By Jake Donovan
The July 26 HBO-televised doubleheader comes with great anticipation and for good reason. The Madison Square Garden card is topped by the stateside return of unbeaten knockout artist Gennady Golovkin, assigned his toughest test to date as he defends his middleweight belt against former unified titlist Daniel Geale (30-2, 16KOs).
In the co-feature, unbeaten heavyweights Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez collide in a title eliminator. The bout was originally scheduled to headline on HBO in May, but an injury suffered by Perez forced the fight to get pushed back.
Golovkin (29-0, 26KOs) makes his first appearance in the main room of ‘The Garden’ after three appearances in the accompanying The Theatre venue, all coming in 2013. All four TV fighters will fight in the main portion of Madison Square Garden for the first time in their respective careers.
“There is a special aspect to this card,” noted HBO Director of Programming Peter Nelson during Wednesday’s press conference in New York City. “We really have two main events on (July 26). We couldn't be more thrilled to put these two fights on this show.”
The winner of the heavyweight co-feature will become the mandatory challenger to the victor in the forthcoming clash fight between newly crowned titlist Bermane Stiverne and unbeaten contender Deontay Wilder.
The aforementioned injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Perez (20-0-1, 12KOs), who struggled in a 10-round draw with Carlos Takam earlier in the year, a fight that came just two months following a breakout win over Magomed Abdulsalamov more remembered for its tragic aftermath.
“(The Jennings-Perez fight) was supposed to be the main event on Memorial Day in Texas. The only two fighters this fight could be co-feature to, is a fight between these two fighters, Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Geale,” insisted Tom Loeffler, Managing Director of K2 Promotions, who represents Golovkin and Perez.
Abdulsalamov sustained severe head injuries during the bout, after which he was required to undergo emergency brain surgery to have a blood clot removed. The fallen heavyweight has since seen his health improve (relatively speaking), though the near-life threatening injuries mean his boxing career is over.
Perez showed signs of mental stress during his hard-fought draw with Takam, a bout in which many believe the unbeaten Cuban–now living in Ireland–was fortunate to not see his “0” go.
With six months since his last fight and more than eight months since the Abdusalamov tragedy, Perez insists he is 100% mentally and physically. The much-needed break between fights allowed Loeffler and promoter Gary Shaw—who promotes Geale and Jennings (18-0, 10KOs)—to control both legs of this weekend’s doubleheader, a move both insist was surprisingly pleasurable given the general cutthroat nature of the boxing business.
“It was enjoyable working with Gary Shaw,” Loeffler said of the business dealings in piecing together the doubleheader. “He made it very simple to put this fight together. The same thing goes for the co-feature.”
The feeling was mutual, to the point where Shaw admits reluctance to root against his fighters’ opponents.
“One of the tough things about promoters is when you like the other side. It's always easier when you dislike the other side, you get that fire in your belly. But there's nobody on the other side I dislike. I genuinely like (all of them),” Shaw stated during the press session. “For me, it's difficult to root against the other side.”
The only thing the two sides naturally disagree on is who will win on Saturday, other than both agreeing that the fans should be in for a treat.
That didn’t stop Jennings’ handlers from pleading for a future collaboration between K2 Promotions and Gary Shaw Productions.
“We've been ready for this opportunity for quite a while,” insists James Prince, Jennings’ manager. “On Saturday night, we will deal with Mr. Perez. The other night I had a vision, where we were here at Madison Square Garden. It was Bryant Jennings and Wladimir Klitschko (the reigning heavyweight king, promoted by K2 Promotions), and Andre Ward (the current unbeaten super middleweight champ, whom Prince also manages) and Gennady Golovkin.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox