Darren Barker
Darren Barker celebrates after defeating Kerry Hope at the London Olympia [Matchroom]

Darren Barker produced a stunning display to demonstrate his world title credentials as he stopped Kerry Hope in the fourth round at the London Olympia on Saturday night.

The middleweight contender had spent the last 14 months on the sidelines due to various injuries and had recently admitted that he was close to retiring from the sport after so much disappointment.

Barker impressed while challenging pound-for-pound king Sergio Martinez in 2011, but had been forced to pull out of two fights this year as he looked to secure another shot at a world title.

Returning to the ring on Saturday there were few signs of ring rust as Barker quickly got to grips with the former European middleweight champions Hope. The Welshman was looking for a fast start and he began aggressively as he attempted to pile the pressure on the returning Londoner.

However, by the third round Barker began to find his range as he punished even the smallest mistake from Hope. With a vociferous crowd behind him, the 30-year-old went through the gears with ease and showed exactly why he is considered world class.

In the fourth round Barker was at his clinical best as he began to work the body, before delivering a brutal right hook which took everything away from Hope. The Merthyr Tydfil southpaw gamely beat the count but his trainer Gary Lockett threw in the towel before more punishment could be inflicted.

The win puts Barker back among the world elite and, after almost quitting the sport, he admitted that he now has ambitions of challenging for major honours in a division that is stacked with talent.

"I missed hearing my name and it's fantastic to be back, it was enjoyable," said Barker. "I wasn't that nervous as the preparation for tonight was fantastic, I just thoroughly enjoyed it.

"Kerry deserves respect as he's a former European champion, and I dismantled him over four rounds so that's important to me and it proves to me that I belong at the highest level.

"If I had lost tonight or put in a bad performance, I would've called it a day, 100 per cent, because you cannot mess about in this sport. You have to do it properly and that performance has given me a lot of encouragement.

"I think I have another three or four years in the game and I want the big fights, to test myself against the World level operators. I've tasted that World level and I want to get back up there. I badly want to fight Martin Murray and Matthew Macklin and I am sure they want the fights too because they are fantastic fighters and great fights the fans want."

Barker and Macklin have already lost to Martinez, while Murray challenges the Argentinean early next year. However, there are other top names that currently hold titles and the Barnet fighter may well look to secure a shot at WBO champion Peter Quillin or IBF belt holder Daniel Geale.

While Barker now looks to secure major fights in 2013, it could also be a big year for some of the other prospects who featured at the Olympia on Saturday night.

Barker's gym mate John Ryder claimed the biggest win of his career as he stopped fellow unbeaten middleweight Eamonn O'Kane in the eighth round of their British middleweight title eliminator.

The 'Gorilla' was always in control and showed a good array of shots when on the inside as he eventually broke down his Irish opponent with a series of accurate blows to the head.

There was also another impressive win for the exciting young bantamweight Kal Yafai who improved his record to 6-0 with a third round stoppage of Spanish champion Jorge Perez.

Yafai has looked imperious since unfortunately missing out on a shot at the Olympics and instead deciding to turn professional. His speed, power and work to the body meant that Perez did well to even last the three rounds after first touching the canvas in the opening minutes of the first round.

The former Team GB star will be back in action on January 19 and could be moved on at quite a rate after another stunning display.

Also featuring on the undercard was Erick Ochieng who defended his English English light middleweight title with a wide points win over Max Maxwell, while there were also wins for Andreas Evangelou , Martin J. Ward and Callum Smith.

However, the fight of the night was a cruiserweight contest between unbeaten Londoner Wado Camacho and Welshman Hari Miles who took the bout at just 48 hours notice.

The two landed some truly sickening shots as they went hell for leather before Miles simply had nothing left and was forced to retire in the seventh round. It was a game effort which left the southpaw gasping for air and a rematch would certainly be one to watch out for in 2013.