Middleweight titlist Daniel Geale, the No. 1 active fighter in Australia, will come stateside to make his fifth defense when he faces England's Darren Barker on Aug. 17.
Geale and Barker will meet in the main event of an HBO "Boxing After Dark" tripleheader at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y., Geale co-promoter Gary Shaw and Barker promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport announced.
"Fighting in the United States for the first time is truly an honor," Geale said. "I'm going to give the fans a great night of boxing while representing my country with dignity."
Geale and Shaw have been looking for the right opportunity for Geale fight in the United States. He visited Las Vegas in September to watch the middleweight world title fight between Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez, hoping to lure the winner into a fight.
When that went nowhere, he returned home and outpointed countryman Anthony Mundine in January to avenge his lone defeat, a split decision in 2009. Now Geale (29-1, 15 KOs), 32, is headed to upstate New York to face top-10 contender Barker.
"Barker has to be one of the toughest opponents I've faced on paper, but I've been in the ring with world titlists and it remains to be seen whether or not Barker can offer up anything extra," Geale said. "He is a top-rated fighter amongst 160-pounders, but in the middleweight division that's saying a lot because the entire division is dangerous. A guy in the top 10 at middleweight would be top 3-4 in almost any other division."
Said Shaw: "This division is so good that everywhere you look you see tough fights, but Daniel could've taken an easier fight. There are easier fights out there compared to Barker, but Daniel wanted this fight. The winner will be in a position to be considered the best middleweight out there."
The 31-year-old Barker (25-1, 16 KOs), the former European middleweight champion, suffered his only loss challenging Martinez for the world title in October 2011 in Atlantic City, N.J. Barker gave a great account of himself, taking some early rounds, and gave Martinez a bad bloody nose before Martinez rallied to knock him out in the 11th round.
"I'm going to have my hands full, that's for sure," Geale said. "Barker gave Martinez all sorts of fits, but he is an even better fighter now, and I think he has improved a great deal since the Martinez fight. I'm not sure Martinez could beat Barker now. Maybe Martinez planned on fighting Barker before he got too good? I want the fights that will give me the biggest challenges, and I plan on handling Barker better than anyone has. It won't be easy, but that's what I'll attempt to do."
Barker has won both of his fights since the loss to Martinez by fourth-round knockout. The fight with Geale will be his second in the United States and third outside of England. Barker fought once in Canada in 2008.
"This is a golden opportunity for me, and I feel it's my time to shine," Barker said. "It's been a tough journey for me, but I'm one fight away from realizing my dream and becoming world champion. I've dedicated my entire life to this sport, and since the Sergio Martinez fight I really feel like I've grown as a fighter. I can't wait to bring that IBF world title back to the U.K."
"This is the fight that Darren wanted so badly, and now he's got it," Hearn said. "This is a wonderful fight between two incredibly gifted middleweights, it's a pure 50-50 fight, and I know Darren is going to bring it home."
Geale won his title by split decision in Germany against hometown fighter Sebastian Sylvester in an upset in May 2011. Last September, Geale returned to Germany and won another split decision, this time against Germany's Felix Sturm, to unify two of the major 160-pound world titles. However, Geale eventually vacated the belt he picked up against Sturm in order to take the lucrative rematch with Mundine rather than face Gennady Golovkin in a mandatory fight.
The other two bouts on the tripleheader have not been finalized yet, although one of the matches is likely to involve junior featherweight titlist Jonathan "Momo" Romero (23-0, 12 KOs) of Colombia in his first defense. He won a vacant belt on Feb. 16, taking a split decision against Alejandro Lopez.