Though he entered his 15th year as a paid prizefighter in October, many might be surprised to discover that Commonwealth light-heavyweight boss Enzo Maccarinelli is still only 33 years old.
And the hugely popular banger from Bonymaen still clings to the belief that the rep he earned as a thrilling WBO World Cruiserweight champion back in 2006-8 might yet earn him one final fling at world honours, provided he can keep winning.
After capturing his current belt with a fabulous eleventh round stoppage of Jamaica’s Ovill McKenzie at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena in August, the 6ft 4in pride of Swansea consolidates with an intriguing first defence against 2000 GB Olympic rep Courtney Fry, at the Liverpool Echo Arena tomorrow night (Saturday 7th December). He knows there can be no margin for error.
Remaining tickets are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or online at www.echoarena.com
Boxing writer Glynn Evans found ‘Big Macc’ relaxed and focussed when he caught up with him on the eve of the weigh-in.
Last time out, you delivered your best effort for some years to stop Commonwealth champion Ovill McKenzie. How did you assess your effort?
I was pretty pleased. Everyone thought that I was finished and didn’t have that level of performance left in me. They thought that the only way I’d be able to compete with Ovill was to back off and stay out of range of his power but I beat him at his own game.
We knew Ovill was a come forward fighter but I felt so strong through training that Gary (Lockett, his coach) and I decided our best chance would be to meet him in the centre of the ring.
It was nice to clear up the uncertainty of our first fight which was no fault of Ovill’s. (In November 2012, ‘Macc’ appeared to have been rescued prematurely in round two). Mistakes happen and, at the time I was devastated. (Referee) Ian John-Lewis made a call and I’m sure once he watched the tape again afterwards, he’d have thought differently. But it was pointless crying about it.
People speak about how punishing the second McKenzie fight was but, after a couple of days of eating utter rubbish, I was back in the gym the Tuesday after, with the old sweat suit on to flush it out!
What message do you hope your performance sent out to the boxing community?
That I’m a real force to be reckoned with again at 12st 7(lbs).
I know more than anyone that I’ve suffered some real bad knockouts in the past but the reality is, I wasn’t boxing at my natural weight. Today, I’m pretty much the same weight inside the ring as I was when I was knocking out all those world class cruiserweights six or seven years ago. The only difference is that I hit the scales about a stone lighter.
As a cruiserweight champion, I’d weigh in and fight at about 13.6, 13.7, whereas my opponents were cutting weight to weigh-in at 14.4, then entering the ring even heavier than that. Often, I’d be conceding almost two stones, against world class opposition.
What have you been up to since the second McKenzie?
I’ve mostly just been spending time messing with my five kids. Also, since my dad passed away, I’ve taken over his amateur gym (Bonymaen ABC).
I’d been sort of helping out when dad was alive but I’d just mess around for an hour then duck away. Now I have the responsibility of opening and locking up, taking the boys to shows and stuff. We’ve some talented boys. It’s something I enjoy but its pretty time consuming.
You seem to be really clicking with trainer Gary Lockett, your old stable mate at the Calzaghe gym. What are his qualities as a coach?
After a bit of a fall out with Enzo Calzaghe, I was looking for a new trainer. Gary was the first one I tried and I immediately knew I should have hooked with him earlier. He smiles a lot more these days as a trainer than he ever did as a fighter!
Above all, I’m a huge boxing fan and, at the Calzaghe Gym, there was no one to really talk to about boxing and the big fights that were happening until Gary started training there. He was also a real student of the game so we bonded quite quickly.
Gary’s been there at world level himself and everything he does is in the best interests of his boys rather than for personal or financial gain. He’s got Gavin Rees and myself there – two former world champions - but treats us no differently to the youngsters who also train there. Gary takes no messing and likes things done right. If we take a day off from training, we need a sick note from our mams!
For a while, I’d fallen out of love with the sport. I’m a Catholic but, for a few years, I sort of lost the faith after my dad died and I discovered that my son has autism. But he’s making marvellous progress with his speech and can play on his iPad. It’s fantastic.
Gary’s rekindled my interest and the old confidence is returning.
What do you know of Courtney Fry, the former Olympian who challenges you on Saturday? Why did you choose to defend against him?
I got a phone call from Frank’s office about three weeks ago inquiring how fit I was and whether I’d be prepared to fight? I’m always ticking over so said: ‘Of course.’ I didn’t ask who the opponent was, I never do.
Courtney kindly helped me out with a few rounds of sparring before my second fight with Ovill. Rather than go to war with him, I took advantage of the fact that he’s such a good stand up stylist and tried to compete jabs with him. He’s a nice guy but, come Saturday, we’ll be trying to take each other’s head off!
How do you expect the fight to pan out?
I don’t know. I’ve not had too much time to analyse Courtney’s style but Gary has prepared me for every eventuality. I can box when I need to but I think I’m at my best when I’m coming forward.
Why do you retain?
I win cos I’m on a quest. I feel my best, mentally and physically, that I’ve felt for a long, long time. I still believe I can have a future at world level. People can laugh all they like but I’ve still got the power to compete with anyone. The bad times came when I fought outside my weight limit.
So how do you rate the current crop of world champions at 175lbs? Given the choice, which one would suit you best?
Presently, we have a very good crop of champions.
If I’m truthful, I’ve not seen a great amount of (WBA champ Beibut) Shumenov. (WBO king Sergey) Kovalev seems a pure banger - very, very dangerous - but I’ve not really been able to assess his boxing ability. Adonis Stevenson (the WBC boss) seems a good boxer and an awkward southpaw as well as a big hitter.
But if they pitched me with Kovalev or Stevenson there’d be no point me standing off them. I’d have to try to show them I can punch, as well. I’ve always been game. I’d just go for it.
I’d accept any opening that I was given but, if I could choose one to challenge, I’d actually opt for (IBF titlist) Bernard Hopkins. You can never write him off, even at 48, but it’d be a real privilege to share the ring with an absolute legend.