Middleweights Daniel Geale and Darren Barker knuckle up under the lights of the Revel Resort, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Saturday night. While a bit of a sore thumb—a bout featuring two commonwealth fighters with one prior HBO appearance between them—Geale-Barker will produce the kind of legitimate opponent Gennady Golovkin has pursued for a year. Having hitched its wagon to Golovkin, it makes sense for HBO to televise Geale-Barker with the express purpose of delivering the winner to him. Of course, Zeno’s paradox of motion makes sense, too, but neither it nor the above scenario has anything to do with reality.
No, doomsday preppers will rub our noses in it before either man climbs into the ring with Golovkin. Geale-Barker is on HBO because the network owed Gary Shaw, Geale’s international promoter, a television date. This fight is a holdover from a time when HBO handed out television dates the way a needle exchange truck hands out syringes. It is the past, not the future that delivered Geale-Barker.
Nor is Golovkin on either guy’s radar. The Geale-Barker winner has a mandatory defense against Felix Sturm due. Geale, Mount Annan, New South Wales, Australia, won a split decision over Sturm last year, and, having downed Sturm in the Deutschland, he is surely confident that he can beat him anywhere in the galaxy. Geale would also bring greater negotiating leverage to a rematch. Why, then, expose himself to Golovkin? Besides, Geale, 32, has passed on Golovkin before. He dumped his WBA trinket when Golovkin was his mandatory, preferring instead a lucrative grudge match against fellow Aussie Anthony Mundine. It was a move that underscored the bottom line in boxing—just like the Sturm rematch does.
Should he beat Geale, Barker, 31, is even less likely to share a ring with Golovkin. Asked about a Golovkin fight, promoter Eddie Hearn replied, “[H]e’s definitely not a fighter I’ll be cueing up to take on Darren Barker. Felix Sturm’s a lot easier than Gennady Golovkin.” Short of putting a horse’s head in his bed, HBO has little chance of getting Barker in with Golovkin.
Evasive maneuvers aside, Geale and Barker cannot avoid each other. What then, should they expect?
One of the best middleweights in the world, Geale, 29-1 (15), deals in volume like a wholesaler. Using footwork and upper body movement to work into range, Geale unloads with combinations to the head and body with fervor. It is a strategy that ensures he scores nearly every time he commits; his opponents finding this reality less and less deniable as the rounds pile up. With the endurance of an arctic tern, Geale fires blows for twelve rounds with nary a dip in activity. Despite giving the impression of being perpetually on the verge of a brawl—in part because he responds to any landed punch in kind—to characterize Geale as a brawler or pressure fighter is to pigeonhole him. A schooled boxer with a style catered to his strengths, he can also box from range and counter. Barker, Barnet, London, United Kingdom, is in for a long night.
But Barker has the tools to blunt Geale’s attack. Inching forward behind a high guard and a jab, Barker looks to drill opponents with his right hand. While more comfortable advancing, he will step back and time overzealous foes with left hooks. When on the defensive, Barker plasters his gloves to his temples and simply weathers the incoming fire. It was a tactic that served him well in his only test against elite competition. Barker hung tough over the first half of his 2011 fight against Sergio Martinez, before Martinez began punching around Barker’s gloves and finished him with a shot to the ear. That version of Martinez is better than Geale, and a bigger puncher, which means Barker, 25-1 (16), should have his moments Saturday night.
Look for Barker to try and stymie Geale’s aggression with jabs, to catch him coming in, and score by getting off at the end of Geale’s combinations. Geale however, is the more dynamic fighter, has fought superior competition, and has more ways to win. Despite eating a smattering of shots early, Geale will set a swift pace, spackle leather in the crack’s of Barker’s guard, and overwhelm him with activity. In a fight where neither guy is a big puncher, expect the busier man to bank the rounds.
For HBO subscribers, Geale-Barker is a fight largely fought in a vacuum, a performance with no encore. Thankfully, it has the potential to be a good one.