By Terence Dooley
Enzo Maccarinelli's British cruiserweight title win over former champion Shane McPhilbin in Wolverhampton last Friday night was supposed to be a chance for the popular Welshman to lift the domestic 200lb crown before resuming his assault on the light-heavyweight rankings. Many believed that McPhilbin, who won the Lonsdale belt with a thrilling final round TKO of Leon Williams in January, would put up a game, albeit losing, defence of his crown and allow 'Big Mac' to win a title that had eluded him during his WBU and WBO world title winning career at the weight.
Shane, though, had other ideas, he floored Enzo heavily in round one, Enzo rose and took a knee to buy himself time and rose only for the timekeeper, Martin Fallon, to ring the bell 47 seconds early. Fallon's nightmare night continued in the break between rounds, he only allowed both men a 30 second rest period and his inept performance has led the BBBoC to call for an immediate rematch between the two as well as a suspension for the timekeeper that runs until January 1 2013. Although Fallon will probably come back to duty four months earlier than expected given his timekeeping issues.
It was an unfortunate human error. Naturally it has led to claims that the official was trying to protect Maccarinelli, although this accusation is rendered somewhat obsolete by the shortened break between rounds, which limited Enzo's recovery period. There have been calls for a NC, these were ignored, and the rematch, the Board have made good on this.
Now it all hinges on Maccarinelli, will the 31-year-old ditch the title and move back to 175? Has this shaky performance underlined the fact that he needs to retire and prompted the fighter to do so? Can the former world champion shake off age, a recent run of bad KOs and the recent death of his father and get himself mentally and physically right for the challenges ahead? I put these questions to the straight talking Swansea-based champion earlier today.
“No, I pretty much asked for it,” said Maccarinelli when asked by BoxingScene.com if he will vacate the belt rather than have another fight with McPhilbin. “My intentions are known when it comes to going to light-heavy, I was only 189 to his 199lbs on the night, but I loaded up on water to give the impression I was bigger and that was a mistake. I am disappointed with the way I boxed, even before I got caught in the first I hadn't really thrown a punch. I'm disappointed and will give McPhilbin the opportunity he gave to me.
“It is not my duty to him, it is my duty to myself. I went to light-heavy, but came up for this fight and four weeks before I was 12 stone 9. It all boils down to me underestimating Shane through the fact of the mindset I was in because of my dad, Mario, passing away [in January] and everything else, but I still thought I could get through it quite comfortably only to find out I couldn't on the night.”
Calls for his retirement have rang out in light of Maccarinelli's mixed form. KO losses to David Haye, Ola Afolabi, Denis Lebedev and Alexander Frenkel led to fears that the fighter had carried on too far beyond his prime and was risking his health. Fans have a funny attitude to this type of thing, we love it when fighters knock holes out of one another in FOTY candidates, yet we do not like to see guys take shots when they are no longer at their peak and can no longer provide us with world title nights and big fights., probably to stave off our own guilt rather than out of genuine concern for people we hardly know and did not really care about a few years before they hit the skids.
Maccarinelli, 35-5 (27), feels that concerns over his well being should be placed into context, he has won British and EBU titles in recent times and believes he showed some survival instinct when taking a knee in that first round.
“Listen, if you look at it again, I went down and jumped straight back up, which I'd done in the past against Afolabi and Frankel, and that was always my mindset,” he said. “This time I thought, 'No, I've done this before', took a knee and watched Ian John-Lewis count. Then the bell went early and I was the only one who heard and responded to the bell so my senses were there. My mind was totally clear. What did annoy me was that for a split second I nearly quit.
“I was in such a state with thoughts going through my head that I nearly sat it out, but my dad popped into my head and said, 'F***ing get up and fight!', when I was in a total distress state and had underestimated Shane plus given weight away. I went in with the mindset that it would be a comfortable night, it wasn't early, but after the fourth he barely won a round.
“I honestly believe that I could have carried on for those 47 seconds [that were lost due to the timekeeper's error]. I reacted to the count and the bell. The knockdown took the shine of the win a bit, that is why people want the rematch to see what will happen, but there was only one fighter in it after the early rounds despite me boxing very badly. Shane proved himself a very tough champion and deserves another chance.”
Enzo dedicated the title win and his previous fight, a second-round win over Ciaran Healy, to the memory of his father, he is clearly still feeling the pain. Maccarinelli also had to contend with a farcical training situation, Enzo Calzaghe prepared him for the fight only for a lapsed First Aid certificate, and his refusal to take the BBBoC's refresher course, to KO Enzo's licence reapplication and leave Maccarinelli searching for a new cornerman, with veteran matchmaker Dean Powell getting the nod. Hardly ideal circumstances for the challenger, who answered honestly when I expressed surprise at his admission that the thought of quitting had entered his mind and asked if this was due to the turmoil surrounding him.
“It was pretty much down to turmoil, yeah,” he said. “I've been down before and got up before without even thinking of quitting. The punch caught me high up on the head and by that time I'd had enough what with Enzo Calzaghe not getting his licence and not being in my corner. There was so many problems. I thought to myself, 'I've had enough', until my dad popped into my head to spur me on. Plus Dean was brilliant, he was great on the night.
“My training had gone well, I felt strong, then I went into the ring and for a split second I was looking for my dad [in the corner]. That isn't an excuse or whatever, I literally did look for him and then thoughts of the funeral came in as well – my head was all over the place.
“I've now spoken to [promoter] Frank [Warren], Shane gave me the honour of fighting for the British title and I'll do the same for him, but I can't keep giving away weight so I'll go back to light-heavy afterwards. I was offered a chance, jumped at it, but I want to be down at 175 and will have to have a little break, get my weight up a little bit and offer Shane the chance he gave to me. I need to sort out my sparring and show the real Enzo, not the shadow who was there on March 23.”
As for retirement, Maccarinelli insists that he will call time on his career when he feels that he can no longer compete, he was quick to point out that the McPhilbin fight differed from his KO defeats as he went down, got back up again and won the bout. Indeed, he blamed his early knockdowns, he was down in the third also, on overconfidence.
He said: “I won't retire. I know a lot of people like me and don't want me to get hurt, but I'm not the first fighter who went down and got back up I'm not putting myself up there with them, but guys like Sugar Ray Leonard and Felix Trinidad underestimated fighters and were put down. I'm reading Leonard's book at the moment, he underestimated Kevin Howard and went down. I still enjoy the sport, but I think the time has come for me to be a bit more selfish and do things that suit me and not everybody else.”
An all-Welsh showdown with WBO light-heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly is still a tantalising possibility should Maccarinelli beat McPhilbin again and then notch up a decent win at 175. Enzo feels that the plan to present Cleverly with a summer stadium showdown in his home country hinges on having someone in the opposite corner who can shift tickets. There is talk of bringing Bernard Hopkins or Chad Dawson over – here in the real world many people expect that Maccarinelli will be given the nod. True to form, Maccarinelli will take the assignment should it come.
“If I look amazing in my next fight at light-heavy then apparently there's a stadium booked for Nathan in Wales in the summer and who else can help him fill that stadium?” he asked.
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