If Atlantic City and the victory over Daniel Geale back in August provided the fairy tale for Darren Barker, then Stuttgart and Saturday's loss to Felix Sturm has provided the nightmare as the Brit's reign as middleweight titlist ended surprisingly early in Germany tonight.
Barker took the same tactics from his glory night against Geale into his bout with the much more seasoned and rounded Sturm, who from the get-go looked like he had a point to prove. Aggression, the left hook and the conclusive power proved too much for Barker, who seemed to suffer a reoccurrence of an old hip injury (Sky Sports reported the injury to be a dislocated hip), particularly on the second knockdown he suffered, which showed Barker grimacing and holding his right hip.
Key moment: At 1:54 of the second round, Sturm threw a walloping overhand right that put Barker down and "scrambled the senses," as Sky co-commentator Jim Watt put it. Barker had been put down with similar impact by Sergio Martinez in 2011, and despite his bravery on Saturday, Sturm went in for the kill to dole out a second knockdown that led Barker's trainer, Tony Sims, to throw in the towel with 55 seconds left in the round.
We've got your number: 20. Sturm was taking part in, remarkably, his 20th world title fight on Saturday and proved that there's life in the old dog yet. After a somewhat disappointing couple of years, by his standards, the German became a four-time middleweight titleholder and places himself right back in the mix with the leading players at 160 pounds.
Last word: A rematch clause was put in place before this fight, but thoughts now turn to Barker and whether or not he has a future. His career has been plagued by many injuries, and no one can ever take away that memorable and emotional night on which he captured a world title. But tonight it felt like a case of "fools rush in" -- Barker got the tactics wrong and paid the price, in potentially more ways than one. Sturm, however, made a statement and he is welcomed back to the top tier with open arms.