In the August 17th edition of HBO’s Boxing After Dark series, middleweight standouts Daniel Geale (29-2, 15 knockouts) and Darren Barker (26-1, 16 knockouts) engaged in what was supposed to be a twelve round fight for Geale’s IBF middleweight title. Instead of a fight, what unfolded that night was an absolute dog fight between two of the division’s hungriest and toughest fighters. For Geale, a win would just be further proof that he’s the best middleweight champion that no one’s talking about. For Barker, a win would mean redemption and a potential rematch against Sergio Martinez. With so much on the line for both fighters, it’s easy to see why things unfolded in the beautifully brutal manner in which they did.
In the opening round, Barker was the first to really get much off in the way of meaningful offense. Throwing a telephone pole-like jab, Barker was able to not only keep Geale at bay, but also managed to catch the Aussie anytime he’d feel bold enough to charge in. This early tactic bothered the normally slow-starting Geale in the early rounds as he tried to respond with body shots, but it was obvious that Barker was walking away with some of these opening rounds.
Things didn’t begin turning around for Geale until the fourth round of the bout. Even though he lost this round in some fans’ eyes, this was the first round where Geale showed that he does have the punching power that makes him capable of ending the fight at a moment’s notice. This was obvious after an exchange between Geale and Barker in which Geale was badly hurt, but responded with a quick, sloppy hook that managed to find its mark and hurt Barker. Rather than waiting, the two fighters respond by seemingly going blow-for-blow in the center of the ring until the bell signaled the end of the round.
Rounds 5, 6, and 7 proved to be other big ones for Geale. With Barker still blasting shots to the head and body of Geale, the Aussie was able to prove to himself and his corner that he is able to take everything that Barker has to offer. Confident in his offense, defense, and chin, Geale began unleashing every punch available in an effort to put Barker away. This moment almost came in the 7th round after Geale’s relentless body attack had forced Barker to crumble to the canvas. Rather than take the ref’s ten count, Barker answered the call, and managed to hurt Geale at the end of the round with his own power shots.
It’s from this point forward where the fight became one of guts and glory rather than technique and fundamentals. Both fighters went blow for blow from bell to bell. Geale would prove to be the busier fighter, but there was just no ignoring the fact that Barker was landing the harder, and often more significant, shots. It was this type of calculated punching that won Barker the fight, but the victory didn’t come without its drama. In the final round of the bout, Geale was aware of the potential points deficit and decided to really push Barker’s abilities. Geale was able to hurt Barker, but that fact seemed to be known to everyone but him. Barker was allowed to survive, and Geale had to endure another loss.
Win, lose, or draw, both fighters proved that they still remain atop of the middleweight division’s elite. With big followings, hype, and legitimate talent, there is no doubt that one could expect to see both fighters soon as the options of potential opponents just grows. As fans, all we can do now is hope and pray that the promoters see things the same way.