ATLANTIC CITY - Sergio Martinez used his one-punch power to earn another impressive victory Saturday night.
The middleweight champion overcame a broken nose early in the fight to score an 11th-round knockout over Darren Barker before a roaring announced crowd of 4,376 at Boardwalk Hall.
Martinez (48-2-2, 27 KOs) connected with a straight right that sent Barker (23-1, 14 KOs) to the canvas. Barker laid on his side for about seven seconds before trying to rise, but was unable to beat referee Eddie Cotton's 10-count at one minute, 29 seconds.
"I can't remember the punch," Barker said. "My legs just fell out from under me. I was trying to get up, but couldn't. I didn't feel he was a massive puncher before that."
Barker had enjoyed some success early in the fight, landing some jabs and a few straight rights that sent blood gushing from Martinez's nose and onto his chest. But as the fight progressed, Martinez gained momentum. From the fifth round on, he dominated the fight, peppering Barker with three- and four-punch flurries that left Barker covering up for most of the bout.
Through 10 rounds, judges Lynn Carter (96-94), Victor Loughlin (97-94) and Alejandro Roche (99-91) all had Martinez ahead, as did The Press (98-92).
"I knew it would be this kind of fight," Martinez said through an interpreter. "I planned for this. I always get a second wind. We train for that. It's part of our game plan going in. We knew we would get stronger as the fight went on. I just kept throwing right hands because I knew sooner or later they would start landing."
Martinez, 36, posted his fourth straight win since a 12-round majority decision loss to Paul Williams two years ago at Boardwalk Hall's Adrian Phillips Ballroom. He gained the WBC and WBO middleweight titles with a 12-round unanimous decision over Kelly Pavlik, then avenged his loss to Williams in spectacular fashion with a stunning, one-punch knockout last Nov. 20 at Boardwalk Hall.
In his most recent outing before Saturday, he defended his WBC Diamond belt with an eighth-round TKO over Sergei Dzinziruk last March 12.
Martinez represented a major step up in class for Barker, a 29-year-old from London. He had cruised through his previous 23 opponents, never getting seriously tested, while building a strong following in boxing-rich England.
More than 500 fans made the trip to Atlantic City, serenading Barker with "God Save the Queen" and "Walking in a Barker Wonderland" during Friday's weigh-in and continuing their rowdy support on Saturday.
Martinez, a native of Argentina now living in Oxnard, Calif., is widely considered one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters in boxing along with welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Martinez has been campaigning for a fight against Pacquaio or Mayweather at a catch-weight of around 150 pounds, but neither fighter appears willing to move up that far in weight.
"I'll fight anybody," Martinez said, "as long as I can come to a good deal and so can my rival."
As a result, Martinez may wind up meeting middleweight prospect Andy Lee (27-1, 19 KOs). Lee, a native of Ireland who trains at the famed Kronk Gym in Detroit, avenged his only loss on Saturday's undercard with a masterful performance that produced a 10-round unanimous decision over Brian Vera (19-6, 12 KOs), of Austin, Texas.
Vera, who stopped Lee in seven rounds three years ago, was never really in the rematch. Lee dropped him with a straight left in the second round and continued to dominate, opening a cut over Vera's left eye. Vera continued to press the action, but couldn't sustain any momentum.
"The importance of this win was immeasurable," Lee said. "It had been years coming. If not for tonight, I would have been haunted forever. Now, I'll fight anyone. No middleweight wants to fight me."
The top undercard fight saw South African light-heavyweight Isaac Chilemba (17-1-1, 8 KOs) earn a second-round knockout over Jameson Bostic (23-4, 13 KOs), of New York.
In other bouts, Long Beach, N.Y. light-heavyweight Seanie Monaghan (9-0, 6 KOs) thrilled his ardent fans with a fourth-round TKO over Kentrell Claiborne (2-4, 1 KO), of Cleburne, Texas. Oxnard, Calif. heavyweight Magomed Abdusalmov (10-0, 10 KOs) dropped Kevin Burnett (13-5-1, 8 KOs), of Atlanta, twice en route to a first-round TKO. New York junior-middleweight Steven Martinez (11-0, 9 KOs) stayed unbeaten with a fifth-round TKO over Jay Krupp (14-5, 7 KOs), of Catskills, N.Y.
White Plains, N.Y. junior-middleweight Boyd Melson (6-0, 3 KOs), a West Point graduate, earned a six-round, unanimous decision over Russ Niggemyer (2-4, 2 KOs), of Hilliard, Ohio. Harrisburg, Pa., junior-middleweight Daniel Lugo (1-1) upset Kevin Rooney (2-1), of Catskills, with a four-round, unanimous decision. Detroit middleweight J'Leon Love (9-0, 6 KOs) took a six-round, unanimous decision over Eddie Hunter (5-7-2, 2 KOs), of Kent, WA.
In the opening bout, New York middleweight Troy Artis (3-2-1, 2 KOs) notched a third-round TKO over Israel Duffus (2-1, 2 KOs), of Panama.
PUNCHLINES: Boxing returns to Atlantic City on Oct. 22 at Tropicana Casino Resort, when popular heavyweight Vinny Maddalone (33-7, 24 KOs) takes on Mike Sheppard (20-12-1, 9 KOs). The card, which was rescheduled because of Hurricane Irene, is also supposed to include Galloway Township welterweight Shamone Alvarez (21-4, 12 KOs) against an opponent to be named.
Boardwalk Hall will host its next big fight on Dec. 17, when super-middleweight champions Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KOs) and Andre Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) meet in the final of Showtime's Super Six tournament.