Daniel Geale and the middleweight title picture
I’m not your average Australian boxing fan. I’m not waiting in anticipation to see if Barry Hall will get the gloves on or champing at the bit to see the next Sonny Bill Williams fight.
I also don’t care at all about who Anthony Mundine just talked about fighting. If you’re in Australia, that’s basically as far as the news stories go when it comes to boxing.
The only Australian boxer worth reporting on at the moment is Daniel Geale.
Geale has tested himself against some of the better guys in the world and, apart from a bogus decision loss to Mundine, he’s won all his fights convincingly.
Boxing isn’t an easy sport to follow and I understand why many aren’t into it. It’s the only sport where five or six guys can claim they are the best in the world and none of them ever have to prove it against one another. Top that off with the fact that no one reports on it except if something controversial happens and the potential to attract new fans often dies off.
Two weeks ago when Daniel Geale (IBF middleweight title holder) and the only other legitimate Australian world titlist Billy Dib (IBF featherweight title holder) defended their belts on the same card there was attention, but the last two weekends when the real number one fighters in those respective divisions defended their belts there was nothing.
Two weekends ago Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez went to war in a rematch of one of last year’s better fights, with Salido again coming home strong to score a dramatic late knockout.
Last Saturday, world middleweight champion and top five pound-for-pound fighter Sergio Martinez put his belt on the line against Matthew Macklin, coming back from a slow start to also score a dramatic late knockout.
Sure the fights were shown on pay per view channel Main Event, but the casual fan isn’t going to pay money to watch guys they’ve never heard of.
The sad fact is that both is both were highly entertaining fights that weren’t then smeared by ear bitings or loaded hand wraps or failed drug tests or post fight brawls or what have you.
No, two guys got in the ring, they fought their hearts out, it was fun, it was entertaining but that’s not good enough to report. Instead the ‘retirement’ of Barry Hall makes boxing headlines.
Anyway, back to the point, which is Daniel Geale and where he stands in the middleweight title picture. Sure he holds a world title but he is not the best in the world. Geale knows this, he’s said it a few times before and it seems like he’s actually looking to do what the likes of Anthony Mundine and Danny Green didn’t do and prove it.
Whether he does or does not fight the best remains to be seen but if he wants to these are the men he will be looking to take on:
#1- Sergio Martinez (world middleweight champion)
Argentina’s Sergio Martinez is the world middleweight champion yet he currently holds no sanctioning body world title belt. The fact is Martinez beat the man who beat the man who beat the man.
In 2010 he outpointed Kelly Pavlik, who had knocked out Jermain Taylor, who outpointed Bernard Hopkins, who had unified the world titles when he knocked out Felix Trinidad back in 2001. Until he is beaten or leaves the weight class, Martinez is the man.
Martinez is a highly athletic, highly unorthodox southpaw fighter. He defies boxing logic by fighting with his hands by his waist and repeatedly circling what is considered the wrong way to circle for a southpaw fighter – into the straight right hand of an orthodox stance fighter.
Martinez has ridiculous reflexes and an uncanny ability to produce power into short counter punches. In 2010 in his first title defence against Paul Williams, the last man to beat him, he knocked out cold the man who had gone to war with him 12 months prior with one left hand.
Since then he’s defended his title three more times, with all three coming inside the distance. Last year he knocked out Sergiy Dzinziruk and Britain’s Darren Barker and just last Saturday he came back from a slow start to take out another British fighter Matthew Macklin.
Martinez is the man Geale has to beat to prove he is the best middleweight in the world. Geale has as good a chance as anyone at this weight against Martinez. Geale is a very textbook boxer with good movement, two traits Martinez has had trouble with in the past.
The big question in this fight would be how Geale’s stamina would stand up against the incredibly durable Martinez, and also if Geale could avoid the counter punches. Martinez is the type of fighter who turns the momentum of one or two decent rounds into a landslide. Once he has that upper hand his confidence increases and he closes the show.
#2 Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr. (WBC middleweight titlist)
The son of the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez (who once fought Kostya Tszyu but is better known for winning titles at junior lightweight, lightweight and welterweight as well as going nearly 100 fights before losing his first professional fight), Junior is turning into a fine boxer himself.
Chavez fights similar to his father in that he likes to put pressure on and work the body to slow his opponents down later in the fight. Whether or not he has the heart and durability of his father remains to be seen as he’s yet to take on elite competition but the one thing he certainly has is popularity. A potential fight between Chavez Jnr. and fellow Mexican junior middleweight titlist Saul Alvarez is the second most anticipated fight in boxing behind Mayweather vs Pacquiao.
I honestly think Geale would have an easy time with Chavez. His footwork would be too good and he’d be able to get in and out on the younger fighter with ease. Chavez learnt his trade in the pro ranks and is still learning fundamentals but is improving fast under trainer Freddie Roach.
Chavez has been on the receiving end of some close decisions and whether Geale could get a fair shake on what would have to be a pro-Chavez setting in order for the fight to take place remains to be seen.
#3 Felix Sturm (WBA middleweight titlist)
Germany’s Felix Sturm came onto the scene when he was brought in to be an easy beat for an Oscar De la Hoya who was looking to set up a mega-fight with Bernard Hopkins. Sturm instead gave Oscar all he could handle for 12 rounds before losing a disputed decision.
He’s since won and lost the WBA title, avenging all blemishes on his record, bar the De la Hoya fight and his most recent outing, a draw with British fighter Martin Murray. Sturm holds wins over Australian Jamie Pittman as well as Sebastian Sylvester, the man who Geale dethroned to become champion, and a controversial decision over Matthew Macklin in a fight that many thought Macklin won convincingly (I thought it could have gone either way).
Sturm is your typical European fighter, hands high, tight defence and good clean counter punches, although he’s a lot better than Sylvester as proved by his one sided decision win over him in 2008. Sturm has a very solid jab which he used to great effect against De la Hoya but he has a habit of being lazy in fights and sometimes not coming into fights in the best of shape.
Geale would start favourite over Sturm in my opinion, although if the fight was in Germany Geale might not get lucky twice when it comes to getting judges’ decisions. Sturm next takes on Sebasitan Zbik, who gave Chavez jnr. one of his tougher outings last year.
#4 Dmitry Pirog (WBO middleweight titlist)
Pirog missed the opportunity to capitalise on the highlight reel one punch knockout over Daniel Jacobs in Las Vegas that won him his belt, having only defended his title in his home country of Russia since.
Pirog is another unorthodox fighter. Standing at 6’1, he has a significant height advantage over his opponents but often neglects it by stalking his opponents and forcing them to fight on the inside. Pirog is a highly skilled boxer with a solid amateur background and a dangerous fight for anyone at middleweight.
With his reluctance to fight outside of Russia since winning the title, making a fight with him could prove difficult.
Other potential opponents include former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, who is on the comeback trail after a series of brutal knockout losses. Taylor has returned to the middleweight ranks and in terms of name value could get Geale better known in the USA.
Taylor could prove a handful if he could shake the confidence issues that resulted in the knockout losses. He has a world class jab and uses it well against good boxers like Geale. Taylor has lots of trouble against strong fighters who can take his shots and get him into the later rounds.
Also on the cards could be the British trio of Darren Barker, Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray. All three have stepped up to world level in recent times and would make for credible opponents.
Then there’s still the stink on the record that is the Mundine loss. A win in a rematch over Mundine, which at this point in their respective careers is as foregone a conclusion as you could ever have in a boxing match, would potentially take Geale to the level that Mundine and Green have/were on.
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