Boxing - Barker returns from injury to halt Hope in four

Darren Barker made an extraordinary return to the ring and said goodbye to his injury woes with a fourth-round stoppage win over Kerry Hope in London.

The 30-year-old from Barnet recorded his 24th professional victory after being out injured for 14 months with an impressively brutal performance that sets him up for a second world title shot in 2013.

This was his first fight since lost in his bid to win the world title against Sergio Martinez back in October of 2010.

And while his timing was ever-so-slightly off in the first round, it didn’t take long for Barker to remind the London Olympia crowd that he is nicknamed ‘Dazzling’ Darren for a reason

Hope, a former European champion, spent the first two rounds pressing on his opponent, but Barker had his timing mastered by the third round to execute a crisp one-two combination which had the Welshman backed up against the ropes.

A short right upper followed by an overhand right hook in the fourth was enough to send Hope to the canvas, and although he beat the count his corner called it a day shortly afterwards.

"It is good to be back," Barker said. "We'd been working on the right hand and obviously with him being a southpaw the right hand down the middle is always a winner.”

"I was loading up a little bit too much, got a bit frustrated in the first round due to ring rust, but once I got my eye in I knew the opportunities would come and I found the opening.

"Tony Sims got me in great shape again. I'm a late maturer and I think I'm finally finding my 'man-strength' and I it showed there."

During Barker’s lengthy lay-off he had surgery to fix a hip injury, and was forced to cancel a return against Italian Simone Rotolo in September after he sustained torn tendons in his arm. 

On the undercard, Birmingham bantamweight Kal Yafai clinched his sixth win in as many fights against Spanish champion Jorge Perez.

The sharp and speedy 23-year-old, who missed out on a spot at the London Olympics, unleashed left hooks to the Mallorcan’s head and body with such a consistency he buckled down on the ropes in the closing seconds of the first, only to be narrowly saved by the bell.

Perez withstood the barrage that continued in the second and third rounds, and managed to throw a few back himself, until the referee stepped in with just under a minute remaining in the third.

John Ryder extended his unbeaten record to 13 wins with an eighth-round stoppage win over Eamonn O'Kane.

In the process the 24-year-old dashed O’Kane’s eight-win run as he received ‘King Kane’s’ pounding punches and gradually ground out some consistency before asserting full dominance in the sixth stanza.

By the eighth O’Kane was wobbly on his feet courtesy of a hook to the head, and following more of the same shots the referee stopped the bout midway through the round.