Barnet's Darren Barker continued on the comeback trail with an impressive stoppage win over Italian Simone Rotolo in the main event at Wembley Arena. Barker (11st 5 ¼ lbs) dominated throughout and also showed a new found ruthlessness to his work. Rotolo (11st 5 ¾ lbs) was on the deck as early as the first round, thanks to a vicious looking right uppercut but made it back to his feet comfortably enough. Barker continued to walk his man down in the 2nd and got caught coming in a few times as a result of keeping his hands low. Barker, always a good technician, had obviously made a conscious decision to sit down on on his punches a bit more. This was making him a bit vulnerable as he loaded up. Rotolo started with ambition but even though he landed a few, the punches coming back from Darren were always the more hurtful. Darren's corner may have had a word before the 3rd round, and he settled behind his excellent jab and followed up with stiff straight rights.
Another big straight right from Darren had Rotolo reeling across the ring at the start of the 4th and with it, the ambition seemed to drain from the Italian. Barker ripped in left hooks upstairs and down, looking for the finish and although the KO didn't come, the Italian was clearly in distress. It was not really a surprise when Rotolo failed to come out for the 5th round giving Darren his second early finish since coming back from injury. Barker has added a spite and power to his punching to complement his excellent technical skill. A fight against any of his domestic rivals, Lee, Macklin or Murray, now has to happen. Over to you Eddie.
Chief support was a hastily arranged bout between unbeaten Super Middleweight George Groves (12st 3lbs) and Argentina's Dario Balmaceda (12st 3lbs). Groves, a recent addition to the Matchroom stable after splitting from previous promoter Frank Warren looked to finish the fight as quickly as possible. George marched froward from the off and loaded up with almost every shot. A big right hook landed in the opening round which sent Balmaceda into defensive mode. Groves jabbed a bit more in the 2nd round looking to create an opening and also threw hooks round the side of Balmaceda's guard. George continued to mix it up to try and make something happen and a hurtful right to the ribs dropped Balmaceda towards the end of the 3rd. The end was clearly nigh and a combination culminating in an excellent right hook dropped Balmaceda for the full count. A clinical performance against an overmatched opponent from Groves but there has to be a sterner test on his next outing which is on the undercard of Carl Froch v Mikkel Kessler II.
Colchester's Lee Purdey ( 10st 8lbs 14oz) also faced a short notice opponent in the shape of Mexico's Cosme Rivera (10st 5lbs 10oz) after scheduled foe Carson Jones pulled out. Purdey looked at least two divisions heavier than Rivera and a short night appeared to be on the cards when he floored the Mexican with a good right hook. It was not to be though as Rivera went into survival mode and from then on Purdey struggled to land cleanly. Rivera threw back just enough to keep the referee happy but Purdey stalked forward throwing bombs but didn't land often enough to seriously trouble Rivera. Rivera even got through with some shots of his own in the 7th and actually wobbled Purdey in the 8th. However, a cut opened up above Rivera's left eye in the 8th and although he never looked overly troubled by it, the ringside doctor called the fight off at the end of the 9th.
If the three main events were a bit one sided, the keenly awaited rematch between Enfield's Chris Evangelou (9st 13lbs 12 oz) and Surrey's Danny Connor (9st 13lbs 4 oz) was never going to be. With neither fighter possessing one punch KO power the pair were happy to mix it in the centre of the ring for the whole fight. There was not much to choose between the fighters for the majority of the time, Chris landing left hooks almost at will but Danny replying with straight rights of his own. The main difference between the two was a painful body attack from Connor in the 7th round that sent Evangelou to the canvas twice. Chris bravely worked his way back into the fight and poured it on in the final round but didn't do enough to overturn the deficit of a 10-7 round. Conner got the nod from the referee 97-93. Apparently there had been some pre-fight words that had gone a bit beyond just “banter”. Danny apologised for this, Chris accepted and it was all hugs and smiles. Chris Evangelou's mum was stood about a yard away from me while this was going on and was not nearly so forgiving.
It was unfortunate for the event as a whole that there were late withdrawals and late notice fights and the lack of competition in the three main bouts resulting in a bit of a flat atmosphere. Tickets were only £20 for this Wembley show though so I doubt there were many complaints from the fans.
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