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Barker coaxes Martinez via Twitter

Darren Barker was able to lure Sergio Martinez when the middleweight king ran out of elite options. AP Photo/Richard Drew

NEW YORK -- Only in a world where social media has become such a dominant form of communication can a relatively unknown fighter land a title bout with ESPN.com's No. 2-rated pound-for-pound boxer.

The nerve of Darren Barker going on Twitter and challenging WBC "diamond" middleweight champion Sergio Martinez to a fight.
Who does this Barker guy think he is? And why in the world should anyone take him seriously on Oct. 1 [HBO, 10 p.m. ET] in Atlantic City, N.J.?

"He's as legit a threat as anybody right now," Martinez's promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com on Wednesday during a news conference to promote the fight. "Martinez is a dominant middleweight, there is no question about that, but [Barker] is a kid who has never lost.

"He can box, he's very skilled. He's got a lot of heart, he throws punches and he is not afraid to fight. He hasn't had the quality of opposition that Sergio has, and that could be a big factor."

On paper, Barker has no business being in the same ring with Martinez. Barker owns a 23-0-0 record with 14 knockouts, and currently holds the European middleweight title belt. But his wins have comes against guys with names like Affif Belghecham, Danny Butler, Darren McDermott and Jason McKay -- good fighters by European standards, but nothing compared to the level of talent Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs) has tangled with in his career.

When it comes to professional experience and quality of opponents, Martinez will have a huge advantage inside Boardwalk Hall on fight night.

None of that will matter to Barker. He possesses what he perceives to be great equalizers: confidence, motivation and inspiration.

Barker will enter the ring certain of victory. Although most observers would rate a Barker victory as an upset, the London native disagrees.

"My confidence is based on my life, my experiences," Barker said. "Sadly, my brother [Gary Barker] passed away in 2006. He died in a car accident. He was younger than me.

"He was a boxer. I'm doing this for him as well as myself. Through my success, my brother lives on.

"Just my hunger, my enthusiasm, my determination that I'm going to win this fight -- and, obviously, my skills."

Barker's 17 years of fighting, both as an amateur and professional, have prepared him physically for this moment. Add to that his life experience, and he believes the time to face Martinez couldn't be better.

"Everyone knows their own body," Barker told ESPN.com. "It's the way I feel. I feel in fantastic condition.

"It's well-documented that I had a hip operation, but I'm over that. My body is the best it's ever been. I feel, if anything, brand new -- new and improved.

"I have a daughter, and she's given me a hunger to give her everything -- to give her a great life. It's all those things rolled into one that brings out the best in me."

But for Twitter, Martinez would not have gotten to know Barker. He knows him quite well now.

And though their online conversations have been respectful, Martinez does not intend to take it easy on the confident Brit. He plans to give Barker the Paul Williams treatment: an early trip home.

"I've seen a lot of his fights," said Martinez, a native Argentine who resides in Oxnard, Calif. "He definitely seems like he has a lot of power and he's slick.

"I'm going to stick to my game plan and try to knock him out in the seventh."

Franklin McNeil covers mixed martial arts and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.