By Cody Kaye: How quickly things change in boxing. Just a few short days ago, Australia’s IBF and WBA middleweight champion Daniel “The Real Deal” Geale was heavily favoured to be next in line for a super bout against the winner of the Sergio Martinez v Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. title fight. Now? Well, it’s anybody’s guess.
Sergio Martinez, the 37-year old WBC Diamond champion, was taking on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the unbeaten WBC middleweight champ, in a title fight that was sure to spearhead the victor into greatness – and the kind of superstar status so long enjoyed by Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Martinez v Chavez had all the makings of a potential fight of the year - both men had publicly stated a genuine dislike for each other, and both men were hell bent on creating a legacy with a devastating victory, in a fight that no one could really predict.
Enter Daniel Geale. After winning a second world middleweight title in Germany against Felix Sturm – Geale was the next obvious opponent for either man, depending on who left Vegas with the belt. All the Aussie had to do was sit back in his ringside seat, enjoy the show, and line up the biggest pay day of his career with the victor, and a shot at creating the kind of legacy he’d previously only been able to dream about. Not anymore.
For 11 rounds, in front of 19,000 fans at the Thomas and Mack centre in Las Vegas, Martinez, quite simply, beat Chavez Jr. up. He did exactly what he said he’d do -dancing about the bigger, slower man, attacking with a vicious array of punches that left Junior’s face looking like a spilled can of tomatoes. Chavez attempted to unsettle Martinez in the early rounds, goading him with taunts and a mischievous smile, but for all his posturing and bravado, he was never even in the fight. Right up, that is, until the final round.
After clearly losing every round, trainer Freddy Roach told Chavez in no uncertain terms he needed a knock out to win. Martinez was just too fast, too skilled, and too far in front to lose. So far ahead was the veteran, that Geale would have been busy working out dates in his head for an impending show down with the Argentinean. But with Roach’s words ringing in his ears, Chavez found something nobody knew he had-Heart. And he found it in bucket loads. With nothing left to lose, the bigger, slower Mexican finally let his hands go, and in one beautifully timed combination, launched a devastating left hook that sent Martinez crashing to the canvas. The crowd was stunned, the referee was stunned, even Chavez was stunned - but no one was more so than Martinez. With great courage the veteran climbed back to his feet, and so began one of the most exciting final rounds for many years. Chavez Jr., with seconds left on the clock, was now trying to knock out the man who’d punished him for 33 relentless minutes, and hold onto the title, while keeping his unbeaten record intact. And it was all right there for the taking. Right up until the final bell. Martinez had survived one of the most vicious onslaughts of his career, regaining a belt he’d once lost, to a man he now respected.
In the post-fight press conference, both men were clearly affected by the final exchange. Martinez was graceful in victory, conceding the younger Mexican had indeed hurt him in the final round. While Chavez Jr. was humbled by defeat, admitting he was troubled by Martinez’ style, acknowledging that he should have listened more to his corner.
And one thing both men agreed upon, is that a rematch is now highly likely. For his part in the fight as defending champion, and of course his legendary name, Chavez netted a cool $US3 million, while Martinez walked out with $US1.4. A rematch though, would bring in a much, much bigger purse.
And that is now Geales’ biggest problem. Because despite owning two of the divisions four major belts, and the fact he can provide Martinez with a rare opportunity to win two titles for the price of one, so enthralling were the final minutes on Saturday night, that Geale cannot now generate the same purse for a title fight with three belts, as a Chavez Martinez rematch can with one.
For now, Geale will wait for the dust to settle, and hope the rematch doesn’t happen. Australia’s Sam Soliman is Geale’s mandatory for the IBF title, but it’s a match up that offers Geale little in terms of risk verse reward. Felix Sturm, the man Geale beat to win the WBA title, has openly raised the possibility of a rematch, but neither fight will be on anywhere near the same scale as a unification bout against Martinez.
So after a lifetime of work that appeared certain to culminate in a well-earned shot at greatness, three crazy minutes of one final round in Vegas have sent Geale’s plan into disarray. He’ll go back to the drawing board and find another opponent to keep him busy while two superstars have their rematch. But while nothing is ever a given in boxing, one thing you can be sure of is that Daniel Geale will be ready and waiting, when the opportunity finally comes.
September 17, 2012