Daniel Geale is a brave man.
The 33-year-old Aussie gets a crack at a third world championship on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET), and all he needs to do in order to get it is beat the one man no top-tier middleweight wants to fight—Gennady Golovkin.
Golovkin, the WBA/IBO middleweight champion, has developed a nearly mythical reputation over the past couple of years. He’s stopped his last 16 foes inside the distance and has a knockout success rate that sits just a tick below 90 percent.
But Geale remains undaunted by the prospect of fighting Golovkin, and he feels that his experience will give him an advantage not enjoyed by those who came before him, many of whom he felt fought scared.
“Some guys go in there [against Golovkin] looking scared, but experience is definitely going to help me. I’ve been in there against good opponents, tough opponents, sometimes in their backyard as well. So the pressure has definitely been on in a lot of those circumstances,” Geale told Bleacher Report.
“When the odds are stacked against me, that’s when I perform better, or when I fight better fighters, I will fight better, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. Nobody is really giving me that much of a chance against Golovkin, and that excites me more because I know what I can do."
Geale understands that the task in front of him is a formidable one.
Golovkin has been nothing but impressive since making his American television debut in a 2012 demolition of Grzegorz Proksa that was televised by HBO. Since then, he’s laid waste to a string of solid—but not elite—opponents, including Gabriel Rosado, Matthew Macklin and Curtis Stevens.
That’s led to something of a polarization among boxing fans and media.
There’s a camp that believes Golovkin deserves every bit of praise and admiration he’s received, but there are also some who question whether his stature is more hype than reality.
Geale, for his part, seems to feel that Golovkin has earned his praise, but he also believes he can be beaten.
“It’s happened many times over the years that there’s been guys who seemed almost invincible, unbeatable, and there always comes a certain time where things change,” Geale said
“I think he’s earned his reputation; he’s done exactly what’s been asked of him against each fighter that’s been put in front of him. He’s got the opportunity, and I’ve got the opportunity as well, and I’m going to make the most of what’s in front of me.”
Golovkin’s struggles to find high-profile opponents have been well-documented.
Top-tier middleweights have avoided him like the plague, calculating that he’s too much of a high-risk, low-reward fighter to consider as a viable option.
You can call that smart business, ducking or some combination of the two, but Geale finds a certain allure in fighting the man nobody else would.
“I know that some people were avoiding him and didn’t want to fight him. I think, to me, that’s a good sign that you should fight the guy. He’s regarded very highly and has done all that’s been asked of him to this point,” he said.
“I want to get in there with the best fighters in the world and make great fights. It’s an opportunity for me to win some titles back, and it gets me very excited.”
Geale is a former IBF/WBA middleweight champion, and he won those belts under some pretty difficult circumstances as well.
He took the titles off Felix Sturm—in Germany of all places—winning convincingly enough to prevent the notoriously sketchy judges from denying him. He was quickly stripped of the WBA belt, which was then picked up by Golovkin, but retained the IBF strap.
Geale only defended it once, losing it last summer in Atlantic City to Darren Barker, who went on to lose it back to Sturm, who then lost it to Sam Soliman.
And around the carousel goes.
Golovkin is obviously a far more physically intimidating and dangerous opponent than the technical and less-threatening Sturm, but Geale maintains that there are weaknesses there to exploit.
Even if most of us haven’t seen them yet.
“Definitely. He knows that as well. Because he has great punching power, obviously he deserves the confidence he has. He tends to go into a situation not worrying about getting hit. He can afford to; whether he takes one or two punches, he knows he’s going to land a big shot and hurt somebody,” Geale said.
“Defense hasn’t been as big of an issue as it could be against different fighters. The guy does have weaknesses; some people don’t see them, but he does have a few weaknesses, and it’s a matter of better fighters taking advantage of those weaknesses.”
Whatever else you may think of his chances, Geale is definitely the best opponent of Golovkin’s career, and this isn’t a gimme fight by any stretch.
Golovkin is clearly the favorite, and if the collective tea-leaf readings of the boxing community are correct, he will walk out of Madison Square Garden with his titles in tow and another notch on his belt.
But you sleep on Geale at your own risk. He’s not making the long trip from Australia to be an opponent, collect a check and sit idly by while Golovkin figuratively adds another head to his growing trophy case.
He’s coming to win, plain and simple. Whether he can remains to be seen, but he feels the best way to get there is by focusing on being the best fighter he can be rather than worry what his foe can or can’t do.
“I think that the biggest thing to remember is to focus on yourself. Some people tend to focus on the other fighter. Whoever it is, they pay too much attention to what the other guy is gonna do rather than what they’re going to do,” he said.
“I know Golovkin’s strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve been focusing a lot on myself. I’m going to fight the best fight that I can and I’m very confident in that.”
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report and an auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand from a one-on-one interview.