Matthew Macklin hopes to make it third time lucky against Gennady Golovkin
Kazakh packs a punch as his 26 knockouts testify
Matthew Macklin: feels his time has arrived for a world title.
Matthew Macklin sits upstairs in Gallagher’s restaurant on West 52nd Street wearing a grey-peaked cap and a picture of serenity. All around, the mahogany walls are adorned with framed photographs of countless luminaries of sport and cinema who have visited the steak house since it first opened in 1927. The place venerates mid-Twentieth century glamour: a few seats rescued from the late lamented Ebetts Field take pride of place near the door; by the bar hangs a signed, framed photograph Babe Ruth dedicated to Helen Gallagher and nearby a framed letter from the late Princess Grace.
The choice of venue was significant: the selling point of Macklin’s Saturday night title fight against Gennady Golovkin is based on the principle that it is redolent of a vanished era in boxing, when the best fighters stepped into the ring against one another rather than studiously avoiding the bouts.
Golovkin, the World Boxing Association (WBO) and International Boxing Organisation (IBO) middleweight champion is being groomed by HBO as the most exciting talent to emerge on the boxing scene for years, a claim substantiated by the huge viewing figures which the Kazakh has generated during the fearsome trail which has yielded 26 knockouts in as many fights.
Setting this fight against Macklin is supposed to answer the charge that Golovkin’s record is thin on paper and that he has yet to meet a fighter of true substance. Beating Macklin, whose gruelling fights against Felix Sturm two summers ago and Sergio Martinez in New York last year have marked him out as one of the most courageous fighters going, can only serve to burnish Golovkin’s reputation.
“That is what is different with Matt Macklin,” predicted Lou diBello in what was a crowded room. “He has the balls. But I promise you this: win or lose, you are going to have to walk through the fire, Gennady. And you are going to have the toughest fight of your life.”
Those were about the most contentious words spoken in a pre-fight press conference which was, by contemporary standards, almost courtly in atmosphere. Deliberately or otherwise, the promoters on both sides have stressed the quality of the fighters involved as the main attraction of a fight which doesn’t require any hype or trash talk to sell itself.
For Macklin, returning to New York, a city which has a roll call of terrific middleweights, represents the third and perhaps most crucial chance to realise his potential and he vowed that the controversial loss to Sturm and the punishing close against Martinez will stand to him on Saturday night in Foxwoods Resort Casino. “This is my third time fighting for the world title. I was unlucky against Sergio but I do feel I am a better fighter now.
“The hardest challenges have always brought the best out of me and fighting Gennady is going to show that.
“He has a great knockout record but no disrespect to anyone but he hasn’t fought anyone of my calibre. He was winning amateur titles when I was getting involved in 12-round wars so I have the experience and am longer in the tooth than the others he has faced. It is going to be a tough fight but there will be a new middleweight champion in the world leaving that ring.
“I think if you went out like a bull at the gate or a headless chicken; that would be my downfall. But I’m a lot smarter than I look too. I showed in the Sergio fight that I can adapt when I have to. He is never going to meet anyone who wants this as much as I do.”
Golovkin spoke haltingly and respectfully about Macklin – English is his fourth language and shrugged when asked what he thinks the key will be to beating the Irish man. “I think . . . just box. Boxing and power, I think will win the fight.”
Macklin for his part, presented an intriguing figure for American contingent: an Irishman speaking in a broad Brummie accent and smiling as he gave his hosts a sweeping account of Irish emigration patterns. “Most people went to America . . . some go to England.”
“So are you a Brit, then?”
“I think Anglo-Irish is the correct terminology.”
When asked how he would stay on his feet, Macklin grinned: “By not getting hit! And if I do get hit I will come back with my own.
“For once he is going to have to meet someone that is not scared of him. It will be a battle of wills and styles and it will be an intriguing fight.”