Matthew Macklin has been on the cusp.
Twice, he challenged for a middleweight title and on both occasions he emerged empty-handed.
But this time, Macklin says, will be different.
Macklin (29-4, 20 knockouts) aims for his first belt on Saturday against crushing puncher Gennady Golovkin, the main event of HBO’s Boxing After Dark from the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn.
“Everyone talks about Gennady’s power, but I have that kind of power, too,” Macklin told RingTV. “I catch you clean, you’re done. ÔÇª I’m a lot more proven. I’ve been in there with bigger punchers, better fighters. You know what you’re getting with Gennady, there’s a lot of hype, and his amateur pedigree suggests he is the real deal. But he hasn’t really been hit on the chin by a big 160-pounder yet.”
The UK-bred, New York-based fighter represents a quantum leap in competition for Golovkin, who has steamrolled his way to quasi-legend status in the sport. The best foes Golovkin has faced are Gabe Rosado and Grzegorz Proksa, fighters who don’t even begin to measure up to Macklin.
Macklin, 31, has great strength, good power and is willing to mix it up. His attributes bode well for a crowd-pleasing fight.
But Macklin’s best traits heading into this bout might be toughness and confidence. There’s been almost a Tyson-esque aura surrounding Golovkin. He’s seen as an indestructible force, a guy who can’t be beat. Macklin respects the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, but is he drinking the Kool-Aid?
“They (hyped fighters) will get beaten, they do get beaten. They are human,” said Macklin, THE RING’s No. 6 middleweight. “When they get hit on the chin, they get knocked out just like anyone else does. When they go 10 rounds at my pace, they get tired just like anyone else does.
“A lot of these guys – Rosado and (Nobuhiro) Ishida (whom Golovkin KO’d in his last fight) – deep down they know they’re not really on that level,” he continued. “But I’ve proven I’m on that level to myself more importantly than anyone. I know I belong on this level.”
Macklin’s first opportunity at a championship came in June 2011 against Felix Sturm. Most observers thought Macklin deserved the nod, but Sturm, fighting in his native Germany, was declared the winner by split decision.
His breakthrough performance against Sturm earned him a shot against RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in March 2012. Macklin gave a spirited effort and was leading on the cards for much of the bout, but he was stopped by Martinez in the 11th round.
He rebounded with a rousing first-round stoppage of Canadian veteran Joacim Alcine in September 2012. The demonstration of dynamic punching power was just the confidence boost Macklin was seeking.
“I’m by far the biggest puncher (Golovkin has) fought — something in his mind, something in my mind,” Macklin boasted. “It’ll be a big factor in the fight. He’s not going to be able to just walk in on me like he did against other opponents.”
Macklin recently underwent rhinoplasty surgery to correct a breathing problem with his nose, an injury he attributes to “general wear and tear.” He says he’s now able to breathe far better, which will help with conditioning during fight night.
The improved conditioning will come in handy since Macklin has fought less than one round – 2:36 to be precise – in the past 15-plus months. But he isn’t worried about ring rust, saying: “When I fought Martinez, I hadn’t fought for nine months. This will be nine months again. ÔÇª I’ve looked after myself, I live properly.”
Can Macklin finally get over the hump? Or is Golovkin the unbeatable fighter he’s made out to be? Macklin seems sure he knows the answer.
“Everyone gets beaten in boxing and this guy ain’t no different,” he said. “And I wanna be the one who beats him.”
Photos: Jeff Bottari-Gettyimages; Alex Grimm-Bongarts/Gettyimages
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger