By Nick Halling
The news that Andy Lee’s proposed meeting with Gennady Golovkin for the WBA middleweight title has been postponed (or scrapped) following the untimely death of Golovkin’s father has sparked rumors that Lee could now face Matthew Macklin on 26 April at Madison Square Garden.
Don't bet on it happening. Macklin has spent the last two weeks battling a chest infection at his base in Marbella, Spain, an illness which has put a dent in his training. He’d have just over six weeks to get ready for Lee, and that would be far from ideal.
The former world middleweight challenger also has other good reasons to stay patient. Macklin says he has agreed a deal for a rematch with IBF boss Felix Sturm – although the kicker here is that Sturm’s connections have refused to come back and put the deal in place.
Speaking from his training camp in Marbella, Macklin said: “We started making contact with them after my last fight (Lamar Russ, 7 December). Lou (DiBella, Macklin’s promoter), spoke to Sturm’s people, and they came back with an offer. To be honest, they were lowballing me, but I decided that if I wanted the opportunity, I would have to take the short end of it, so I agreed to all their terms. And then waited for them to come back and put things in motion.
“Since then, Lou’s spoken to them several times, but they keep saying they are looking at me, that I am one of the options they are considering. The last I heard, they said the deal is back on the table. So I really don’t know what they are up to. I accepted the terms I was offered before Christmas, so I don’t know what the delay could be. Why say you’re considering it, if you’re not?
“If I am honest, I think Sturm, or his people, don’t want anything to do with me. Stylewise, they know I am all wrong for him. Deep down, I think he knows I beat him first time around. I saw it in the post-fight press conference with him, he was almost sheepish about it.
“If he is the champion he says he is, he has an obligation to fight me. If I was in his position, I’d want the chance to put things right. And I think I deserve it.”
Macklin first boxed Sturm in June 2011, and looked to have built a good early lead, before the champion rallied strongly in the later rounds. Although one judge had it 115-113 in Macklin’s favor, the other two had it 116-112 to Sturm.
Most ringside observers felt that, despite the champion’s late charge, the Birmingham man had done enough. The fight was definitely closer than the two 116-112 cards would suggest, so Macklin’s assertion that Sturm wants no part of a rematch certainly holds water.
There are, of course, further complications in the current middleweight scene. Martin Murray has been mooted – Murray and Sturm fought a draw in December 2011 – but Murray’s name popped up in connection with Gennady Golovkin, and those negotiations also came to nothing. The blasts of claim and counter claim following Murray’s fallout with Hatton Promotions only cloud the issue further.
DiBella is also believed to have made contact with the connections of WBO champion Peter Quillin, but that trail went stone cold very quickly. According to the gossip, Quillin’s people want nothing to do with Macklin.
The busy New Yorker then began banging the twitter drum about a prospective meeting with Lee on 26 April. There had been talk of an all-Irish shootout between Macklin and the London-based Irishman on St Patrick’s Day in New York. That didn’t come to anything, and although the April date isn’t likely to come off either, there’s a good chance that the two will meet somewhere down the line. It’s a fight both men want, and given the Irish connections, it is guaranteed box office.
Meanwhile, Sturm also has an obligation to face Sam Soliman by 8 August. Soliman gained a unanimous decision over the German last February, only to test positive for an illegal stimulant. The result was changed to a No Contest, and Soliman served a nine month ban.
Prior to that, Sturm is believed to have a television date for May 31. If Soliman is being held over to the summer, and Murray’s immediate future is unclear, the list of credible opponents is becoming alarmingly short. Macklin is one of the few plausible alternatives. Common sense would suggest that the May 31 slot is filled either by Macklin or Soliman.
However, if Sturm’s handlers are serious about doing a deal with Macklin, they need to prove it. The former British and European champion has other options, which include being part of the televised undercard for the Sergio Martinez – Miguel Cotto WBC middleweight tussle at Madison Square Garden on 7 June. That deal is still on the table.
It looks a classic case of waiting for time to run out in order to save face. If it is true that Macklin accepted a deal to face Sturm before Christmas, there can be no excuses for any further delay. Unless, of course, the champion is sitting on his hands doing nothing, in the hope that a dangerous contender will simply get tired of waiting and go away.
One man who definitely wont be fighting on 31 May is Hull lightweight Tommy Coyle. The crowd pleasing Yorkshireman survived an epic, eight knockdown shootout against Daniel Brizuela of Argentina in his home town last month, to potentially set up a date with Kevin Mitchell on the Froch-Groves II undercard.
The plan had been to make that an eliminator for the IBF title, with the winner advancing to take on defending champion Miguel Vasquez. But after seeing the physical toll the Brizuela fight had taken out of their man, Coyle’s connections have recommended a period of recharging the batteries. Whatever happens with Mitchell, Coyle will not be facing him on 31 May.
The Hull boxer is currently enjoying a vacation, with strict instructions to give his body a long rest. While the fighter puts his feet up, his handlers will map out his next step – which could potentially see him moving up to light welterweight.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports