By Terence Dooley
Birmingham’s Mathew Macklin walks to the ring to the strains of the Frank Sinatra classic Mack The Knife yet the 29-year-old’s professional career could have been played out to the Ol’ Blue Eyes standard My Way as the Brummie has freely switched promoters, trainers and gyms during his journey in order to ensure that he has the very best of everything.
Indeed, Matthew recently stunned the British boxing community when walking away from an April 16th WBA title eliminator against Khoren Gevor, turning his back on a contract with Golden Boy Promotions in the process. Cue a cloudburst of criticism.
Macklin, though, had a sizeable iron in the fire when he made the decision to withdraw from the Gevor fight over ‘contract issues’, a potential WBA title challenge to Felix Sturm, 35-2-1 (15), was on the table. Felix’s new promotional company earmarked the 28-2 (19) contender as the perfect opponent for their latest event. This offer, which comes with a rematch clause should Macklin win, trumped what Golden Boy and, previously, Frank Warren had lined up for the fighter.
“The world doesn’t just revolve around Golden Boy, Frank Warren or what you see and read on these shores. It is a big boxing world out there. People have their own little bubbles that they think are the be alls and end alls but there is more to it than that,” stressed Macklin as he recalled the criticism surrounding his decision to move on from the Gevor fight.
“The people around Felix are very good, straight and to the point. His people have their own shows and TV contracts. They have to deliver big fights against ranked contenders. I am rated at number five in The Ring magazine. They see me as a legitimate world title challenger and this as a bona fide defence.”
Macklin’s recent EBU title performances against Shalva Jomardashvili and Ruben Varon – a sixth-round retirement and point’s win respectively – failed to set the world alight. The 2001 ABA welterweight titlist believes that his recent struggles led directly to the Sturm offer, pointing out that the titlists did not beat down his door when he KO’d Wayne Elcock, in three, and Amin Asikainen, a single stanza icing, in 2009.
“After knocking out Asikainen I couldn’t get a big fight for love nor money. There were no title offers. Then I fight Shalva and Varon and suddenly get offered a title shot,” he opined.
“My win over Varon was a bad performance. People looking from the outside saw me struggle. It is quite coincidental that they picked me as an opponent after I’d had that fight. I think that anyone who goes on my last performance is going to get the shock of their life.
“Once I’ve beaten Sturm people will recognise me as a genuine world champion. Outside of [consensus boss Sergio] Martinez, Sturm is the next guy. Anyone in boxing will tell you that. I’m fighting him for the title that Marvin Hagler and genuine guys held. This is a real championship belt. I’ve not been maneuvered into a vacant interim title shot. I am going into the backyard of a guy who is a household name in his country. The win will be sweeter due to the fact that I’ve done it the hard way. I’ve travelled a lot and nothing fazes me.”
Macklin feels that he has waited in the wings while amateur peers such as David Haye and Carl Froch have gone onto big things, he nodded when asked if he believes that he can still catch up with two of Britain’s finest.
“Without a doubt. I turned pro after winning the ABA title (in 2001). I was only young but smashed everyone in that tournament. I was the best boxer in there that year. Carl Froch won a bronze in the World Championships, David Haye won silver and we were the three that the promoters wanted to sign,” Macklin mused.
“Both Froch and Haye have go onto win world titles. Both are older than me. Froch is a real credit to himself – he’s a throwback. For all his star quality David did things the hard way by going to France to beat Jean Marc Mormeck [for the cruiserweight crown] and to Germany to beat Nikolay Valuev [for the WBA heavyweight title].
“Those guys are an inspiration after what they’ve achieved. I was seen as in their bracket when we turned pro. I really believe now that I am going to achieve and draw inspiration from what they’ve done. Some people get smooth build ups – [Kelly] Pavlik and Top Rank, [Ricky] Hatton with Frank Warren – to the top, fighting regularly every year until they get the big fights.
“Some guys don’t get this, look at Sergio Martinez. He lost to Paul Williams, came back against Pavlik and then banged out Williams in the rematch. Suddenly he’s a superstar. Look at Steve Collins, he fought in America for years earning nothing, really, then comes back over here, knocks out Chris Pyatt [for the WBO 160lb title] and gives Chris Eubank his first defeat before retiring Nigel Benn. It all happened late for Steve. I’ve recently turned 29 and think my best days are ahead of me.”
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