For the second time in seven weeks, a major world middleweight title is at stake Saturday night in the main arena at Madison Square Garden. If Gennady Golovkin's handlers get their wish, a successful defense of his WBA and IBO belts against Australian Daniel Geale would lead to a unification bout with WBC champion Miguel Cotto, who upset Sergio Martinez on June 7 to gain recognition as the lineal champion in the division.
Defeating former IBF middleweight champion Geale (30-2, 16 KOs) is no easy task, but in the wake of Martinez's loss, Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs) generally is regarded as the best middleweight in the world. The only problem is that the fighter from Kazakhstan still is building his name recognition.
Tom Loeffler, who promotes Golovkin, predicted the show on HBO, which also includes a WBC heavyweight title eliminator between Cuban Mike Perez (20-0-1, 12 KOs) and Philadelphia's Bryant Jennings (18-0, 10 KOs), will be the network's highest-rated boxing show of the year.
Golovkin, who fought twice previously in the Theater at Madison Square Garden, isn't likely to sell out the main Garden, as Cotto and Martinez did, but Loeffler believes a fighter working on a string of 16 straight stoppages will draw.
"He couldn't have come this far in his career without fighting in New York City at the Garden," Loeffler said yesterday of Golovkin. "We think he's on the biggest stage in the world.
"But the biggest event right now at the Garden would be Gennady versus Cotto. It doesn't get any bigger than that, and that would be our ultimate goal is to fight Miguel here at the Garden."
If Golovkin can get past Geale, his plans call for another fight in October or November to gain the exposure necessary to become a pay-per-view attraction. Figure the long-range goal is to lure Cotto into a unification bout next May or June when he traditionally fights at MSG.
"We would make a lot of concessions to make that fight," Loeffler said. "It would be a great unification fight. We believe Gennady is the best middleweight champion out there. Miguel made a big statement, had a great performance in his last fight, and I think it would be a great matchup. I know television and the Garden would be interested in that fight."
The big question is whether Cotto, who just moved up to middleweight, would be willing to take on a powerhouse puncher like Golovkin. "The way he dominated Sergio, who for a long time was considered the best middleweight, is a great testament to [Cotto]," Loeffler said. "We strongly feel Gennady is by far the best middleweight champion, and there's only one way to prove it."
First, Golovkin has to make it happen Saturday night with a convincing performance against Geale.