Fresh off an exciting seventh-round knockout win over Serhiy Dzinziruk in March, lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez will face unbeaten European middleweight titleholder Darren Barker in October, promoter Lou DiBella told SI.com
"It was a very easy deal," DiBella said. "Barker has been calling Sergio out for weeks. He's extremely popular in England, more popular than Carl Froch and Amir Khan, I think. He'll bring 1,5000 Brits over here and it will be a really good fight."
Barker (23-0) was not DiBella's first choice. DiBella made offers to middleweight titleholders Felix Sturm, Daniel Geale and Julio Cesar Chavez along with Miguel Cotto and Paul Williams. Each declined.
Chavez won the WBC version of the middleweight title last week when he outpointed Sebastian Zbik. As the WBC's "champion emeritus," Martinez (47-2-2) officially has the right to fight Chavez in his first defense. However Chavez's promoter, Bob Arum, has been reluctant to put the inexperienced Chavez in with Martinez. So Martinez cut a deal with the WBC that will permit Chavez to make an optional title defense this fall with the provision that Chavez (and his opponent) agrees to face Martinez next or be stripped of their title.
DiBella says he is close to finalizing a deal with HBO to broadcast Martinez-Barker. The co-main event will feature a rematch of the 2008 slugfest between Andy Lee and Brian Vera. DiBella says Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Dallas are being considered as venues.