Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, one of boxing's rising stars, will take on perhaps the best opponent of his career when he makes his 11th defense against former unified titleholder Daniel Geale on July 26.
The fight, K2 Promotions announced on Tuesday, will headline an HBO-televised card at Madison Square Garden in New York. Golovkin, a growing attraction, will graduate from fighting in the Theater at MSG to the main arena, which will be set up for a crowd of about 9,000.
"Since his HBO debut less than two years ago, Gennady has become the hottest international star in boxing and we're thrilled to promote his return to Madison Square Garden," K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler said. "This will be Gennady's first fight in the main arena at Madison Square Garden, where only a select few could headline today."
Golovkin had been ordered to face mandatory challenger Jarrod Fletcher, an unknown and unaccomplished fighter from Australia. However, Golovkin requested an exception to face Geale, who is also from Australia, and it was granted on Tuesday, avoiding the giant headache of K2 Promotions having to make the fight with Fletcher, which HBO said it would not televise and would have necessitated a change of venue.
In the end, Golovkin got the opponent he and HBO wanted.
"I'm happy to be fighting at Madison Square Garden once again. Fighting in front of the great fans in New York City for the third time is an honor for me and I will train hard to defend my titles in style by giving the fans an exciting show," Golovkin said. "Daniel Geale has a lot of world championship experience, is a big international name and I look forward to this challenge."
Golovkin had been scheduled to defend his title against Andy Lee on April 26 at the MSG Theater, but when Golovkin's father died unexpectedly, Golovkin withdrew from the fight.
The plan was for the 32-year-old Golovkin to return July 19, move up to super middleweight and face Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in an HBO PPV main event at the Forum in Inglewood, California, but that deal fell apart. Golovkin agreed to terms for the bout but Chavez and his promoter, Top Rank, could not come to an agreement with each other and Golovkin instead moved on to Geale (30-2, 16 KOs), whose only defeats came by decision to countryman and former super middleweight titleholder Anthony Mundine (which Geale avenged in January 2013) and Darren Barker in a dramatic fight that HBO televised last August.
"I'm pleased to be making my way back to HBO against Gennady Golovkin, a fighter who everyone thinks is invincible," said the 33-year-old Geale, who knocked Barker down but lost a split decision and his belt. "A victory will get me back to where I want to be. The people of Australia believe in me and that's what drives me, my countrymen. I want to show them they have a great champion. On July 26th the world will see me back on top."
Said Gary Shaw, Geale's co-promoter, "Daniel Geale is a throwback fighter who has never backed down from a tough challenge and his mindset is no different going into the Golovkin fight. GGG is considered the top dog in the middleweight division by those in the business, but I believe Geale is the best. We will see how Golovkin fares against someone on his level. I have confidence Geale will come out on top."
In the co-feature, heavyweights Mike Perez (20-0-1, 12 KOs), 28, a former Cuban amateur standout who defected to Ireland, and Bryant Jennings (18-0, 10 KOs), 29, of Philadelphia, will meet in a title eliminator, Loeffler said.
The winner will become the mandatory challenger for the winner of an eventual fight between newly crowned titleholder Bermane Stiverne and current mandatory challenger Deontay Wilder.
Perez-Jennings was originally scheduled for May 24 as the main event of an HBO card in Corpus Christi, Texas. However, Perez suffered a left shoulder injury in a sparring session and the fight was postponed.
Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs), a 2004 Olympic silver medalist from Kazakhstan who lives in Germany and trains in California, has scored 16 knockouts in a row and his 89 percent knockout ratio is the best of all active titleholders.
"Gennady doesn't go looking for knockouts but everyone knows the kind of knockouts he's scored. And Geale has never been stopped before," Loeffler said. "Gennady was the first to stop Lujuan Simon, (Nobuhiro) Ishida and (Osumanu) Adama, but Geale clearly is on another level. It's been hard to get the best middleweights to fight Gennady but Geale stepped up to the challenge."
Geale won a world title by split decision in Germany against hometown favorite Sebastian Sylvester in 2011 and made four defenses, including another upset in Germany when he outpointed Felix Sturm to unify belts in 2012.
After vacating one of the titles in order to take the big-money rematch with Mundine rather than a mandatory against Golovkin, he lost to Barker. Geale rebounded from the defeat to stop countryman Garth Wood in the sixth round in February.
"I think Geale is the best known opponent Gennady will have faced," Loeffler said. "He has a lot of credibility from beating Sturm and Sylvester in Germany. He's clearly the most accomplished fighter that has been willing to get in the ring with Gennady. The goal is for Gennady to put on another exciting performance for his fans."