By Cody Kaye: When there are no more rounds to box, no more punches to throw, no more bells to answer or title fights to win, all that remains of a boxers career is one simple thing. Legacy. It is what they leave behind in the aftermath, and more often than not, it means more to a fighter than any foe they beat, or any belt they won.
It is for this reason alone, that Australian IBF Middleweight champion Daniel “The Real Deale” Geale, will step into the ring for the second time against compatriot Anthony “The Man” Mundine, on January 30, at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in Australia.
Geale V Mundine II has been more than three years in the making, and up until just a few months ago, seemed certain never to eventuate. A split decision win over Felix Sturm in Germany back in September saw Geale unify the WBA and IBF middleweight titles, placing him in the box seat to fight the winner of the highly anticipated WBC title fight between Julio Cesar Chavez JR. and Sergio Martinez. But following a 12 round war that resulted in one of the most thrilling final rounds in boxing history, Geale’s opportunity to face the winner disappeared overnight, as calls for a rematch between Chavez JR. v Martinez II quickly became reality.
With no opponent in sight, Geale was forced back to the drawing board. What he came back with was a bout Australian fight fans have been longing to see ever since the final bell rang on an IBO middleweight title fight back in May of 2009.
On an Autumn Brisbane evening, a second round knock down was enough for Mundine to not only steal Geale’s maiden world title, but also, hand him his first, and only, career defeat. Over 12 thrilling rounds, both men pushed each other to their very limits, putting on one of the greatest fights in Australian boxing history. It was a nightmare bout for any judge to score, and in all likelihood, the knock down was the deciding factor. But any hopes of an immediate rematch were lost when Mundine relinquished his belt, before moving down to the Light Middleweight division in an ill fated attempted to earn a fight with pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather JR.
It was a move that would spell disaster for the aging Mundine’s career. Not only did he struggle to find a credible opponent, he also backed out of a deal to fight undefeated WBA light middleweight champ Austin Trout, the same man who only recently defeated future hall of famer Miguel Cotto. Instead, Mundine chose to fight Bronco McKart – a forty something year-old has been who had long since passed his sell by date. The fight was Mundine’s first and only foray into the US market, and was contested in front of 286 paying customers – needless to say, Mundine’s bid for Mayweather, was indeed laughable at best.
While the Mundine circus raged on, Geale was lining up the biggest fights he could find. Taking on and beating some the biggest names in the middlweight division - guys like Roman Karmizan and Sebastian Sylvetser, whom he beat to win the IBF title, and of course, former WBA champ Felix Sturm. So impressive has Geale’s rise been from contender to world champion, that he now finds himself ranked at number two in the division, behind only Sergio Martinez.
And this is where things start to get interesting. Despite his deserved status as one of the best in the business, Geale remains a relative unknown on the world stage, even in his home country of Australia. Mundine, on the other hand, is one of the country’s most well recognised, albeit controversial, sportsmen.
A three time world champion, Mundine is now 37-years old, and even now, there remains little doubt he is one of the most naturally gifted fighters ever to come out of Australia. His speed, while fading, is still lightening fast, his defence is as good as anyone’s out there, and when he wants to, boy can he put on a show. Here though, is the big “but.” Mundine hasn’t fought for a legitimate world title since defeating Geale three years ago. So with no belts to his name, and no credibility on an international scale, how on earth did Mundine land another opportunity to strip Geale of a world title? The answer is simple.
In a boxing world where fighters constantly look for the easy road to a world title, Geale is a bit of an odyssey. He genuinely wants to be tested whenever he enters the ring. He genuinely wants to fight and beat the best in the division, and for the last three years, that’s exactly what he’s done. But ask any fighter with just one loss on their record what they want most, and the answer will usually be the same; redemption.
That split decision loss to Mundine is the only blemish on an otherwise perfect career for Daniel Geale. And as any boxer knows, it’s a blemish that will last for eternity.
So badly does the loss hurt Geale, that he even allowed the WBA to strip him of his title for choosing to fight Mundine over interim champ Gennady Golovkin. And now we begin to understand why this fight is finally going to happen.
For Geale, a rematch represents his chance to right a wrong. He has always believed he won the first fight in 2009, and he’s willing to risk everything he’s worked for to prove it. For Mundine, this fight is surely the last opportunity he’ll ever have to fight for a world title. If he wins, he’s suddenly back in the limelight, and can once again go after big names, and even bigger pay checks. If he loses, well, chances are, his career will end then and there.
So this then, is a fight neither man can afford to lose. For both of them, January 30 will go along way to deciding the legacies each of them leaves behind. And in a time where fighters are more concerned about climbing the ranks via the easiest possible route, this all-Australian rematch is indeed a welcome respite.
December 4, 2012