On paper the reigning WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin faces the toughest test of his career against former titleholder Daniel Geale this Saturday. Still, despite statistics, the odds suggest that victory is a mere formality for the Germany based Kazakhstani, when the pair clash at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Geale, as former conqueror Darren Barker attests, does possess real qualities as a fighter. Barker fought Geale in August of last year, when the experienced Australian held the IBF strap. Barker survived a knockdown to claim the world title by razor-close split decision in Atlantic City.
“I was surprised at how fit and tough Geale was,” said Barker, who retired after losing to Felix Sturm, in his first title defense. “His boxing ability is also quite under rated. We watched Geale countless times and I was convinced that I could outbox him easily but, to be honest, he pretty much matched me in that department.
“Geale was slippery with his footwork, judged distance well, made me fall short and picked me off when I thought I was out of range.”
That all sounds promising but can Geale, THE RING’s No. 2-rated middleweight, make those tactics work against the unbeaten Golovkin? When facing a lethal puncher a fighter will move left to avoid the left hook, or move right to avoid the right hand while smothering the incoming with spoiling tactics. The trouble with Golovkin (29-0, 26 knockouts) is that he can damage an opponent with either hand and his strength, up close, appears nightmarish.
So can Geale (30-2, 16 knockouts) keep this relentless knockout artist at bay by utilizing his own hitting power?
“I don’t think Geale can hurt Golovkin,” said Barker, with a sigh. “He’s not a massive puncher and although he put me down with a body shot that was the only time I was ever hurt. Daniel is going to have to work hard and put it on him, but his biggest problem is the power. If he can take it then he has a chance because he throws so many punches, but I don’t think anyone can beat Golovkin.
“This guy is the total package and you have to be superman to take those shots. I hope Daniel doesn’t get stopped because I’ve spoken to him and he’s a really nice bloke, but I can’t see anything other than a late knockout.”
When speaking with Barker one gets the feeling that, like most of us, he sees something incredibly special in Golovkin who is the No. 1-rated middleweight behind THE RING champion Miguel Cotto. It’s not so much that he was solely writing off Geale, in essence the former titleholder predicted doom for the entire division.
Barker said, “There’s nobody going to bother Golovkin at middleweight. Gennady will have to move up because he’ll batter anyone at 160 pounds. Cotto would get annihilated and, in terms of British talent, Martin Murray doesn’t stand a chance. I’m not being disrespectful to Martin when I say that, it’s just if you’re a middleweight you’ve had it.
“Moving up is the only option for Golovkin because he can’t move down. Can you imagine those poor junior middleweights trying to deal with that?”
Barker is a success story and no longer has to concern himself with prepping for the best 160 pound fighters on the planet. “Dazzling Dal” annexed British, Commonwealth, European and world honors, before recurring hip injuries played a major part in his premature retirement. He hung up the gloves at 33 years old and has never looked back.
“I’ve kept busy and it’s nice not to get punched in the face anymore,” said Barker, who had just returned from a trip to Las Vegas, where he took in Canelo vs. Lara. “I boxed for 20 years so I miss the buzz and the build-up, but I don’t miss training or being injured. I struggled to be a fan of the sport when I was active and now that I’m retired I can enjoy it again.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing