A split second and a split decision cost Daniel Geale his world boxing title in his US debut.
Stricken Englishman Darren Barker barely beat the referee’s 10 count after being poleaxed by a vicious Geale left to the body in the sixth round.
But somehow he recovered to lift the IBF middleweight crown, extending his country’s great run of sporting success over Australians in 2013.
One judge scored the fight in Atlantic City 114-113 to Geale, but the other two had Barker ahead 114-113 and 116-111.
Promoter Gary Shaw admitted he was stunned that the resilient Barker, looking in tremendous pain, was able to beat referee Eddie Cotton’s count and he backed Geale to win another world crown.
“That was a vicious liver shot, I was really shocked that Barker survived it,” Shaw told AAP.
Geale 32 (29-2, 15 KOs) tried furiously to finish the job immediately, tagging the challenger with some more shots and a stoppage looked imminent.
But Barker, 31, (26-1, 16 KOs) survived the onslaught and produced a real-life version of the Rocky story as he ended the round raining blows on Geale.
Barker shaded most of the remaining rounds, bar the 12th, with Geale unable to reproduce the late fight surges that were a trademark of his previous four title defences.
The Englishman dedicated the win to his brother Gary, who was killed in a car accident in 2006.
Geale was left pondering how the title was lost.
“I thought I caught a lot (of punches) on the gloves, and a lot were glancing, missing,” Geale said.
“I did feel in control. It wasn’t my best performance but Darren is a great fighter.
“He’s a very skillful guy. I knew I had to be on my game throughout.
“I knew it was going to be tight. It was a close fight. I’m very disappointed.”
Right from the early rounds, third-ranked challenger Barker showed he was going to be a formidable opponent, landing more power punches than the champion and sometimes beating him to the punch.
Geale responded in the middle rounds, teeing off with some good right hand shots, but didn’t seem to throw many shots to the body after the knockdown.
“I thought Daniel won it by a round. I had the score 114-113, but obviously the two other judges didn’t see it that way,” Shaw said.
‘We’ll fight our way back and I’m sure Barker will give us the same opportunity as we gave him.”
Barker may first have to make a mandatory defence against German Felix Sturm.
Asked if he thought Geale could win another world title Shaw said “Yeah, I’m sure.
“Daniel Geale is a real warrior, someone that the Aussies should be very proud of.
“Those are the types of fighters that television needs, so he’s a fan friendly fighter.”
“He came forward, he fought and didn’t back up so I’m pretty proud of him.”
On the undercard, Australian featherweight Joel Brunker (27-0, 15 KOs), who is top 15 rated by all four major boxing bodies, scored an eight-round unanimous points win against veteran Mike Oliver.