domenico Spada in London.

However, rather than the gritty Italian, it is an Irishman that Barker has in his sights: Matthew Macklin.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s bout, in which he will attempt to regain the European belt, Barker has accused Macklin of ducking a bout with him.

“Everyone wants to watch us fight and in that respect I am annoyed at him for not taking me on. Why not boost the profile of the sport here by setting up these big British fights?

“I can only imagine it’s because he knows I am going to beat him, because I would beat him and I’ve got his number all day long, I’m the best in Europe, the best in Britain.”

Fans of both fighters have long-argued as to who would win out in fight between them, but a clash between Macklin and Barker is certainly a mouth-watering prospect.  They were due to do battle before, most notably as the headlining bout of the Magnificent Seven event in Birmingham last September, before Barker pulled out at short notice due to injury.

The truth is that despite the talk, this fight won’t happen any time soon.  Macklin is deep in preparations for his world title fight with Felix Sturm in Cologne on 25 June 25, and a press release from his team this week didn’t even mention the Englishman (and nor should it).

Tonight’s bill at the Olympia sees one fight of note for Irish fans – unbeaten featherweight Patrick Hyland of Tallaght takes on the tough journeyman Daniel Kodjo Sassou.

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Speaking of prominent Irish middleweights, Andy Lee returns to action next month with a fight against Alex Bunema in Rosemont, Illinois.  The fight marks the Limerick man’s first bout since his last round knockout of Scot Craig McEwen earlier this year.  Lee is gearing up for an eventual fight against Brian Vera, the only man to have beaten him to date.  That contest will likely be screened by HBO in September, and is set to be a World Title Eliminator.

Lee is hoping for one further interim bout however, perhaps here against Dublin’s EBA Champion Anthony Fitzgerald.  The fight, which would likely be held in July, is dependent on a number of things, not least securing television coverage.  Dolphill Promotions has suggested that a card in Limerick, in which Willie Casey would also make his comeback following his loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux, may be the eventual vehicle for this to be held.  However, while both Lee and Fitzgerald are up for the fight, this fight is also some ways off.

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The draw for next weekend’s International Heavyweights Prizefighter event could have been kinder for the Cork-based Cuban Mike Perez.  The unbeaten Perez will take on Fres Oquendo in his opening Quarter-Final bout, and should he come through that fight, his semi-final opponent should be Kevin Johnson (who took Vitali Klitschko the distance in December 2009), presuming the American beats France’s Gregory Tony.

The other half of the draw sees Briton Michael Sprott go up against Tye Fields and Cuban Juan Carlos Gomez fight German Konstantin Airich.  More on Prizefighter next week (it will be held next Saturday night) but the night should be a cracker – the eight men have over 160 knockout wins between them

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Irish boxers have won three bronze medals at the first ever AIBA Women’s World Youth and Junior Championships in Turkey.  Katie Rowland, Michaela Walsh and Austeja Accueita lost their semi-final contests on Thursday, but will all come home with well-earned medals.

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A new documentary film about the Klitschko brothers is screening at the Tribeca Festival in New Yrok this week.  The movie, which has already been shown in Germany, chronicles the lives of Vitali and Wladamir from their childhoods in the Soviet Union through to today, and their current positions at the helm of heavyweight boxing.  No word as of yet on a potential Irish release but the trailer certainly is mouth-watering.

Watch it here

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This Week In Boxing History

On 29 April 1995, Bernard Hopkins beat Segundo Mercado of Ecuador in a fight for the vacant IBF Middleweight Title in the glamorous Landover, Maryland.

The relatively unremarkable fight (with it’s strange stoppage) marked the first time for Hopkins to become a World Middleweight Titlist – he would successfully defend the belt a record 20 times before losing a split decision to Jermaine Taylor over 10 years later.

The fight against Mercado was a rematch – the men had drawn their first bout in Quito the previous December, a fight in which Hopkins was floored twice.  The only other occasions in which Hopkins has been floored were in his last fight against Jean Pascal, and in this bizarre incident during a fight with Robert Allen (and referee Mills Lane) in August 1998.