By Lyle Fitzsimmons
If you’re waiting for Daniel Geale to join the masses genuflecting at the rampaging feet of IBO/WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin these days, here’s a time-saving tip.
Don’t hold your breath. It’s just not happening.
But not because the laid-back, soft-spoken Australian is disrespectful of the unbeaten, dual-belted opponent he’ll encounter this Saturday night in the big room at Madison Square Garden. Instead, it’s simply because he believes that much in his own abilities.
“Yeah. I believe so,” he told me during a recent phone chat, when I asked directly if he was the best 160-pounder in the world. But he wasn’t content in simply saying it. In fact, he said, he’s itching for the chance to get to New York to demonstrate it to the rest of a predominantly doubtful world.
“I want to prove that as well. I've been saying back home in Australia that I want to fight the best fighters in the world, and at the moment Golovkin is regarded as the best middleweight in the world. That's the reason I'm fighting him.”
Indeed, praise for Golovkin is at a fever pitch these days thanks to a streak of 16 consecutive early victories in a streak that stretches more than six years. Several recent wins have been shown on HBO, which has boosted his profile into the mainstream and created room for sycophants who’d have been hard-pressed to pick him from a lineup in the earliest days of an IBO reign which began in late 2011.
He was the WBA’s bogus “regular” champion as far back as 2010, but didn’t elevate to the organization’s top spot until its previous No. 1 man, Felix Sturm, was dethroned in September 2012.
Ironically, the man responsible for Sturm’s toppling and Golovkin’s ascension… Geale.
Now 33 years old, Geale beat Sturm but subsequently chucked the WBA’s belt in favor of the IBF hardware he’d already held for 16 months and defended twice. He successfully risked that one once more – defeating countryman Anthony Mundine in a high-profile rematch – before losing it via tight split decision to Darren Barker in his in-ring debut in the United States.
Geale has fought just once since, stopping Garth Wood in six rounds in February, but he’s feeling fit, ready and anxious after a prolonged training camp that began with a focus on Matthew Macklin before plans were changed to make way for Golovkin.
“I like this position,” he said. “I've been in this position a lot of times before, where people write me off. I guess they don't see what I am. But that's a good thing. I like being the underdog and looked past and looked over. It doesn't really get me angry. If anything it gets me a little bit excited because I'm jumping out of my skin to come out there and prove people wrong.”
It’s actually the 10th championship fight for Geale, who also pre-dated Golovkin when it comes the IBO title, which he won in 2007 and defended once before dropping it to Mundine via split decision in 2009. He went on to win eight fights in a row before losing to Barker, including title-level victories over Sebastian Sylvester, Eromosele Albert and Osumanu Adama – whom Golovkin beat in February.
Geale is the IBO’s No. 1 contender and he’s rated No. 3 by the WBA, behind Jarrod Fletcher.
Fletcher was the WBA’s mandatory challenger and in line to meet Golovkin, but Golovkin appealed for an exception to fight Geale when HBO balked at the idea of broadcasting Golovkin-Fletcher. Geale was initially set to fight Macklin on a late May show that included heavyweights Mike Perez and Bryant Jennings, but that card was scrapped when Perez pulled out due to a shoulder injury.
Perez and Jennings will meet in the final preliminary bout before Golovkin-Geale on Saturday.
The Independent World Boxing Rankings, which position all fighters regardless of their standing with the various sanctioning bodies, have Geale slotted third, Golovkin at fourth and Fletcher at 14th.
Nos. 1 and 2 are occupied by Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez.
Geale is a 7½-1 underdog according to VegasInsider.com, which lists Golovkin as a 14-1 favorite. A $100 wager on Geale would return $750 in the event of an upset, while a $1,400 outlay on Golovkin would bring back $100 if the favorite follows through with a win.
“Everybody knows (Golovkin has) got power, but they probably overlook his footwork a little,” Geale said. “The guy's always in a really good place to throw powerful shots. I know most of his strengths and a few of his weaknesses as well, but I'm more focused on myself and making sure I fight the best fight I can. Because if I do, I know I'm going to be successful in this one.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO/WBA middleweight titles – New York, N.Y.
Gennady Golovkin (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Daniel Geale (No. 1 IBO contender/No. 3 IWBR)
Golovkin (29-0, 26 KO): Eighth IBO title defense (sixth WBA); Sixteen straight wins by stoppage
Geale (30-2, 16 KO): Tenth title fight (7-2); Second fight in United States (0-1)
Fitzbitz says: I can’t quite pull the trigger on the upset, but I do expect Geale to give Triple-G as much as he’s been given at any time during his IBO/WBA reigns. No blowout here. Golovkin by decision
Last week's picks: 2-2 (WIN: Tete, Rigondeaux; LOSE: Sinyabi, Dapudong)
2014 picks record: 51-14 (78.4 percent)
Overall picks record: 598-208 (74.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.