He may have lost his IBF middleweight world title in Atlantic City on the weekend but Daniel Geale has won many admirers with a gutsy and whole-hearted display.
Geale was on the wrong side of a split decision after an engaging fight with Darren Barker, with the Londoner walking away with his belt.
It was an engrossing bout that saw Barker rise off the canvas, after Geale landed a devastating shot to the body in the sixth round, and roar back to push ahead.
Geale was his usual self – awkward, quick and tough – showing his class and heart throughout the fight. It was a close bout, see-sawing and shifting as the momentum surged from the Aussie to the Pom, and vice versa, throughout.
But what perhaps surprised the Geale camp was the size of Barker’s ticker and his fitness, as he was the busier of the two fighters over the full 12 rounds and refused to give up in the sixth.
Barker is known for fading over the final rounds in previous fights but in this one he didn’t, apart from the 12th, which Geale dominated.
A courageous Barker threw more punches and landed more, according to CompuBox.
The 31-year old from Barnet threw a total of 862 punches, compared to the Tasmanian’s 693, and landed more as well, 292 to 259. This included jabs (280 to 190) and power punches (598 to 503). It was Barker’s aggression and higher activity that earned him the decision.
Interestingly, Geale was more accurate with his punching.
The 32-year old had a 37% effective rate compared with Barker’s 34%. I think that shows just how close this fight was, and how well Geale fought as well.
Barker was on the front foot for most of the bout and dictated the pace, which was easier on the eye. Geale counter-punched strongly and his defence was sound, but Barker’s higher work-rate was telling.
Geale has been the winner of two split decisions before in title fights, both against Germans in Germany, so it was third time unlucky.
Judging in boxing is notoriously difficult, and sometimes murky, and in my own scoring I could have envisaged a draw or a split decision such was the 50-50 nature of many of the rounds. In the end some of the scoring was strange – one judge had it 116-111 for Barker, and that judge was the only one to give Geale the 12th round, one of the few that he very clearly won.
Regardless I don’t think Geale was robbed like Jeff Fenech, Geale’s former trainer has claimed, just unlucky.
Barker came in with a’Rocky’-like story and would just not give in, so fair credit to him.
Geale was obviously shattered after the fight, saying: “While I’m not going to whinge about the result, I’ve already heard a lot of people say that he didn’t do enough to take the title from me. But what can you do? I know it wasn’t my best performance and, to be honest, I’ve just got no explanation for it. I couldn’t find my spot tonight.”
So where to now for the western-Sydney based boxer?
Obviously a rest and return to his family first up. The Sydney Olympian’s career is in no way over, just because he lost his title.
He may have been defeated for only the second time but Geale seems to have largely won over many US fight fans, according to most American media reports. Geale-Barker was a classic, a really entertaining battle, and a re-match could be on the cards.
Next it seems that Barker will face his IBF mandatory, which appears to be Felix Sturm not Australian Sam Soliman, in December the UK.
Here’s Eddie Hearn, Barker’s promoter, talking post-fight in the Barker dressing room.
It’s understood that Geale and Barker have a re-match in their contract, if Barker gets past his mandatory, and that would take place in 2014. Gary Shaw, Geale’s promoter, has options on Barker’s contract.
So all is not lost.
Geale would most likely have a tune-up fight, probably back in Australia, to prepare himself for another crack at Barker.
Geale is someone who is willing to travel to fight, so a bout in the UK could be on the cards. His second professional loss also doesn’t mean that his chances of facing Sergio Martinez or Gennady Golovkin are shot either.
These two heavy-hitters might be more interested in Geale now, sensing fragility, and a possibly easier opponent. Time will tell.
Boxing is all about getting knocked down and getting back up again. That’s the mark of a true champion. Daniel Geale will be back.
Follow John Davidson on Twitter @johnnyddavidson