For the second time in his career, Daniel Geale defied the odds by traveling to Germany and besting a favored middleweight titleholder by split decision on the beltholder’s home turf.
The 31-year-old Australian won his first major title, the IBF belt, by outpointing Sebastian Sylvester last May, but that victory pales in comparison to his hard-fought decision over Felix Sturm in Oberhausen, Germany, on Saturday.
The stakes were much higher in Saturday’s bout, which matched THE RING’s Nos. 1- (Sturm) and 2- (Geale) rated middleweights. Sturm, the long reigning WBA beltholder, had gone unbeaten over the past six years — a stretch that included 14 fights, 13 title bouts, and a pair of controversial title defenses over Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray that took place in Germany.
Geale (28-1, 15 knockouts), who fights in an aggressive style much like Macklin and Murray, was not expected to get the benefit of any doubt on the judges’ scorecards, however the athletic boxer-puncher mixed in the right amount of pressure and movement to win the hotly contested fight by 116-112 tallies on two scorecards.
Sturm (37-3-2, 16 KOs), a savvy 33-year-old boxer known for his stiff jab, won a 116-112 score on the third judge’s card. Most of the ringside media and Twitterverse boxing pundits viewed the fight as a near-even contest that either fighter could have won by a point or two.
Those who favored Sturm appreciated the accuracy of his vaunted jab and single power shots, as well as his ability to block Geale’s punches over the first half of the bout. Those who thought Geale rightfully earned his decision victory liked his superior workrate, on-and-off pressure, willingness to dictate the pace and his underrated boxing ability.
Geale was able to take over the bout in the middle rounds by making Sturm miss and by partially neutralizing the three-time titleholder’s offense with sporadic footwork. The Aussie did not walk straight forward when he tried to land a punch. Instead he leaned away from Sturm jab and circled the German star before pivoting on his lead foot and landing his signature right cross time and time again.
Sturm was frustrated in the middle rounds but the veteran rallied in spots down the stretch by getting his jab going again in the ninth round and by planting his feet and engaging Geale in many entertaining exchanges in the final three rounds.
Both fighters proved their lofty ranking in THE RING’s ratings and figure to be key players in the middleweight division, which has has heated up in recent months and will only get hotter in the near future.
Email Fischer at dfischer@RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer