Madison Square Garden hosts a middleweight fight of middling interest this Saturday night, when Kazakh hurt-machine Gennady Golovkin returns to New York to face Daniel Geale.
For answers to why Golovkin-Geale is little more than another acceptable fight one need only look to the night of June 7th. That night, in the same venue that hosts this Saturday’s main event, before a crowd even the most optimistic of this weekend’s invested parties would not dream expect, Miguel Cotto became the middleweight champion of the world, stopping the simulacrum of Sergio Martinez in ten rounds.
Another challenger was present that night. He was flanked by HBO Sports president, Ken Hershman, serving as a public reminder that not all of the latter’s moves have proven false. From his VIP seat, Golovkin watched Cotto, a junior middleweight just 1-2 in his last three fights, end Martinez’ reign.
There is a telling photograph of Golovkin’s unfiltered reaction to Cotto’s triumph. His trademark smile gone, there is more than frustration in Golovkin’s face as he watches Cotto, perched triumphantly on the ropes, drinking in adoration only careers of his ilk can achieve—there is a simmering resentment that, even when shearing men of their vitality, Golovkin does not reveal.
It is easy to empathize with Golovkin. Martinez gave Golovkin the slip, ostensibly asking the impossible of this publicly appointed heir apparent: that Golovkin, 29-0 (26), further prove himself in a moribund division; as if beating one overmatched foe would prove any more than hammering out any other. Cotto, with promises of greater remuneration and better health elsewhere, will also keep Golovkin safely outside the ropes.
This then, is the real reason why Golovkin-Geale, despite being Golovkin’s fifth appearance on HBO, has generated no more than the typical excitement that accompanies his return. Once more the regicide is merely sharpening his blade, biding his time with no shot at the king in sight. Such patience is necessary if Golovkin plans to rule middleweight in coming years, and the transition from the Theater to MSG proper Saturday shows his handlers are willing to take risks promoting “GGG” along the way. The dearth of marquee opponents though, the type Golovkin, his believers, his skeptics desire, has tried a collective patience.
Naturally, Geale, Mt. Annan, Australia, believes himself anything but the incumbent victim in a foregone conclusion. Comfortable as the underdog, Geale has disregarded Golovkin’s cloying mystique, understanding quite rightly that that mystique, despite practically carrying Golovkin to the ring, will not be standing across from Geale Saturday night. Disrobed under the lights, Golovkin, 32, is not a fabrication of the HBO brand dispenser, or a Frankenstein animated through ALL CAPS on social media. Unfortunately for Geale, however, the reality of exactly what he is facing is likely to provide him far more distress than comfort when the referee no longer bars its path.
Geale got a hint of that reality losing lopsidedly to Golovkin in the amateurs. That was in 2001; no doubt much has changed since then. Not so much though, that Geale is unfamiliar with Golovkin, with how the Kazakh’s arsenal has translated to the professional ranks, and what that transition now promises. This familiarity might explain why, before losing his alphabet trinket to Darren Barker, Geale too declined a crack at Golovkin. With bigger money elsewhere, Geale, 30-2 (16), treated Golovkin as the rest of the middleweight powerbrokers have—he passed. Only now, without a title to milk, is Geale interested in exploring the yet unsubstantiated truth about Golovkin.
There was a time when Geale, 33, was considered a legitimate threat to Golovkin. Is he still? Geale is a well-composed fighter with an excellent motor and good speed who could trouble Golovkin with movement and activity. To take a backward step against Golovkin is suicide, and Geale should be able to avoid this fatal concession with some success. While not a puncher, Geale throws in bursts and mixes to the body well. His fists may not discourage Golovkin, but if Geale gets off quickly and moves laterally, he could nevertheless dictate the action. He is the best opponent Golovkin has faced, and will conduct himself as such.
But if Golovkin is a fraction of what his mystique portrays, then the above strategy is little more than a recipe for survival. And “Real Deal,” to his credit and likely his end, is not well constituted for such a tepid pursuit. When Golovkin hurts him, and he will, Geale will retaliate, thereby helping Golovkin devour the space between them and the fleeting sanctuary Geale finds therein. And then, if it is truth not mystique that Geale thirsts for, Golovkin will quench his thirst—straight from the fountainhead.