NEW YORK – Daniel Geale is 33, a two-time champion and one of the slickest boxers in the middleweight division. He’s a former Olympian who as a pro went into Germany twice to win world titles, a feat about as challenging as, say, winning the Daytona 500 driving a beat up Buick. He’s intelligent, accomplished and fearless.
And on Saturday night, against Gennady Golovkin, nobody is giving Geale a chance.
"It’s not you," a reporter said to Geale this week. It’s just that until someone proves he can withstand the power of Golovkin (29-0), the 160-pound wrecking ball who has knocked out his last 16 opponents, who boasts a whopping 89.7 knockout percentage, it’s hard to believe anyone can.
“I definitely get that,” Geale said. “And that’s good. That’s what makes it exciting. There is going to be skepticism from people who think I can’t do it. But I’ve been in big fights. I’ve been in situations where people expected me to lose. I like this position.”
He’s right, of course. In 2011, Geale traveled to Germany to challenge Sebastian Sylvester for the IBF belt. A little context: Germany is widely regarded as one of the most difficult countries for a foreign fighter to win a decision. Geale topped Sylvester by a split decision. In 2012, Geale went back to Germany to face hometown hero Felix Sturm in a title unification fight. Again, Geale won a split decision.
“Both times the crowd was against us, the judges were against us,” said Geale’s promoter, Gary Shaw. “Both times he got the job done.”
But this is Golovkin, the man who has made legitimate contenders look like feeble amateurs. Matthew Macklin fought well in losing efforts to Sturm and Sergio Martinez in recent years. Golovkin dispatched him in three rounds. Curtis Stevens was one of the fastest-rising middleweight contenders last year, a former 168-pounder with a big punch. Golovkin battered him for eight rounds until his corner threw in the towel. Even sparring is a challenge. Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, says he routinely sends home one or two fighters from every camp -- “good, high quality fighters,” Sanchez said -- because they can’t take Golovkin’s punches. Few, if any, fighters in boxing blend power and technique as well as Golovkin, who seems to improve with every fight.
For Geale (30-2), the key is not to be intimidated by the hype.
“I worry about the things that are important to me,” Geale said. “I worry more about what I’m going to do. I know what he can do. I’ve been training for that. But the best I can fight is going to beat him.”
Shaw understands the skepticism, too. When Shaw first met Geale, before the Sylvester fight, he didn’t believe this quiet, unassuming fighter would develop into much. But over the last three years, he has learned to never underestimate Geale’s abilities.
“You know, I compare Golovkin to [Mike] Tyson,” Shaw said. “The opponents who come in are scared. They feel they are beat before they get in the ring. They don’t really fight him. They land a couple of punches, then it ‘s like, ‘Oh my god, I landed a couple of punches, now I have to to go back into a defensive mode.’ Daniel is not that type of fighter. Daniel is not afraid of Golovkin. He has been asking for this fight for two years.
He is going to give angles. He has great head movement. He has great foot movement. He’s a volume puncher. Daniel is a [Evander] Holyfield type. He believes he is going to win the fight, his trainer believes it. It’s not false bravado. He really believes.”
Sanchez doesn’t believe Geale is intimidated. But Sanchez added that once Geale feels Golovkin's power, he will be.
“Everybody has the same reaction,” Sanchez said. “Stevens talked a lot, then once he got knocked down, he went into a shell. [Gabe] Rosado too. As soon as he got hit, he went on his bicycle. Guys think they know what they are getting into. They don’t.”
For Geale, Saturday’s matchup with Golovkin at Madison Square Garden (HBO, 9:30 pm) may be his last chance to establish himself in the U.S. He debuted stateside last summer, losing a narrow decision to Darren Barker. A defeat won’t finish him -- a lucrative showdown with newly minted IBF titleholder Sam Soliman, a fellow Aussie, is waiting for him -- but it would significantly diminish his appeal to U.S. TV. If anything, it tacks on another layer of pressure before the biggest fight of his career.
“Mentally I have been preparing for the toughest fight of my life,” Geale said. “It's going to be a tough fight against a very tough fighter. I have been confident throughout and I have been wanting to fight Gennady for a while. I believe that things happen for a reason and we are very excited about that.”