Matthew Macklin: “I believe that the best is yet to come from me”
You can’t keep a good man down and middleweight contender Matthew Macklin, who takes on tough Argentinian Jorge Sebastian Heiland in Dublin on Saturday, is nowhere near ready to throw in the towel on a storied career.
Macklin, from Birmingham, England, acquitted himself well in title fight defeats to Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez, in 2011 and 2012 respectively, but was completely outgunned in June of last year by the division’s monster man, Gennady Golovkin, who knocked him out in three.
Setbacks, in the ring and out, have tested Macklin to the limit but the former British and European champion recently returned to action with a majority decision win over Jose Yebes.
“It was good to get back and shake off the rust,” said Macklin (31-5, 20 knockouts). “No disrespect to Yebes but when you’ve gone from facing Sturm, Martinez and Golovkin in title fights to boxing at 6:00 p.m. in an empty arena, it’s hard to get out of first gear. I got the eight rounds and I got the win and that’s all that matters.
“It’s been a very frustrating year because I got back to winning ways against Lamar Russ but since then it’s been one thing after another. A rematch with Felix Sturm fell through twice, a fight against Peter Quillin fell through, then Jamie (Moore) got shot in Marbella in August and that was a nightmare.”
Moore, a former opponent of Macklin’s and one of the UK’s brightest young trainers, was helping Macklin prepare for Heiland when he was shot twice in the leg during an unprovoked attack. Thankfully he recovered but Macklin quickly made Spain a memory and returned to his old coach, Joe Gallagher, in Manchester, England.
“I had to make a decision quickly and going back to Joe was a no brainer,” said Macklin, who was given a new date for the Heiland bout. “Jamie was out of action and I didn’t want a brand new trainer who would try and teach me new things. Joe knows me and we had a good run together. I only left him in 2010 (following the Sturm fight) because I signed with Lou DiBella and I was going to be located in New York.
“It was a logistical thing and that decision was no reflection on Joe Gallagher as a trainer. The Sturm performance was the best of my career, in many ways, and it was Joe who prepared me for that fight. We’ve always got on well and I didn’t give anyone else serious consideration to be honest.”
With the ship now steady, Macklin returns to main event boxing and promises to be a different animal against Heiland, a busy left hander, who has never been stopped.
“I’m fighting in Ireland and this is a WBC eliminator, so getting up for the fight will not be a problem,” said Macklin, who has strong Irish roots. “That’s been noticeable in sparring because there’s more spite in my work and there’s an edge to me in this training camp. Physical preparation is important but mentally I’m a lot more focused.
“Heiland was on an unbeaten run before he lost to Sebastian Zbik in 2010 and two of the other three losses, he’s suffered since, have been avenged. He’s a solid campaigner, a busy southpaw, who fights at a very high tempo but that’ll be his undoing because he leaves himself open to counter punching.
Macklin continued, “There are weaknesses which I can exploit and with all due respect to Zbik, I believe I’m the best fighter that Heiland will have fought to date. I’m under no illusions of the challenge he presents but a win gets me back to world title contention and that’s my motivation.”
Since Macklin’s three previous title shots the 160-pound landscape has changed dramatically. Golovkin, the WBA title holder, still lurks menacingly in middleweight waters but Sturm has ventured to 168 pounds and Martinez, for all intents and purposes, is likely finished as a big name player.
Miguel Cotto chopped up the remains of the talented Spanish southpaw in June and Macklin, well known and respected in the New York area, would be eager to bring a strong Irish/ British contingent to The Big Apple if a bout against the new WBC champion was on the table.
Macklin said, “Cotto was initially talking about fighting in December and I was one of three possible opponents who were mentioned. It didn’t happen but if a match up against Canelo fails to transpire in May, and Cotto wants to headline in New York, then a fight against me makes sense, providing I win this eliminator.
“Jermain Taylor will also be looking for an opponent soon and I’d be happy to take him on. I’m a recognized name, an experienced contender, and I’ve proven myself at world level in the past. A win on Saturday gets me back in the mix and I’ve got a good team behind me, so I’m sure I’ll get an opportunity.”
Two domestic middleweights who Macklin has yet to encounter are fellow Brit Martin Murray and Irish southpaw Andy Lee, who both seek to upset the odds in pending world title fights.
“It’s hard to see Martin Murray doing better than the norm against Gennady Golovkin,” said Macklin, following a short deliberation. “He may last a few rounds because he’s a tough fighter but I can’t see him winning. Golovkin has great variety, gets around the gloves, works the works body and finds the uppercuts. I think he’ll stop Murray, whether he does it early or late is the question.
“Andy Lee has a WBO title shot against Matt Korobov and I give him a real chance in that one. Korobov is understandably the favorite but Andy is a live underdog and if he is given the time, and the room to maneuver, then he’ll create problems for anyone.”
There are plenty of big name opponents out there for Macklin and one can hardly blame him for keeping his options open. In the modern era there are fighters peaking or winning world titles at an advanced age, whereas twenty years ago the thought of a thirty five year old competing was uncomfortable.
“Times have changed,” said Macklin, who is 32 years of age. “If you look at Carl Froch and Joe Calzaghe, the fights they had in their mid-thirties is what they’ll be remembered for. I believe that the best is yet to come from me because I still have the hunger and the desire to achieve my goals.”
British fans can see Matthew Macklin vs. Jorge Sebastian Heiland live on Sky Sports 2 HD from 7.30pm.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing