It’s not quite the fight the boxing world was hoping for, but they’ll have to live with it.
Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez will take on England's Darren Barker, the European champion on October 1. ESPN.com first reported it on Tuesday.
You have to wonder what is going through Lou DiBella’s mind now. He’s done everything he’s can to get Martinez (47-2-2), who signed a six-fight extension with DiBella, a big-time fight. But no one –Miguel Cotto, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Paul Williams– seems to want the fight.
Barker (23-0) has actually built quite a reputation for himself. He has yet to set foot in the United States for a bout, which could make it a tough sell to a national audience. The fight is likely to be on HBO’s championship boxing, which will help. But it’s not the fight boxing fans want to see.
Martinez has earned the right to go for a big payday. People would accept a rematch with Kelly Pavlik before a bout with Barker. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. DiBella and Top Rank boss Bob Arum recently took a few verbal shots at each other over a possible Chavez Jr.-Martinez matchup.
Arum told Examiner.com boxing columnist Michael Marley: “His promoter has to go out and build Martinez. [DiBella] has to get off his a— and stop waiting for HBO to build Martinez up.”
DiBella had a retort of course, and said to Marley: “So [Joshua] Clottey is a pay-per view fighter? [Antonio] Marga-cheato, who shouldn’t be allowed in a boxing ring, is a pay-per-view fighter? Shane Mosley, who just put on one of the worst pay-per-view fights in boxing history, is a pay-per-view fighter?
Of course there is a method to the madness for Arum. The plan is to have Chavez Jr. take on Cotto in a pay-per-view bout next spring. Risking Chavez Jr. against Martinez in the fall could certainly derail those plans. The Chavez Jr.-Sebastian Zbik drew 1.5 million viewers to HBO. It was the highest rated HBO Boxing After Dark show since 2007. That alone makes it imperative that Chavez Jr. stays undefeated until next spring.
It’s one of the unfortunate aspects of boxing. It’s like the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fiasco. Neither fighter wants to blow an opportunity to make one of the most anticipated fights in at least 20 years, which is why Pacquiao (Juan Manuel-Marquez) and Mayweather (Victor Ortiz) are taking on fighters they both should beat.