Opportunity knocks again for focused Matthew Macklin as he takes on unbeaten Gennady Golovkin

Irishman hoping for success in Saturday night’s fight at the Foxwoods Casino

Matthew Macklin celebrates after defeating Joachim Alcine in the first round of their middleweight fight in Las Vegas, Nevada last year. Photograph: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Matthew Macklin celebrates after defeating Joachim Alcine in the first round of their middleweight fight in Las Vegas, Nevada last year. Photograph: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images


It is a little after 3 o’clock and the rotating fans are on high speed in the Trinity Boxing place, just a few minutes walk from Wall Street.

In a well-worn ring, Matthew Macklin wears a black tee-shirt promoting his Saturday night fight in the Foxwoods casino for just one round as he shadow boxes for the cameras and the small crowd of supporters gathered around him.

But he soon discards it. It is 32 degrees and breathless out and tough weather just to sit around in, let alone to go through the obligatory ringside razzle-dazzle of a big fight promotion.

The Irishman’s fight against Gennady Golovkin, the Kazakh star whose dash and formidable knockout record has made him a pin-up for HBO, represents a chance to atone for the desperately unlucky ends to the two fights around which his career revolves.

Wrong side
In 2011, he came out on the wrong side of one of the more audaciously controversial decisions when he lost a split decision to WBA champion Felix Sturm in Cologne. Two judges scored the bout 116-112 to Sturm, who was defending his belt for the tenth time.

Another had Macklin the winner on 115-113, a count that was vindicated by most independent observers. But the result stood. And on St Patrick’s Day of last year, Macklin was stopped after engaging Sergio Martinez for 11 punishing rounds in Madison Square Garden. Now, he has a third chance to push for domination in the division when he meets Golovkin.

“He is fighting a guy with the best knockout percentage in the history of a 124-year old middleweight division,”, says Brian Peters, the boxing promoter who has worked with Macklin for the past seven years.

“And he has a fearsome reputation now. But we will find out on Saturday night what this is about. But Matthew got a very good deal . . . if you look at risk meets reward, it is probably close to one of the biggest purses in the last 20 years for an Irish fighter. He has lost two of his last three fights so we don’t have a belt or the high ground. But it fell nicely.”

As Macklin goes through his routine, tourists on their way to the World Trade memorial fight pause to look through the large windows. The walls of this old, downtown gym are covered with photographs of long gone boxing men in suits and fighters obscure and famous.

Inspirational quotations - “Let him who desires peace prepare for war” hang for the rafters and retired gloves and boots hang above from the water pipes beneath which Macklin, now glistening in sweat and enjoying himself, goes through his skipping routine.

Lou diBello, the chief promoter of the fight is sitting on a stool near the front desk sipping bottled water and fielding non-stop phone calls. Like most in the Irishman’s camp, he is convinced Macklin has the composure and solidity of character to cause an upset.

“I think it’s an exciting fight and one that Matthew Macklin wins. I think Golovkin has never been in with anyone like Matt before, not as strong as him. If you let Golovkin relax and get into his rhythm then he has a great chance of winning.

“But if you take him out of it, then you have a great chance. And I think Matthew can take him out of his game by pressurising him and making him feel hard punches.”

Macklin has known Golovkin since they both appeared in the World Amateur Championships in Budapest in 2003 but as the Kazakh was fighting at light-middleweight their paths never crossed.

Foot wrong
Since then, Golovkin has hardly put a foot wrong and the one question mark over his glittering professional record, with all 26 fights resulting in knock-outs, is that he has not fought the calibre of fighters which Macklin has.

“HBO and Showtime are in the middle of a war and HBO wanted a seriously credible opponent for Gennady Golovkin and Matthew Macklin ticked all the boxes. He fits the bill perfectly. He fought on the Chavez-Martinez undercard and scored a devastating first round knockout. So he does tick boxes. If he comes through this fight, he can write his own chequebook and write a rematch against Sergio Martinez.

“All of a sudden you have a picture. He is a warrior and HBO are sure he is going to come and give action.

“And they want to see if Golovkin is worth all the hype and Matthew is going to answer those questions from their point of view. And we believe that he is going to win.”

Golovkin, for his part, has been generous in his praise of the Irish man.

“That is good to see,” diBello says. It is good to see mutual respect and if you are naming the handful of best middleweights in the world and they are both in there. And Matthew beat Sturm! So I am going to believe that if he deserves to win the fight on Saturday he is going to get the decision.”