NEW YORK -- Gennady Golovkin was a hit in his first appearance at Madison Square Garden.
If Golovkin has his way, he will get another attempt at fighting in the big arena against another Madison Square Garden regular - Miguel Cotto.
Golovkin easily retained his WBA middleweight championship Saturday night, stopping Daniel Geale at 2:47 of the third round in front of 8,572 fans.
"It's the biggest name that will get in the ring with him," said Tom Loeffler of K2 promotions. "That's our target. Miguel had a victory. He and Gennady Golovkin would be the biggest fight in the Garden and it's a unification fight."
"I want to fight him next and prove to the world without a doubt that I'm the best middleweight in the world," Golovkin said about Cotto, who has fought nine times at Madison Square Garden "That is very important to me."
Seven weeks after Cotto stopped Sergio Martinez in the 10th round for the WBC middleweight title, Golovkin was even more impressive.
Golovkin improved to 30-0 with his 17th straight knockout and 27th overall, giving him a knockout rate of 90 percent - the highest in middleweight history.
The end came with a series of shots in the corner late in the third. After taking a shot from Geale, Golovkin struck with a right hand to the nose and followed with a left hand. That sent Geale to the canvas and referee Michael Ortega stopped the fight.
"It was a big step fighting in the arena and I'm happy to be performing for the fans," Golovkin said. "I was patient in the first round and part of the second. This is my style but once I figured him out, I was able to attack aggressively. I knew it was a matter of time.
"It was difficult to time Geale because he was coming in and out," trainer Abel Sanchez said. "Gennady hit him with a perfect left-right (combination) and the fight was over."
By the time Golovkin finished off his 11th title defense, Geale had already been bloodied in the right eye. That came about midway through the second round.
"I don't think there's anyone at 160 who can go 12 rounds with Gennady," said Geale's trainer, Gary Shaw. "I think that knockout streak will go on for a long time.
Golovkin also nearly won the fight early in the second round. Less than 30 seconds into the round, Golovkin used a combination along the ropes that caused Geale to fall down. That came after Beale slipped with 18 seconds remaining in the opening round and that round inadvertently went four minutes.
Geale (30-3), a former unified middleweight titleholder lost for the second time in three fights. He also lost to England's Darren Barker last August in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
"Golovkin's really quick and I think I fell into a couple of his traps," Geale said. "I was disappointed in myself. Things were going right early on. I guess that's what happens when you relax a little bit. I got caught."
In the co-featured bout, Bryant Jennings (19-0) won a controversial split decision over Mike Perez (20-1-1) in a WBC eliminator heavyweight fight. Jennings became the mandatory challenger for the WBC heavyweight championship vacated by longtime champion Vitali Klitschko in December and his next fight will be either Bermane Stiverne or Deontay Wilder.
"He wouldn't trade with me," Jennings said. "I wanted him to stand in there with me and fight. I was expecting the inside pressure and it didn't happen."
Judges Glenn Feldman and Joe Pasquale had Jennings winning by scores of 114-113 and 115-112, respectively. Tom Schreck had Perez winning by a 114-113 margin.
Perez wound losing a point with about a minute and a half remaining in the 12th after withstanding an early flurry by Jennings. He punched Jennings over the break in the ropes and referee Harvey Dock deducted a point
"Mike was terrific," trainer Adam Booth said. "He won this fight clearly by three rounds. The referee took it away from him."