Fighting words spark the spirit

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Fighting words spark the spirit

Post  shakefree on Sat Oct 27, 2012 5:27 pm

WHEN Daniel Geale moved to Sydney in 2004 to begin his professional boxing career, he lived near the famous Redfern gym owned by Anthony Mundine's father, Tony.

''I lived just up the road from there in Redfern Street, but he wouldn't have even known who I was back then,'' Geale said.

Despite having won two middleweight world titles in Germany in the past 18 months, Geale remained virtually unknown to most Australians until last week's announcement that he would fight Mundine.

The bout, which is expected to be in Sydney in late January, is set to be the biggest boxing event in Australia since Mundine beat Danny Green at the Sydney Football Stadium in 2006.

''It is frustrating that my fights in Germany didn't get that much attention but that is just the way it is,'' Geale said of his defeat of IBF champion Sebastian Sylvester last year and his September 2 win against WBA belt holder Felix Sturm.

''Nobody has ever done that before, especially twice. But over here there is definitely a lot more attention on fighting Mundine.

''I guess Mundine has been around for a long time and he always finds a way to get his name out there, so we knew a fight like this was going to draw a lot more attention.''

The way Mundine did that - by questioning the Aboriginality of Geale and his ''white'' wife, Sheena, at last Thursday's joint press conference - angered the 32-year-old Tasmanian.

Even more so, he said, because he had cheered for Mundine in world title fights against the likes of Sven Ottke, Antwun Echols and Mikkel Kessler, and considered him an indigenous role model.

''In boxing, I did - not in the media,'' Geale said during an interview at Grange Old School Boxing Gym, in Smeaton Grange, where he trains. ''As people can see, I am pretty much the opposite of him. I don't go and create waves and say stupid stuff. But I used to watch a few of his fights and I probably supported the guy a bit, especially when he was fighting some of the international guys.''

Asked what he now thought of Mundine, Geale said: ''I have never really sat down and had a chat with the guy so I couldn't really give you an opinion. Maybe he is a great guy. A lot of people say he is a nice guy but all I see is what is in the media and a lot of people don't like that.''

Among them is Sheena, who told her husband he had no right to accept Mundine's apology when the boxers appeared together on Channel Nine's Wide World of Sport last Sunday.

With her father being a NSW Koori, like Mundine, Geale said Sheena had more right than him to be angry.

''She was at the press conference but she actually wasn't there at that moment when Anthony was saying those things, so that was probably lucky,'' Geale said.

''Everyone was talking about it afterwards, and my wife was angry but I don't believe he meant it the way it came out. I think it just came across bad because he just basically compared himself and the way, I guess, that he represents his people to me having a white wife and white kids.

''It came across that he was better because he has got black kids, or my kids aren't as good because they are white, and that did offend me. If he had pushed it too much further I think I might have done something.

''But what hurt the most was how much it offended everybody else in my family and even the people in Tasmania. My nan was really angry; she was wild.''

Geale suggested the comments were a tactic by Mundine to unsettle him ahead of the fight.

''I think all of it, everything that happened last week, was an attempt to get into my head,'' he said.

''But that is not going to work.''

Instead, Geale believes he has a psychological edge over Mundine, saying: ''I think I have been in his head for a long time.''

Geale is referring to their previous bout, at Brisbane Entertainment Centre in 2009 for the IBO middleweight title, which was won by Mundine in a controversial split decision.

The loss remains Geale's only defeat in 29 bouts, but the 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medallist said it was a ''stepping stone'' for bigger and better things.

His split points decision over Sylvester in Neubrandenburg last year was the first world title win by an Australian boxer in Germany, and Geale did it again when he beat Sturm in a unification bout in Nordrhein-Westfalen last month.

However, Geale said he had wanted the chance to avenge his loss to Mundine.

''I think I surprised him a lot and I think I surprised a lot of people around Australia as well because I was relatively unknown before that fight,'' Geale said.

''I have had to wait about three years for a re-match, so it definitely does serve as motivation.''

Mundine admitted after their first bout that he had barely studied any footage of his opponent but Geale knows the three-time world champion will be better prepared this time.

''People are writing him off a bit but he is the type of guy who steps up for bigger fights, so we are not expecting an easy fight,'' Geale said.

''He has got a big ego, he doesn't like losing and he is a good athlete, so he is going to train hard and he is going to be focused for this fight.

''He will be doing his homework, and this time I am sure he will be watching all of the tapes on me.



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