NEW YORK -- In the life of an avoided fighter like unbeaten middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, you’ll often take what you can get when it comes to the balance between accepting an opponent who will further your brand or one who will test your abilities.
Ideally, of course, a single opponent would provide both, but that's not always the case.
So as disappointing as it was for Golovkin and his team to see a July 19 pay-per-view bout against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fall apart in the 11th hour, the fall-back plan could prove to be a more valuable test at this stage in his rise. It also could end up being a better fight.
Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs) will defend his belt against former titlist Daniel Geale of Australia on July 26 in GGG's debut at the big arena inside New York’s Madison Square Garden (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET).
Despite losing a lucrative headlining opportunity against a proven brand in Chavez, in a super middleweight fight with tremendous potential for fireworks, Golovkin's replacement bout could answer more of the immediate questions he faces.
Golovkin, 32, is widely considered the top middleweight in the world based upon his destructive run of 10 title defenses and 16 consecutive knockouts overall. He shatters the eye test in the same violent manner in which he smashes his opponents thanks to a dangerous combination of power, technique and relentless -- yet efficient -- pressure.
But for all of the superlatives one could heap upon the native of Kazakhstan, there's still only so much we know about Golovkin until we see him matched against the very best in his division. That, of course, hasn't come from a lack of trying, as Golovkin has regularly offered himself up to just about anyone between 154 and 168 pounds.
Enter Geale (30-2, 16 KOs), a savvy pressure fighter who can alternate between boxer and puncher on the fly while possessing the kind of toughness that won't crack under the intimidation of Golovkin's power.
"I've been watching his fights and seeing what he does," Geale said before a news conference last week in Manhattan to announce the fight. "He has been knocking a lot of guys out because they are in positions for him to do what he does best.
"It changes everything if you're not confident and [are] changing your style before you even get in there. You're going to be in trouble."
Geale, 33, is well aware that Golovkin has pushed as far as the 10th round just once in his career (against Kassim Ouma in 2011). Despite losing his title to Darren Barker by split decision in August 2013 in a fight of the year candidate, Geale has legit top-end experience and has gone 12 rounds in 13 of his 32 pro fights.
"I don't think he has fought too many guys like me before, so that excites me," Geale said. "I'm going to take him to places that he hasn't been before. I'll show him something different, like what it's like to go late in a fight."
Golovkin's lack of experience in the championship rounds often comes with the territory for a devastating puncher who is rising up the ranks. And while both detractors and believers are clamoring to find out what happens when GGG finally faces someone who can push him, they aren't alone.
"It will be interesting for me, too," Golovkin said. "Good question."
Despite his ever-growing fan base and the mythology that is often associated with his name, Golovkin has remained humble. He credits his trainer, Abel Sanchez, with a great deal of his success, and although he adores the attention of his fans, he is quick to remind, "I'm not a superhero at all."
Golovkin is also respectful of the challenge he faces in Geale, saying, "He's a great fighter. He's a good boxer. It will be a great fight."
The fight with Chavez might have been the perfect chance for Golovkin to make his long-awaited leap into the consciousness of a larger audience while furthering his personal brand. But even though, at 32, there's more of an urgency to see those goals come to fruition, the fight against Geale -- the most accomplished and talented opponent of his career -- offers GGG something just as important: critical respect.
And as long as Golovkin can continue to knock down everyone placed in front of him, the rewards of fame and fortune won’t soon be far behind.