NEW YORK – Gennady Golovkin took a star turn on Broadway on Wednesday night, appearing in a cameo in the musical “Rocky” along with ring announcer Michael Buffer.
While Golovkin was taking his bows under the lights on the Great White Way, Daniel Geale was relaxing in his Manhattan hotel room. He was resting for another starring role on Saturday night.
Golovkin and Geale will meet in a 12-round WBA middleweight championship fight on HBO at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Golovkin is billed as the budding star and Geale is being fitted for the role as tragic foil.
But Geale said he is not quite suited for the role of the fall guy in this production of “Gennady The Great.” He seemed relaxed and confident when talking with a small group of reporters before the final press conference at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m going to definitely give him some problems on Saturday night,” Geale said. “There’s going to be skepticism and there are going to be people who doubt what I’m able to do. But I have been in big fights. I’ve been in hard fights. I’ve been in fights that I’ve been expected to lose and lose easily. I like this position.”
Geale, a 33-year-old, two-time middleweight champion, believes he can turn the tables on Golovkin. If he does, it will be the second middleweight championship upset at Madison Square Garden in 33 days. Miguel Cotto shocked Sergio Martinez to take away the WBC title on June 7.
A Geale victory would be a bigger upset, because there is so much riding on Golovkin winning. There is a huge star making machine at work around Golovkin, a 32-year-old undefeated power puncher from Kazakhstan who splits his time between Stuttgart, Germany and Los Angeles.
HBO wants him to develop into the next big pay per view attraction and his promoters at K2 Promotions want to make him a bankable commodity in the U.S., particularly at Madison Square Garden. The Geale fight is the next step in the process.
“It’s a big test of his marketability,’’ said Tom Loeffler, President of K2 Promotions. “He’s already proven his skills in the ring and his punching power. He’s done really well at the Garden. He’s built a great audience on HBO. Now going to the big room there’s a lot of pressure on both me and him to make it a successful event. It’s really important to not only prove his dominance in the ring, but his dominance outside of the ring in terms of marketability.”
Geale, who is from Tasmania, Australia, doesn’t have any of that pressure, which is liberating.
“He’s expected to perform. He’s expected to go to the big room and do big things,’’ he said. “That’s a lot of pressure for someone to be put under. I’m not feeling that pressure. I’m the challenger. I just have to do my thing and I’m confident in what I can do as well.”
Geale and Golovkin fought in the amateurs at the East Asian Games in 2001. They both say that it wasn’t a memorable match, though the tournament was the launching pad for Geale in boxing.
“There were a few tournaments where the Australians went on and we got to fight the tough countries like Kazakhstan, Russia, and Cuba and really get a taste for international competition,” he said. “It was the first tournament where I really stepped up. If anything, after that fight it helped me to get to where I am today.”
Fighting on the big stage and in hostile environments does not faze Geale. He won both his middleweight titles by going to Germany to face local favorites. He won the IBF title via a split decision against Sebastian Sylvester in 2011 and defeated Felix Sturm by split decision for the WBA title the next year.
Geale (30-2, 16 KOs) learned that you live by the split decision and you die by the split decision when he lost the IBF title to Darren Barker at Atlantic City last August.
“I never felt like I got beat. When you get beaten you know you’ve been beaten,” Geale said. “In that fight it was touch and go. I never felt like I got beat up. I looked at Barker and he didn’t look the same way.”
After that loss, Geale went home, got back into the gym and re-assessed his career. He said he is motivated to regain his title. But first he will have to get past Golovkin, who breaks down his opponents mentally and physically.
Geale acknowledges that Golovkin is a power puncher and a technically skilled boxer. He knows he will have to be adaptive and multi-dimensional to beat Golovkin.
“He is a good counterpuncher and has good footwork,” Geale said. “He’s dangerous going backwards. You can’t just say I’m going to go forward and push him back the whole time. He will catch you doing that. If you let him come, he’ll catch you doing that. If you move around, eventually he’s going to catch you. You have to be able to do it all and mix it up.”
When most boxers feel Golovkin’s power they freeze. It is a costly mistake. Geale said he saw it happen to Matthew Macklin, who was stopped in the third round by Golovkin last year.
“You could tell in the first 30 seconds of the first round that Macklin wasn’t there 100 percent. I was a little bit disappointed because I expected Macklin to go out after him. But he didn’t,” he said. “He just wanted to survive the fight. You can’t go into a fight against a guy like Golovkin trying to survive for 12 rounds because it’s going to be hard work.”
Geale said the real trick will be walking that fine line between giving Golovkin the proper amount of respect. Too much and you go into a shell. Too little and you do something stupid, make a mistake and end up staring at the lights in the ceiling of the Garden. Part of that is having confidence in your own ability and not making yourself an inviting target for Golovkin to tee-off on. It is something that no one has been able to do against Golovkin. He stalks all of his opponents like a jungle cat and then attacks with ferocity whenever they show signs of tiring.
Endurance might be Geale’s one advantage against Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs), who has never gone beyond 10 rounds in a fight. Rugged former junior middleweight beltholder Kassim Ouma extended Golovkin into Round 10 during their 2011 title bout. Golovkin also has three eight-round decision bouts on his ledger. Nine of Geale’s last 11 fights have gone the 12-round championship distance and he seems to gain steam after the sixth round.
“It leans in my favor the longer it goes. I’ve been in some big world title fights that have gone in my favor. So I have that experience,” he said. “I know when to dig deep and when to put the gas down. It’s going to serve me well in this fight.”
Geale was reminded that he is an 11-to-1 underdog in the fight.
“I’m not a gambling man, so I don’t care. Hopefully I can make some people some money,” Geale said.