By Mark Whalley
Barnet middleweight contender “Dazzling” Darren Barker scored an impressive knockout to conclude a successful Saturday evening’s work for Matchroom’s British contingent at Wembley Arena.
Barker’s victory over Italian Simone Rotolo followed straightforward victories for prominent stable members “Saint” George Groves and “Lights Out” Lee Purdy.
Barker has genuine class, and took middleweight legend Sergio Martinez into deep water back in 2011, before eventually succumbing to the Argentine in his only defeat to date.
At 30 years old, he declared that failing to beat Rotolo might result in his retirement, but he never looked in danger of losing to the Bologna man, despite expectations that he would face a stern test.
He had Rotolo down in the first round, following up a clean right hook with a concussive uppercut.
Rotolo got to his feet and showed enough ring smarts to survive, but was on borrowed time and finally retired on his stool at the end of round four, having taken a devastating right to the chin that seemed to knock any remaining fight out of him.
George Groves only became a Matchroom fighter at the start of the week, but already has a win to his name as an Eddie Hearn charge, disposing of unheralded Argentine Dario Balmaceda in three rounds.
Balmaceda came out swinging in the first round, but quickly lost his ambition after eating several solid shots.
Groves dug in a shot to the ribs that earned him a knockdown in the second, and one round later had Balmaceda down again with a right cross to the head.
This time Balmaceda could not rise to his feet.
After the fight, Eddie Hearn declared his intent to match Groves up with a big opponent as part of the Carl Froch/Mikkel Kessler undercard on May 25th.
Before Barker and Groves, “Lights Out” Lee Purdy stopped durable Mexican stand-in Cosme Rivera on a cut.
Essex’s Purdy was frustrated that his scheduled bout with Carson Jones had fallen through at the last minute, and allowed this to distract his preparations, causing him to weigh in above the welterweight limit.
As a result, he could not take home the available IBF international welterweight title, which was on the line for the winner.
The extra weight was very much to his advantage in the fight though, allowing him to bully Rivera throughout.
He eventually opened up a cut above the Mexican’s left eye that resulted in a stoppage, following the intervention of the fight doctor.
At the start of the evening, Danny Connor scored a second points decision over Chris Evangelou in a rematch of their entertaining bout last year.
Connor, the only man to have beaten Enfield’s Evangelou, defended his Southern Area light-welterweight championship in convincing fashion, knocking the classy-but-lackadaisical Evangelou down twice in the seventh, and outworking him throughout.
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