The Indignation of Daniel Geale
There’s a smattering of people inside working the pads and heavy bags and a lone figure inside the ring shadowboxing…
It’s early Saturday morning and the traffic is in stark contrast to its usual Monday to Friday grind, most people are enjoying a Saturday morning lie-in as I begin my drive out to the suburb of Narellan in Sydney’s southwest. It’s a working-class suburb, a place where pretense is frowned upon, a place where many Aussie battlers have made good lives for themselves through hard work and determination and it’s a place that suits a man such as Daniel Geale to a T.
I walk into the gym. There’s a smattering of people inside working the pads and heavy bags and a lone figure inside the ring shadowboxing. The familiar smell of sweat and leather permeates the air and I sit down next to the ex-champ’s trainer and manager as they discuss their fighter’s form and the opponent he will face in an attempt to once again reach the pinnacle of the middleweight division. It is, in the eyes of many, a huge task but this man is used to winning against the odds.
Daniel Geale has achieved a great deal in the sport of boxing but this fight could very well be the biggest of his career. He faces a formidable opponent in the hall of fame bound Miguel Cotto on June 6 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
He nods at me before continuing his workout, chatting with his trainer between rounds on all manner of things, from his own punching form to controlling the distance against a fighter that is smaller than himself.
With his workout done, we walk out into the cool morning air to discuss his upcoming bout away from the noise of gloves pounding heavy bags. His trainer pops his head out to check on his fighter. “You warm enough?” he says, to which Geale replies, “Yeah, this jacket’s warm.” It’s an offhand conversation but one that displays the close relationship between trainer and fighter; one that goes beyond fighting itself.
There’s no entourage hanging out in the gym, no bodyguards or wannabes, Geale is a no nonsense kind of guy. He’s a devoted father of four and about as genuine a man as you could meet but there is a dogged determination when you look him in the eye. It’s clear to see that despite all the naysayers, and despite being overlooked pretty much his whole career by the majority of the boxing world, he knows exactly what he’s capable of.
I mention the fact that many have overlooked him; the constant vitriol is that Cotto will undoubtedly face Canelo Alvarez next up, and his reply is measured but he also takes no offense at such a statement.
“It’s not something that’s really at the forefront of my mind,” Geale says. “It’s happened many times before; people have looked past me and signed other fights. It’s just my job to make sure that I stuff up their plans.”
The last sentence is spoken with utter conviction. It’s not obvious but I get the distinct feeling that he believes he is due more respect from those that see him as an easy mark for Cotto.
Cotto had been clamoring for a fight with Canelo but the bout fell through for reasons unknown and Geale is well aware he is in the right place at the right time.
“Cotto was looking for big name opponents,” Geale says. “I think Alvarez was on his radar but that fell through which was great for us. I guess Cotto looked at the Golovkin fight, probably seen me as one of the middleweights that maybe weren’t as strong but I’ve got that experience, I’ve won world titles and I guess they were looking at that.”
Miguel Cotto has become the silver lining to the dark cloud that was Geale’s loss to Golovkin. The loss was a big blow to his career but it may have been a key factor in landing a fight with one of the biggest names in boxing and undoubtedly a career-defining payday.
Not only does Geale get a chance at one of the sports biggest names but he also gets the chance to win the lineal title at middleweight as well as the WBC belt, something he spoke of with gusto when I asked whether this title meant more to him than previous ones.
“Yeah definitely, the WBC is a huge title. It’s one I’ve wanted to fight for for a long time and this is my best opportunity and I’m going to take it with both hands.”
Miguel Cotto is a great fighter, his résumé thus far practically guarantees him a place in boxing’s hall of fame, yet despite this there’s no denying he is in the twilight of his career and fighting at a weight that nullifies a lot of the advantages he has had during his career. Geale and his team have a strong game plan, some of which hinges on his own physical advantages.
“I’m going to use my strengths against his and everybody knows what he’s going to be doing, he’s fighting a taller guy, rangier guy, so he’s not going to be standing back boxing with me, he is going to be coming at me and coming at me hard trying to knock my head off and that’s good,” Geale says. “There have been fights in the past where he has struggled a little bit more against boxers and movers, so I want to take advantage of that, I want to use my best attributes and win the fight.”
Those advantages held by Geale—height, reach and a naturally bigger build—are undeniably the reasons behind Cotto and his team demanding the fight be fought at a catchweight of 157 pounds and with rumors circulating the internet that Geale had weighed in at a highly unlikely 158 pounds, a whole thirty days out from the fight, many were scratching their heads as to how a middleweight such as Geale could be so close to weight so far out from the fight. No one was more amused at this revelation than Geale himself.
“I wish it was true,” Geale says with a laugh before putting the rumors to bed, “I was well over 158.”
Making weight can be torturous for many fighters and it’s something that is approached with dread. It’s the fight before the fight for many boxers, running in plastic suits, spitting in cups and cutting out water to dry out your body is as tough as many actual fights are but it’s a necessity in the sport and one that Geale takes very seriously, especially when he is being asked to weigh in three pounds lighter than he is used to.
“The weight is coming down, I’m feeling great. I’ve got a nutritionist helping me, I’ve got my strength coach pushing me in the right areas. Conditioning wise I’m working different areas as well so you know when it comes to it, making that 157 is what I’m focused on and after that it’s fight time.”
It will be the third fight for Geale in the United States, a place he has had little luck fighting in, two of his three career losses have happened on American soil, however this time around he will spend more time prior to the fight acclimating himself to the time difference and getting some quality sparring in that could not be so easily found at home in Australia.
“I guess the biggest thing is that you’ve got to balance things,” Geale says. “You’ve got to make sure the travel is as easy as possible because when you get off the plane you feel pretty crap for the first few days so you have to make sure you get your strength back, focus on your weight, and that’s why this time we are going over a little bit earlier, acclimatize, get the body right and do the hard sparring. These guys (sparring partners) from the U.S. aren’t coming to have fun, they’re going to be pushing me and that’s exactly what I need fighting a guy like Cotto. I need to be pushed.”
As I’m finishing up my conversation with Geale, his trainer Graham Shaw again appears and tells him, “we’re ready to go over some tapes when you’re done.” I take this as my cue to let Daniel get back to the task at hand. He is due to fly out to New Jersey the next morning to finish preparations and this particular training session is the last he has in Australia.
As I get in my car to begin my drive home I cant help but think about the doubters that continue to talk and the boxing world that continues to undervalue the talent that is Daniel Geale. I leave feeling that the man himself has little concern about the opinions of others and I get a strange feeling that he may just be ready to do what so few have given him any chance of doing; beat Miguel Cotto.
Win or lose, Daniel Geale has proven himself to be a man who deserves our respect and someone that will give his all to prove to himself that he is worthy of the title of champion of the world.
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