ENGLAND'S Darren Barker has put Australian middleweight champion Jarrod Fletcher's hopes of having a world title shot against his great mate and compatriot, Daniel Geale, on hold for the time being.
Geale lost his IBF middleweight belt after Barker won a split points decision at the end of their brutal 12-round bout in Atlantic City yesterday.
One judge scored the fight 114-113 to Geale, while the other two had Barker ahead 114-113 and 116-111.
It was Geale's second loss in his 31 professional bouts, but he went agonisingly close to retaining his title in the sixth round after sending Barker to the canvas with a hard right and then a huge left to the body.
Barker barely beat the count, but remarkably fought his way back into the bout, before ultimately stunning Geale.
Fletcher, No.4 in the World Boxing Association rankings, said Barker's win was nothing short of courageous.
"Mate, for him (Barker), to not only get up from the canvas and win it shows how tough he is," Fletcher, who also holds the Pan Asian Boxing Association middleweight title, said.
"He proved without doubt that he has plenty of guts, heart and determination.
"Saying that, both boys left it all in the ring, although I thought Gealey didn't look himself - he was in too close mixing it, something he doesn't do normally.
"At the end of the night, it was always going to be a tough one to call, and I thought it could have gone either way. There is no doubt we'll see these two in the ring again soon."
That means Fletcher will have to bide his time before any opportunity comes along to take on Geale, someone he lived, and sparred countless rounds with, while the pair were at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
"That's the way it goes in this game," Fletcher, who captained the Australian boxing team at the Beijing Olympics, said.
"You just have to be patient, and pray you get what you want one day."
Earlier, Spain's Kiko Martinez stopped IBF super bantamweight champion Jhonatan Romero in the 6th round to capture his first world title.