Boxing

 
          === Aussie Geale aims to conquer homeland, middleweights ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Boxing Editor
 
 Cape  Coral, FL (Sports Network) - It's been an important few years for Daniel
 Geale.
 
 Though  the  native Australian became a  world champion by capturing the IBO's
 middleweight  crown  in late  2007,  it  wasn't until  he  lost  that belt  to
 countryman  Anthony  Mundine 17 months later  that his climb to the upper 160-
 pound echelons actually seemed to begin.
 
 Three  fights  after the Mundine meeting,  which remains his lone career loss,
 Geale  stopped  Russian veteran Roman Karmazin  to earn a shot at IBF claimant
 Sebastian  Sylvester  in late 2010. He  ventured to Germany the next spring to
 dethrone  the incumbent by split decision, and has since defended three times,
 including  a return trip  to Germany to end Felix Sturm's five-year run as WBA
 title-holder.
 
 Geale  is back to face a familiar foe (Mundine) on familiar turf (Sydney) this
 Wednesday,  in  his latest  bid to reach  the rarified air  now claimed by the
 division's consensus No. 1, Argentine vet Sergio Martinez.
 
 We  caught up  with the 31-year-old in  his final few days of training camp to
 discuss  the Mundine rematch,  his plans to one day fight in the United States
 and  exactly  where he sees himself  amid the collection of viable entities at
 middleweight.
 
 Fitzbitz:  Not that  long  ago, you  were an  Australian  middleweight with  a
 lightly-regarded  title belt and little recognition outside your home country.
 These  days, you  have recognizable credentials and you're in the top three at
 160  pounds on all legitimate lists. Talk about the climb you've made. Are you
 surprised  at all?  Was it always expected?  How important was it to you to be
 taken                 more                seriously                 worldwide?
 Geale:  For me it  is a constant learning process. Boxing has been my life for
 20 years and you only get out what you put in. Every day I challenge myself to
 improve  skills and  fitness so that when  I face up to each new opponent they
 are  fighting  the best version of  me at that  time. I don't really dwell too
 much on what I am achieving at the moment. Whilst I am proud of the milestones
 on  the journey, the  job is far from finished and no matter how I am judged I
 will always be able to look back and know I did the best I could do.
 
 Fitzbitz:  Looking  back, the only blemish  on the record is the first Mundine
 fight.  What can you  tell me about it? Clearly, you thought you won, correct?
 Can  you  recall how  the  fight  unfolded and  what  sorts  of challenges  he
 presented           that          were          especially          memorable?
 Geale:  The  fight with  Mundine seems  a lifetime  ago and  I was a different
 fighter  back  then. On the  night I  believed I had  done enough to retain my
 belt.  Anthony is  a great athlete, has good speed and reasonable power. Apart
 from  me  being  lazy  and  getting  caught  early,  he  didn't  present  many
 challenges.
 
 Fitzbitz:  I'm not as  aware of the state of things in Australia, but it seems
 that in the United States Mundine is known as much for what he says as what he
 does  in the ring. Can you tell me how the public generally perceives Mundine?
 Is  he seen  as a  legitimate fighter,  more of  a character  or something  in
 between?
 Geale:  I don't like to judge others, but Anthony has built his career more on
 what he says than what he has achieved.
 
 Fitzbitz:  What's  the relationship like  between you two? Legitimate dislike?
 Simple  competitive  rivalry? Are you  any more  motivated facing him than you
 would  be anyone  else? How much does the  fact that he's the only one who can
 claim       to       have      beaten       you      figure      into      it?
 Geale:  We have no relationship. Any feelings I have toward him will be sorted
 out in the ring on Jan. 30.
 
 Fitzbitz:  What  is the atmosphere for  a top-end professional athlete in your
 country? Are you recognized on the street? Do you have a significant fan base?
 How  does it compare  to the adulation that other athletes you're aware of get
 in              their             own              home             countries?
 Geale:  I am humbled by the recognition I am receiving, when at the end of the
 day  I'm just  a man doing the best  he can for his family who just happens to
 fight for a living.
 
 Fitzbitz: You've fought a couple title fights outside Australia. Did you enjoy
 competing elsewhere? How important, in your view, will it be to take fights in
 Europe  or the United  States as you continue forward as a professional? Is it
 something you see as necessary, or are you happy enough staying where you are?
 Geale: I've always enjoyed travelling to compete in other countries as both an
 amateur  and a  professional. It  adds a  little extra  satisfaction when  you
 venture  in to someone's backyard as an unknown and an underdog then come away
 victorious.  I can't wait to fight in the U.S.A. I thought the opportunity had
 arrived  after my  last win in Germany and  my team had me ringside to look at
 fighting  the winner of Chavez vs. Martinez. Unfortunately that was not to be,
 but I'm sure a stateside debut is not far away.
 
 Fitzbitz:  Look  at the rest  of the 160-pounders  in the world. Regardless of
 who's  got what  belt, who is the best  fighter in the division? Is it you? If
 so,       why?       If      not,       who      is      it      and      why?
 Geale:  The middleweight division is a great place to be at the moment, with a
 lot  of  class  opponents  and  great  potential  matchups  Martinez,  Murray,
 Golovkin,  Quillin, Chavez, Macklin, Sturm and I am happy to fight any and all
 of  them. Sergio is  regarded No. 1 and I look forward to meeting him when the
 time comes. To be the best you have to beat the best.
 
 Fitzbitz:  Speaking of  the  landscape at  160, and  assuming  things go  well
 against  Mundine, what's on the agenda? Is it Sergio Martinez? Chavez? Someone
 else?  Is a  move to 168 a  thought, considering all the big names that reside
 there?    What   goals    do   you   have   remaining   as   a   professional?
 Geale:  The  winner of Soliman  vs. Sturm will become  my IBF mandatory, but I
 leave all that to my team. For now I'm just concentrating on my next fight and
 when that is over I'll get ready for whoever is put in front of me.
 
 Fitzbitz:  And,  along those lines,  when you decide to  hang up the gloves --
 whenever  that is  -- what  do you  have to  accomplish to  allow yourself  to
 consider the career a success? Was winning a world title the ultimate goal? Do
 you    want    to   be    considered    a    top   pound-for-pound    fighter?
 Geale:  I don't  really think about an end.  My life is boxing and when I stop
 competing  I will continue working with my amateur team and putting back in to
 the  sport that has given me so much. How I am rated when my career is over is
 something  for others to  decide. All that is important to me is that I do the
 best I can for my family.
 
 * * * * * * * * * *
 
 This week's title-fight schedule:
 
 WEDNESDAY
 IBF middleweight title - Sydney, Australia
 Daniel Geale (champion) vs. Anthony Mundine (No. 5 contender)
 Geale (28-1, 15 KO): Fourth title defense; Former IBO/WBA champion at 160
 pounds
 Mundine (44-4, 26 KO): Twelfth title fight (8-3); Defeated Geale for IBO title
 in 2009 (SD 12)
 Fitzbitz says: "The younger of the two Australians has improved greatly since
 first his meeting with Mundine, and should even the score to hold onto his
 third title belt." Geale by decision
 
 NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-
 fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA
 "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the
 weight class.
 
 Last week's picks: None
 2013 picks record: 2-1 (66.6 percent)
 Overall picks record: 464-153 (75.2 percent)
 
 Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally
 since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
 posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at
 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
 
 
 01/29 15:48:20 ET

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