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WBA/IBF Middleweight Champion Daniel Geale: “It’s all working for me at the moment.”

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It’s a great time to be a fan of middleweight boxing, the heavyweight champion of the smaller divisions. At the moment, this division is not only deep but unique in that each man actually has interest in fighting the others. Mix Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Dmitry Pirog, Peter Quillin, Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray with Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, a returning Daniel Jacobs, a still present Jermain Taylor and guys like Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee and what you get are endless fights among hungry, desperate men. The mixture of styles is a matchmaker’s dream.
 
The recognized linear champion of the world at 160 pounds is Argentina’s Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez. He also happens to hold the WBC’s version of the title. It is something the 37-year-old Martinez covets because it once belonged to his countryman, middleweight great Carlos Monzon and due to a mentor Martinez once had within that Mexico-based organization.

Monzon also held the WBA belt during his reign of 14 successful defenses. Today, it is “held” by two men. The “regular” champion is Kazakhstan badass Gennady Golovkin (the WBA “super champion” we’ll get to soon enough). An undefeated power-puncher who trains in the mountains of California, Golovkin burst onto the U.S. cable TV scene September 1st with a two-fisted, all-out assault on Grzegorz Proksa. In five one-sided rounds, Golovkin became arguably the most dangerous fighter in the division.
 
“The good thing about the middleweight division is that there are lots of great fighters at the moment,” Geale told Maxboxing.com when we ran into him right before the Martinez vs. Chavez Jr. fight in Las Vegas, September 15. “It’s sort of hard to pick who would be the best. We have two fighting soon in Martinez-Chavez. We also have Golovkin and Pirog. It is an exciting division. I think the most exciting part of it is these guys and myself are willing to fight each other. It has happened before, a couple world champions fighting 30th ranked fighters. People want to see these top fighters fighting each other. In the middleweight division, we have top fighters fighting each other and that is what it is all about.”
 
Two names missing from that list are Sebastian Sylvester and Felix Sturm, two German-based fighters who had the WBA and IBF belts on lockdown in Deutschland for a number of years. Golovkin would win over HBO subscribers the night of September 1 in the U.S. but it was the aforementioned Australian Geale who took strategic command of the division that very morning by liberating his second German-held middleweight belt in as many years. While Geale may come across as a mild-mannered, regular guy, he did all the right things to be extraordinary those two nights in Germany. He pounded the body, worked the jab, mixed up his game and went for it when he needed to. In a sport bereft of risk takers, Geale is a breath of fresh air. He’s not reckless. He’s relentless.
 
“I think having a great team behind me is very important as well. I have a great group of guys behind me. I feel that does keep the playing field even,” said Geale, who is trained by Graham Shaw out of the Grange Old School Boxing Gym. This is Geale’s third trainer after Phil Cropper and Jeff Fenech. “Going to Germany twice, everyone knows it is very hard to get a win over there. It can be very dangerous. When you have the right people around you, it doesn’t [affect you]. I was definitely a little bit younger, hungrier. That made a difference. I wanted it very bad so I was willing to work very hard in the fight to make sure I won it.”
 
This might be Geale’s third trainer as a professional but to hear trainer Graham Shaw speak in a wonderfully in-depth look into the Felix Sturm win conducted by Fightnews.com’s Ray Wheatley, the whole point is the teamwork that enables Geale to become a champion.
 
 
The 31 year old Geale, 28-1 (15), and his team had been on a quiet roll since his lone loss, a split decision to Anthony Mundine in 2009. On Halloween of 2010, he knocked out Roman Karmazin in the 12th round of an IBF eliminator that set up a May 2011 title fight with Sebastian Sylvester. As with his win over Sturm, Geale’s tenacity, pressure and will got him the win. He seemed to want it more as each fight wore on to their 12-round conclusions. 
 
Part of that equation came when Geale began taking a more serious look at his training and physiology. An athlete’s body is his job’s most effective tool and Geale credits finally taking more responsibility full on with his success.
 
“It’s all definitely changed for the better. I can focus more on what I have to do,” said Geale. “I spent a little time at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. I learned about the body and I learned that recovery is just as important as your training. And looking out for myself is very important. Through certain stages, I wasn’t looking after myself as well as I should have. Whereas now these days, I can focus in more on my body and I think it is showing.”
 
One thing the 2000 Australian Olympian pointed to as an improvement through his 21-year fight journey is a mental toughness born from experience and age.
 
“I just feel my strength has probably improved a little bit, not only my physical strength but my mental strength as well,” said Geale. “As you get a little bit older, you come to understand how the body works and that you can push yourself a little bit extra. I feel in the last year or two I can push myself that little bit more. And I feel a little bit more strength I am starting to enjoy. I feel my punching power is improving. For a lot of years, I was sort more of a boxer-type puncher. Now I am starting to develop a little bit more power and it’s starting to worry guys now.”
 
