Macklin aiming for ring graduation!


Macklin aiming for ring graduation!

Matthew Macklin is vowing to finally justify the hype heaped upon him when he faces Jamie Moore for the British light middleweight title in Manchester, England, on Friday. A celebrated amateur, Macklin turned pro in 2001 after claiming the English ABA title and was dubbed "Britain’s version of Oscar De La Hoya". Five years and 18 fights later Macklin’s professional accomplishments to date only extend to him winning the Irish middleweight title. "I’m honestly in the best shape of my life for this. Everything has gone smoothly and I’ve had no niggles this time. Although I’ve been a pro for five years, I’ve lost two years through injuries to my wrists and hands," said Macklin when questioned about his slow progress to date.

However a change of scenery, and trainer, appears to have paid dividends and Macklin’s career is back on track. Now under the guidance of Billy Graham, a former trainer of Moore and current trainer of Ricky Hatton, Macklin has won his last eight fights, seven via the short route. The former university law student is ready to be let off the leash again but he better be ready to put it all on the line against the seasoned and determined Moore.

"Moore’s stronger than most of his opponents but he’s not going to be stronger than me. He’s a southpaw and an underrated boxer. He also works well on the inside throwing short uppercuts and hooks. But as we’ve seen before he can come unstuck," mused Macklin.

If Macklin is to convince the sceptics that he can fulfil his promise, defeat against Moore is unthinkable. But rather than contemplating failure Macklin, and many within the game, believe that winning the British title is just the beginning of the Brummie box-fighter’s journey to glory. Perhaps Moore is of the same opinion? Twice this eagerly anticipated clash has been delayed prompting an exasperated Macklin to question the British champion’s motives.

"It was supposed to happen in May but Jamie pulled out with an injury and then it was rearranged for July 21 but that fell through as well. I don’t understand why because Jamie’s still fighting on Friday night’s card (Moore was forced to take a back seat in preference to European cruiserweight champion David Haye by television paymasters SKY). If he’s not interested in the fight then I’d ask him to give up the title now rather than wait until the fight falls through again," urged Macklin back in July.

But with the fight now firmly rubberstamped as Friday’s main event, Macklin has relaxed his previous beliefs. I don’t believe he’s ducking me anymore. From a business point of view this fight is bad for Jamie. He’s won the Lonsdale belt outright and is looking to fight for the European or one of the world titles. He’s got a lot more to lose by fighting me," asserted Macklin.

"Billy (Graham) knows Jamie well, as does Ricky Hatton through sparring with him. In fact, Jamie’s a friend of the whole camp. It’s fair to say that if I wasn’t fighting him I’d be cheering for Jamie as well but that’s Boxing," he added.

Macklin’s transition from the unpaid ranks was initially a comfortable one as he cruised to nine straight wins. With his considerable amateur pedigree behind him, then promoter Frank Warren decided to fastrack the Brummie into title action on one of his Fight Skool promotions – an opportunity for talented prospects to be the headline act and confirm their reputations in front of a live television audience.

Though paired against the awkward Andrew Facey, Macklin was eventually expected to solve the puzzle and claim the inaugural English light-middleweight title in the process. But after a decent opening, Macklin went off the boil and conceded a close, but fair, 96-95 decision. In his first professional test Macklin had failed his exam.

"I was a talented amateur with a professional style but I was dieting wrong and overtraining. In the Facey fight I got tired midway through but was able to finish strongly. Tactically, and technically, I was very naïve. I hadn’t fought beyond six rounds and didn’t know how to make my opponents work harder than I was," Macklin reflected.

"Since I’ve been with Billy Graham he’s really improved my footwork, there’s more rhythm to me, and as a result I’m hitting harder. I’d struggled for consistency previously but under Billy I’ve boxed well in each of my eight fights with him. Against Michael Monaghan my performance was even better than the result – not many stop him. My best win though was against Alexey Chirkov (KO1). He was a world amateur silver medallist and a European gold medallist. Last time out I stopped Martin Piatkowsk who took Richard Williams eight rounds," he added.

As impressive as Macklin’s recent form has been, question marks over his ability to perform at championship level still linger due to the Facey blemish. Heralded as British boxing’s next big thing beforehand, Macklin was dismissed almost as quickly in the aftermath of his first defeat - somewhat unfairly, he feels.

"You have to remember that I’d only had nine fights at the time. Facey was really awkward and was coming off a third round knockout of Gilbert Eastman. I was a raw 21-year-old who hadn’t boxed for six months. It was gutting for me to lose my ‘0’ but the loss made me a better person and a stronger fighter," he insisted.

Facey’s surprise victory earned him a late-notice crack at Jamie Moore’s British crown just 16 days later. Though a stylistic nightmare for Macklin, Facey presented Moore with no such difficulty as he was dropped five times in a seven round thrashing in November 2003.

Macklin would prefer to remember a different direct comparison between the two, however. In July 2001, Scott Dixon snapped Moore’s unbeaten record with a come-from-behind fifth round stoppage. Three years later Macklin dominated Dixon, forcing him to quit on his stool at the end of the sixth and the 25-year-old believes this statistic is a greater indicator as to who will prevail on Friday.

"Moore did well against Dixon initially but then he fell apart alarmingly. I also threw lots of shots when I fought Dixon and he tried to mount a comeback like he did against Jamie but I wouldn’t let him. That broke Dixon’s heart and he quit after the next round. I think Jamie’s breaking point arrives sooner than mine and this could decide the outcome of our fight."

With his Irish roots and engaging personality the articulate Macklin is a marketer’s dream, on both sides of the Atlantic. A brace of victories Stateside last year led to speculation of Macklin squaring off against unbeaten Irish New Yorker, John Duddy. Returning across the pond as British champion would only increase Macklin’s stock.

"It’s not easy fighting in America and Britain but my manager Brian Peters has done something similar with Bernard Dunne so hopefully we can continue to do both. I took Billy (Graham) with me to the US and the training was good. I didn’t do a lot of sparring while I was over there, we mainly focused on tactics and shadow boxing," explained Macklin.

"I did have a couple of cracking spars with Yousef Mack, the guy who holds a couple of amateur wins over Jeff Lacy. Everyone in the gym stopped training when me and Mack were going at it," he revealed.

Macklin’s animated sessions with Mack should serve him well ahead of Friday’s clash which promises to be a titanic struggle. Though both are concussive punchers Macklin believes his sturdy chin is the vital component that will ultimately separate him from Moore.

"I think it will be a war and we’ll both come out blazing, but not to the point where we’ll be reckless. It’s going to be intense and a real fans fight. Both of us can hit but I believe I’ll stop him," predicted Macklin.

"Michael Jones had Moore over, and although he was injured against Ossie Duran the shot that put Jamie down still did him. I’ve never been down, amateur or pro, and was competing with Senior amateurs as an 18-year-old."

Questions / comments