Daniel Geale will defend his IBF middleweight title this Saturday night on HBO Boxing After Dark, as the Aussie makes his U.S. debut against the UK's Darren Barker, a former world title challenger who fell short against Sergio Martinez in 2011. Get to know these two better before Saturday, when BLH will have live round-by-round coverage of the event starting at 9:45 pm EDT.
What are your thoughts on your opponent, Daniel Geale? Thoughts on fighting in the US in Atlantic City?
This is what it's all about - reaching the pinnacle of your sport should be everyone's goal and I'm close to it now. I truly believe I'm better than him, our paths have mirrored the other; we both boxed in the 2002 Commonwealth Games, he won gold at welterweight, I won at Light Welterweight, we boxed in the World Championships in 2003 in the same weight but on opposite sides of the draw, and I've kept an eye on his pro career as I have on a number of others and I'm very confident, I know what he's all about, I know what I'm all about and I know how to beat him so I can't wait for August 17.
I've had two failed attempts in Atlantic City now - losing my first World title challenge against Sergio Martinez at the Boardwalk Hall in October 2011, and I was back in May in the corner of my gym mate Lee Purdy when he lost to Devon Alexander for the IBF welterweight title - so it feels like third time lucky. He's an Aussie, I'm a Brit, so it's neutral ground but territory that I'm familiar with having boxed there and been in Lee's corner so I feel I have a slight advantage in that respect.
I've heard people say in the past that you can learn from defeat, but I always thought that was mad - how can anything good come from losing? It's not until you experience something invaluable like a defeat in a World title fight to a World class pound-for-pound star like Sergio Martinez that you appreciate the sentiment and I really have taken that negative - losing in a World title fight - and built on it to go one better. I feel I've matured from it and I'm in my prime at 31 now.
That feeling is because my training has changed completely - you have to grow up and learn how your body works, you can't train like an 18 year old for your whole life - but it doesn't mean I train any easier. I work in the pool now more than I run and I've been doing a lot of Yoga which has helped me no end, so I do feel the best I ever have and the total package.
During my training camps for the last two fights against Kerry Hope and Simone Rotolo I was always worried that the injuries might come back and haunt me but now that fear isn't in my head whatsoever, that's all behind me now.
Not only am I right in my body, I also feel right in my mind. I am so motivated to take this title and when I do, it's for my brother Gary, who was such a talented young boxer. He was killed in a car crash back in 2006 and it was the end of my world when it happened, losing my best friend like that. It took me a long time to get the motivation back to get back into the ring but ever since I did, he's been in the ring with me and along with my fiancé and little girl; this title is going to be for Gary.
How did you get stared in boxing & who inspired you?
I've been a boxer for more than 20 years now. I started in Launceston when I was nine years old. I had my first amateur fight at the age of 10, this was the first of a great amateur career. I had 165 fights, with 135 wins.
Growing up I was inspired to box by all of the greats. My favourite fight of all time is Marvin Haggler fighting Sugar Ray Leonard. Although I was heavily influenced by Kostya Tszyu, especially in his fight against Rodriguez. The way Tszyu disposed of him in the fight, it lit a fire within me.
In my professional career, my favourite fight would have to be my fight against Felix Sturm. I feel this was my biggest test. I was in Germany fighting the 12 time defending champ. He was the poster boy for boxing in a country that has produced so many champions.
Barker and I both won gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and we were in the same draw at the 2003 world amateur titles in Bangkok. I've seen some of his pro fights and he seems very confident about beating me. He's a smart boxer, a real thinker. He's nice and rangy and he likes to pick people off; use his speed, skills, footwork and frustrate people. He fought the WBC champ Sergio Martinez and was able to out-think him for much of the fight until he made a couple of bad errors and was stopped late. Barker has a lot of ability. He has a similar style to me BUT Barker does not have my workrate he likes to dictate and control, move and jab and keep long but he doesn't throw the volume of punches that I do.
It's going to be a bit of a chess match. It will come down to who wants it the most and I'm sure I want the title more. Every fight I'll spar up to 150 rounds in preparation, but for this campaign I've done a little more. My style is to be elusive and the way that I box, I try to keep injury at bay. I'm not the type of fighter who walks in and gets hit with two punches to land one. I regard myself as an intelligent boxer. Boxing is brutal but I still regard it as a sport. To me it's never personal. I don't go out there to hurt someone. Even when I'm going for the knockout, my idea is just to land more punches than the opponent. Some fighters talk tough and get very edgy before a fight having to make weight and with the nerves of the big occasion. But my wife and three kids calm me down rather than fire me up.