A distinction like this, becoming a double beltholder in one division, is rare for a fighter. With HBO invested in the middleweights, having televised Martinez vs. Chavez on HBO PPV and the debut of Golovkin, the time could not be better to be Daniel Geale with his twin belts.
 
“I do feel like I have achieved a lot,” conceded Geale without a hint of bragging. “I still think I have a lot to prove. I have to come to the U.S. That is one place that I want to achieve some big things and get my name out in the U.S. I do feel if I do that it will be an extra turning point in my life. I would love to come to the U.S. It is extra motivation for me and I am really looking forward to it.”
 
The aftermath of Martinez-Chavez leaves a lot of questions. Martinez won via unanimous…OK, very lopsided decision. In the process, he broke his left hand and injured a ligament in his knee. Martinez will likely be out a year recovering, which is horrible considering he has never been hotter and, at 37, likely may never be again. Chavez Jr. salvaged his career by nearly stopping Martinez in the 12th round but he killed what redemption the near-miracle had bought him by testing positive for marijuana after the fight. With the two most readily marketed fighters out indefinitely, where does Geale go?
 
“Interesting question,” Geale’s promoter Gary Shaw told Maxboxing.com Monday night. “We thought and still think that Martinez should fight Geale for all the marbles. However, the promoters feel a rematch is in order although Geale feels it will be the same result. So, for the time being, we are moving on. We are looking at all our options which, in no particular order, would be, Golovkin, Pirog, Macklin, a rematch with either Sturm or Sylvester or an optional fight in Australia vs. an opponent to be named. We feel that Daniel has done what no other Australian has ever done, unify the titles and go to Germany to pick up two belts from two different German fighters on German soil. Now that is saying a lot. Remember, Roy Jones Jr. refused to do what Geale did, so Daniel must be looked at and not overlooked. While they continue to hype the 12th round of a non-competitive fight, Geale will face tough challenges and fight all over the world. True mark of a true champion and that is not taking anything away from Sergio Martinez who put on a boxing clinic on September 15 and who Geale acknowledges as the linear champion.”
 
Geale has two mandatory challengers. The WBA’s, due now, is Golovkin whom HBO would likely love. Any network would. The IBF mandatory is Melbourne, Australia’s Sam Soliman. That fight makes the most economic sense at the moment. At the least, Geale vs. Soliman in Melbourne would do big numbers at the gate. It will also be an action fight due to the styles. No, it isn’t HBO but it would buy time for Martinez to heal, Chavez Jr. to have his issue resolved one way or the other and Golovkin to continue to up his profile. The question is: Would the WBA be amenable to waiting to order Geale vs. Golovkin?

Shaw told Maxboxing.com he’d be speaking with the WBA in the coming days.
 
October 20, Quillin and N’Dam N’Jikam fight for the vacant WBO belt but it says here that belt, should Quillin win it, will become a shield from the dangers of the rest of the division.
 
While the division moves its pieces, Geale will return home to his gym where he sometimes does personal training and indulges in another of his great passions: teaching young amateurs the finer points of boxing.
 
“It’s something I’ve done for a long time,” Geale said of the 20 to 30 amateurs he works with. “Whether I am in training, I balance my schedule very well. I take plenty of time with these kids. We take them fighting in the States as well. It is something I really enjoy. There was a stage when things got a little bit busy and I was maybe asked a little bit to back off but I really enjoy doing it.”
 
On September 15, we saw the dethroning of a young, would-be champion who either didn’t know or didn’t care to find out what it takes to be a champion. Perhaps what we saw was simply youth freezing under the bright lights of expectation.
 
With the leverage of two belts and the options to go with them, it’s good to be Daniel Geale right now. At 31, experience, skill, natural ability and the intangibles that make a champion have aligned for him. He is in that rarest of places for a boxer. Geale, like Martinez, took a hard route to get to where he is. You don’t have to hesitate and wonder if you call him a “titleholder” or a “champion” when introducing him. His actions have made that distinction clear. When the lights are on, he is the brightest thing in the room.
 
“I think a lot of small things are coming together at the right time,” said Geale. “I’ve been boxing for a long time so I know my body pretty well. And I just listened to my body. I knew what I had to do. I have a great team around me as well. They sort of get me where I need to be. I just focused on improving everything in my boxing. I guess, for a long time, I based my boxing a lot on my skill and developing a lot of things around it as well. Once you have the skills, then you put the power to it. You learn how to do a lot of little things. You learn to get fit so you can last longer three or four rounds. I think a lot of things are coming together. And my family is very supportive of me. It’s all working for me at the moment.”
 
You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
 
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