By Graham Houston
Australia’s Daniel Geale makes his U.S. debut on HBO at the new Revel casino resort in Atlantic City tonight and I believe he’s going to be sternly tested by Britain’s Darren Barker, who tries again to win a major world middleweight title. Barker fought well in the early rounds against Sergio Martinez and was level on one judge’s card at the halfway stage of their WBC title bout, but Martinez pulled away from him and was starting to dominate the fight before winning in the 11th round.
This time Barker promises he’s going to get it right and capture Geale’s IBF title. Although Geale is the favourite there has been a lot of support for Barker from U.K. players. Geale is a talented fighter but in Britain they see Barker as skilled in his own right and the puncher in the fight.
Barker had problems with Martinez’s speed, southpaw stance and unconventional, shifty style. In Geale, Barker is meeting a conventional, orthodox-styled boxer. This should be more to Barker’s advantage.
Also, Barker would have learned from the fight with Martinez, which also took place in Atlantic City, at the famed Boardwalk Hall.
If Barker could be faulted in the fight with Martinez it was that he seemed too preoccupied with defence. HBO “unofficial official” Harold Lederman was quite scathing about Barker’s somewhat cautious boxing. My impression was that Barker didn’t want to make too many wrong moves against the dangerous Martinez and in consequence he let the fight get away from him. It is quite likely, I believe, that Barker will be letting his hands go much more in the fight with Geale.
Martinez is the type of fighter who can hurt an opponent suddenly. Geale, while a fast and clever boxer, isn’t known for being a very hard hitter. So Barker might feel able to take some risks and be much more aggressive than he was against Martinez.
Barker has had a frustrating time of it with injuries, and he seems to feel a need to make up for lost time. We saw a more dynamic, more destructive Barker in his two fights since losing to Martinez, with British rival Kerry Hope and Italian veteran Simone Rotolo both blown away in four rounds (Rotolo claimed a hand injury, but Barker was overwhelming him).
If Barker fights the way he did in these bouts when he steps into the ring against Geale then he must have an excellent chance at winning.
Geale, though, sees this fight as a chance to make a strong impression in his U.S. and HBO debut.
“U.S. fans that aren’t familiar with him are in for a big treat,” Geale’s promoter, Gary Shaw, assured the American media.
Shaw points out that Geale isn’t just a very capable boxer but also someone who is willing to stand and fight — “a fighter’s kind of fighter” as Shaw puts it.
Geale has been complimentary in his comments about Barker, saying that his British challenger has improved so much since the Martinez fight that the Argentinean veteran probably wouldn’t beat Barker if they fought now. Barker’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, is probably right when he calls this a “pure 50-50 fight”.
So the stage is set for what looks like being a highly competitive, perhaps even a classic contest between well-matched opponents.
Geale is a year the older man at 32. Each boxer has lost only once, with Barker getting stopped by Martinez while Geale lost a very close decision to Anthony Mundine in an all-Australia showdown four years ago although he avenged the Mundine defeat with a unanimous decision win in January.
Barker looks very much like the puncher in this fight, but Geale is a high-activity type of fighter with a high punch-rate. Geale will be looking to get in and get out, to use the jab and rattle off the occasional burst of punches, seeking to keep Barker guessing and always endeavouring to give the British boxer something to think about. It can be difficult for a fighter to get into a rhythm against Geale.
I would say that Barker is the more precise, but Geale seems slightly quicker with his punches — I made a note in the Geale-Mundine rematch that Mundine at times seemed a bit bewildered by Geale’s hand speed.
If Barker can’t hurt Geale and slow him down I can see the super-fit Australian fighter coming on strongly in the second half of the contest. Geale has been the 12-round distance seven times in his last nine bouts and another of these fights ended in the 12th, when he stopped Roman Karmazin.
It is Geale’s steadiness and consistency in championship-distance fights that tips me towards the fighter from Down Under — I think that Geale will have a little too much for Barker in too many of the rounds in what could be a very close-run thing.
Visit fightwriter.com Previews (with picks/betting hints) for subscribers include an in-depth look at Nathan Cleverly’s high-risk fight against Sergey Kovalev plus McKenzie vs Maccarinelli; Smith vs Buckland; Segura vs Gonzalez; Miura vs Thompson; Romero vs Martinez.