By Jake Donovan
Matthew Macklin is pretty much on his ninth life in terms of middleweight relevancy. The three-time title challenger is granted a golden opportunity to stay afloat, only because he is owed an HBO-televised date in exchange for bravely accepting a title fight versus fire-breathing Gennady Golovkin.
While the credentials of Golovkin rang out throughout the boxing world, far greater mystery surrounds tonight’s opponent. Macklin squares off against late placement Lamar Russ, who accepted assignment in place of injured rising contender Willie Nelson.
The bout takes place in Atlantic City, serving as the first leg of a televised tripleheader on HBO. Also included on the show, Glen Tapia puts his unbeaten record on the line versus returning knockout artist James Kirkland, while Guillermo Rigondeaux defends his lineal super bantamweight championship against former bantamweight titlist Joseph Agbeko in the evening’s headliner.
Tonight’s contest marks the first piece of ring action for Macklin (29-5, 20KO) since the three-round drubbing he suffered against Golovkin this past June. The loss marked the third time he fell short of claiming a middleweight belt, though offering far more competitive performances in losses to Sergio Martinez (TKO11) and Felix Sturm (SD12).
Still, a win is required at some point if the 31-year old wants to remain in the hunt. Standing in his way is an obscure challenger, though one who is unbeaten, younger and fresher.
The 26-year old Russ (14-0, 7KO) has youth, height and reach on his side, but is taking a massive leap in quality of opposition for this fight. Still, rewards are only as enjoyable as the risks taken to achieve them, a trend carried forth by several fighters who fight for Russ’ manager, Egis Klimas.
Included under the aforementioned managerial banner are the likes of Sergey Kovalev, Egveny Gradovich and Vyacheslav Glazkov - all of whom enjoyed breakout campaigns in 2013 – as well as two-time Olympic Gold medalist Vasyk Lomachenko, regarded as one of the greatest fighters in amateur boxing history, who made his pro debut earlier this year.
Can Russ keep the run going for his team, reaping the benefits of a golden opportunity placed in his lap at this point in his career? Is Macklin fully recovered from the damage sustained in his last fight and ready for one more run towards middleweight title contention?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes tonight’s HBO-televised prelim will play out in Atlantic City.
PREDICTIONS – MATTHEW MACKLIN vs. LAMAR RUSS
“A shot in the dark here, but I’m going with the upset here. Russ enjoys a huge breakout opportunity, while Macklin slinks into obscurity.”
- Jake Donovan (Russ UD)
“Macklin returns to the win column, while the young prospect suffers his first loss.”
- Richard Najdowski (Macklin KO4)
“Macklin could not compete against Golovkin but he was right vs. Martinez. I don’t believe that Russ can handle the power of Macklin, and will fall inside the distance.”
- Reynaldo Sanchez (Macklin by TKO)
“This one will turn into a breakthrough party for Russ. Macklin is damaged goods now but still has plenty of dangers around him.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Russ UD)
Matthew Macklin 2
Lamar Russ 2
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Matthew Macklin , Lamar Russ , Russ-Macklin , Russ vs. Macklin