By Craig Watt
In one of the best world title fights seen in Australia in recent years, WBA#1 ranked middleweight Anthony Mundine (36-3, 23 KO’s) secured the IBO Middleweight title at the packed Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Australia this evening with a close split decision over previously unbeaten Daniel Geale (21-1, 13 KO’s). The former two-time WBA super-middleweight champion boxed impressively to secure his third world title in two different weight divisions. He used his superior speed and boxing ability to outwork Geale in a close and exciting battle fought in the centre of the ring. The work rate of both fighters was superb and contributed to the excitement of a close and entertaining boxing matchup. The 34 year old Mundine won by close scores of 116-113, 114-113 and the third judge scoring the fight 115-113 for Daniel Geale.
Many had predicted an upset victory for the 28 year old Geale from Tasmania and over $150,000 had been placed in bets for an upset victory in the week preceding the fight. Geale had an acclaimed amateur career, where he was five time Australian champion and won a Gold Medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. However, it was the more experienced Mundine, boxing in his twelfth world title fight that was able to outscore his opponent in an exciting contest. He dropped Geale in the only knockdown of the fight in the second round.
In the opening round Geale attacked Mundine and scored with some effective three punch combinations which seemed to confuse Mundine who was expecting a boxing encounter. With a minute left in the round Mundine threw a number of combinations but missed as Geale ducked under his jabs and hooks and then threw a superb left hook that caught Mundine flush which seemed to shock him.
Mundine came out strong in the second, determined to impose his strength and dropped Geale in the opening minute with a left hook and referee Gary Dean issued a standing eight count. Geale recovered well and at the end of the both engaged in a toe to toe exchange as the bell went for the end of the round.
Mundine seemed to be settling into an effective boxing rhythm in the third round with his fast jab and Geale smothered some Mundine’s advances by pushing him to the ropes. He had some good success with punching on the inside which seemed to give Geale confidence.
As we entered the fourth round the fight was evenly matched with Geale seemingly gaining in confidence, despite his knockdown in the second. As Geale seemed to gain the advantage, Mundine roared back with combinations to ensure his opponent was not stealing the momentum. It was a close and exciting fight.
Both fighters proved their high rankings by all the governing bodies as the fight settled into a fast pace in the fourth and a Mundine hurt Geale with a left hook to the body, only for Geale to comeback and advance with a high work rate. At the end of the fifth round Mundine looked tired.
In the fifth round, Mundine threw less punches as he gained a respite and Geale appeared to take control of the centre of the ring, throwing large volumes of punches and winning the round, with less punches coming back from Mundine but still an air of excitement in the crowd as neither fighter was able to dominate in a close contest.
As the fight entered the second half both fighters went to “war” in the centre of the ring, neither prepared to concede an advantage to each other in the sixth and as one fighter seemed to hurt the other, both came back strongly to prevent any advantage and long stretches of momentum by either fighter. It was becoming a real 50/50 fight as he fight went on.
In the seventh round Geale was able to push Mundine on the back foot and push him back towards the ropes but Mundine was not prepared to concede and opened up in the centre of the ring with a fast combination of five punches. Mundine seemed like he was not going to relinquish his WBA mandatory ranking position without digging deep into the trenches.
Mundine seemed to gain the advantage in the eighth and started to put together several combinations and improved work rate, showing signs of his superior speed but in the last minute Geale unloaded some swarming combinations to push Mundine into the neutral corner. A stoppage for loose tape by referee Gary Dean seemed to slow Geale’s momentum at the end of the round which visibly frustrated him.
In the ninth round Mundine landed with a couple of effective uppercuts in the centre of the ring and bobbed and weaved away from the advancing Geale. Mundine was warned for use of the elbow on the inside by referee Gary Dean and at the end of the round Geale appeared to land a straight left and Mundine slipped to the floor on the centre ring logo but was controversially not awarded a knockdown, despite Geale landing an effective punch.
In the tenth round Mundine seemed to extend his slight advantage on the scorecards and gained some momentum but Geale landed a right that cut Mundine over the left eye that seemed to affect Mundine but he responded with a left and right that rocked Geale and seemed to move onto the back foot for the next thirty seconds. Both fighters were expectedly tired at the end of the tenth round in a close and tense battle.
As we entered the “championship rounds” the fight seemed too close to call with work rates similar but Mundine just catching the eye with fast combinations. A low blow by Mundine halted the action in the eleventh but after a brief respite Geale responded with a left hook, only for Mundine to catch the eye with a swift and fast left uppercut. As Geale now advanced, his superior speed seemed to be landing flush punches and catching the eye. He held the advantage on work rate and cleaner punches as the round ended, but Geale still appeared enthusiastic and determined.
At the midway point in the final round Geale hurt Mundine and wobbled him against the ropes but Mundine responded by digging deep and coming back with some good punches close in. This was Geale’s best round of the fight but Mundine dazzled with some fast combinations in the last twenty seconds.
Mundine’s manager Khoder Nassar confirmed at ringside that the Australian’s immediate future would be at middleweight and having cemented his mandatory WBA#1 position he was keen to face WBA champion Felix Sturm. He stated, “ We want to fight the best fighters at Middleweight and Felix Sturm is one of the best guys in the world at 160 pounds. He is extremely fast with fast hands and an excellent jab. He is a very good fighter and Anthony is at the stage of his career when he wants to take on the best in the middleweight division and as mandatory challenger he has earned his right to fight for the WBA title. It would be a superb fight and hopefully will take place in 2009.”
WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm (32-2-1, 14 KO’s) will make the seventh defence of his title on July 11th in Nuerburg, Germany against WBA#4 ranked Armenian Khoren Gevor (30-3, 16 KO’s).
In a special event on the undercard as part of the WBA awareness campaign, “KO to drugs” saw former Australian Rugby League Player Sonny Bill Williams stop Gary Gurr at 1.22 minutes of the second round in a heavyweight bout to raise awareness to the issue of drug abuse in global society and the WBA’s campaign.
As a result of the fight, Williams presented a cheque for $50,000 to a local drug rehabilitation centre after the contest was stopped in the second round, which was well received as part of the evening’s entertainment.