DARREN BARKER became a middleweight world champion with a spectacular victory over Daniel Geale. Injury ultimately forced him to retire and he would have trained differently, if he could do it all over again.

“Take more care of your body,” he advised. “Silly things, like a decent pair of running trainers instead of a pair of Converse. If I hadn’t done silly things like that maybe I could have got more time out of my career. I don’t know. Little things like that, taking care of myself a bit more. I never really struggled with my weight but my diet wasn’t exactly the greatest.

“That’s another thing, going back I wouldn’t have done as much running. But I was born with dodgy hips if you like. If I had known this earlier in my career I would have substituted the running early on.

“But no regrets at all.”

Darren believes that the way some are training is developing. “There’s a very fine few but I think the majority are old school and stuck in their ways. We were told to pound the roads, do this, do that. But the sport’s progressing, advancing, training techniques are all changing and it all boils down to your coach at the end of the day and some discipline from the individual as well. But we’re evolving as a sport. I think we’re making a turn for the better,” he said.

His own coaches made a huge difference to him personally. “I’m so lucky that I’ve been coached by some of the best. Tony Burns [the Repton amateur coach] and Tony Sims. They were always there for me. Until I have the time to be able to do so, I won’t train anyone myself. They rely on you so I’d have to be down at Repton all the time. At the minute I can’t do that. It’s something I’d like to give back to the club that made me who I am,” he said.

“Tony Burns, he’d get in your head. He wouldn’t do pads with you, [he’d] put you in sparring. He’d coach you, give you brilliant bits of advice. I never wanted to disappoint him and exactly the same with Tony Sims. He’s one of my best mates and always will be. We shared so much together, we’ve been through so much together. Tony’s a boxing historian, he knows everything, he’s watched the best. I wouldn’t say he’s underrated at all, I think he’s getting the recognition he deserves now. But he is a fantastic coach.

“I saw the changes in my style very early on. As an amateur I was very backfoot, the typical Repton style. I had my left hand out, fencing almost. He converted me into, I like to think, an all round [boxer]. I was pretty decent in all departments. I could box a bit, I could have a tear up too and that’s thanks to Tony.

“He took me to another level. I’m indebted to him forever.

“They managed to get the best out of you and Tony Sims definitely did that, he managed to get the best out of me. He knew me as a person, as a friend he knew me and he knew always if I was struggling and he knew how to get more from me.

“I wanted to stop and quit the sport loads of times because of injuries and what had happened but he was always there supporting me.

“He was a brilliant coach but more importantly a fantastic friend to me.”