The two fighters produced an Atlantic City classic at Revel Resort which had the fans enthralled throughout, culminating in Barker becoming the new IBF title holder after coming through via a split decision. The 31 year-old began well, getting off the better shots through the first three rounds as Geale struggled with the imposing figure of Barker and seemed to be caught off guard by the tactics of the challenger.
As Geale, 32, gradually came into the contest, Barker endured some hairy moments as Geale was obviously the heavier handed of the two as was proven in the sixth when a sweet body shot put the Briton on the canvas. There was a moment when it looked as though Barker wouldn’t get up, but he mustered all his strength to make the nine count and duly came straight back into the fight in what was the round of the contest, maybe even the year.
The punch echoed of Barker’s last world title challenge against Sergio Martinez in the same city two years ago, although this time the Matchroom fighter was made of sterner stuff and came on strong despite being badly shaken.
From that point on Barker was decidedly more cautious, but kept up enough work-rate to edge Geale out over the final six rounds, with both fighters spent in the last session and hardly able to stand up. Two of the judges at ringside saw the fight 116-111 and 114-113 in Barker’s favour as another saw it 114-113 for Geale, although a new champion was crowned and immediately dedicated the win to his late brother Gary.
The triumph opens up an array of possibilities in the UK for some tasty-looking future match-ups as the likes of Martin Murray, Andy Lee and Matthew Macklin will be queuing up for a shot at Barker’s new belt.