Daniel Geale and Darren Barker will come to U.S. soil on August 17 for an HBO Boxing After Dark main event, as the two will meet for Geale's IBF middleweight title at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York.
Geale (29-1, 15 KO) will be making the fifth defense of his title, which he won in 2011 from Sebastian Sylvester. Geale briefly unified the belt with a win over Felix Sturm, taking the WBA title, but that belt was soon in other hands due to whatever, blah blah, boxing crap. His last fight came on January 30, when he beat Anthony Mundine, with Geale avenging the lone defeat of his career.
Outside of Sturm, though, Geale's defenses have been less than spectacular. Mundine was old and faded, and the duo of Eromosele Albert and Osumanu Adama didn't exactly move the needle. Barker (25-1, 16 KO) is a back-end top ten guy, who didn't look totally out of his element against Sergio Martinez in 2011.
Given what we've seen from Sturm in his recent fights, Barker may indeed be Geale's toughest test since winning the belt.
"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," said Geale.
"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."
And while the fight's location is more due to getting the HBO exposure than it making any sense otherwise for the matchup, Geale is excited to come to the States.
"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."
The 32-year-old titlist also believes that Barker, 31, is better now than he was against Martinez. "I'm going to have my hands full, that's for sure. 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," said Geale.
"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."
For his part, Barker is itching for an opportunity, and he's got one now.
"This is a golden opportunity for me and I feel it's my time to shine," the Londoner 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 UK."
There is no undercard yet for the fight, but promoters Gary Shaw and Eddie Hearn should have plenty to offer up, whether it winds up being a double- or triple-header (and hopefully, it's a triple-header).
It's certainly early, but who do you have here? Does Geale keep his streak going, or does Barker break through and win his first world title?