UK News: Matt Macklin; Ricky Burns; Billy Joe Saunders
MATTHEW MACKLIN'S TRAINING DIARY FOR SERGIO MARTINEZ
By Matthew Macklin
The first training diary went down well last month so I think a second diary entry is probably overdue at this point with the fight now less than 2 weeks away.
Day to day life in training camp is pretty uneventful, I might be based in the city that never sleeps but outside of sweating off the pounds and putting in the rounds in the gym I’ve been trying to get as much shut eye as possible. As you get older you start to understand your body more and I’ve come to realise just how important it is to get enough rest.
Most days I’m up early for roadwork, in the boxing gym in the afternoon and then strength and conditioning in the evening so for both physically and mentally it’s vital to get as much rest as possible between sessions. Sometimes I’ll see a young boxer in the gym trying to do everything at 100 miles an hour and it reminds me of myself when I was younger but just like in a fight it’s important to know when to put your foot on the gas and when to take a little breather.
Training camp was pretty routine until last week so it was nice to have a few visitors to break the monotony fora few days. Tipp hurlers Lar Corbett, Eoin Kelly and John O’Brien flew over to spend some time in camp with me and it was great to have them around. I’ve known Eoin and John since we played hurling together as kids so we had a good laugh about some of the antics we got up when we were younger. I met Lar through the lads down through the years and being a massive Tipp hurling fan it was a great boost to have the lads over. Of course everyone was quizzing Lar about his retirement and ultimately it’s his own decision but I’m sure the door will always be open to him to come back to the panel, even if he doesn’t he’ll go down as one of hurlings greatest goal scorers.
While the lads were over we took a trip up to Times Square as a big billboard had been unveiled there for my fight with Martinez. It’s a little surreal to see yourself staring down from the side of a building in New York but it hammered home just how big a deal this fight is. My brother Seamus is over with me and he made the point that when you are part of events like this you don’t really understand how big they are until you look back on them afterwards. I suppose it’s like being in the eye of the storm and you are so focused on the fight that you don’t really get caught up in any of the hype surrounding it but seeing the billboard brought home the magnitude of the fight.
Seamus has been doing the cooking for me over here and in fairness to him he’s not bad, I’m pretty much on the weight as it is so any single ladies looking for a man who can cook up a healthy and tasty dinner I can certainly provide a reference!
It’s been good to have him over here because I’ve always been something of a nomad throughout my pro career. I love traveling and experiencing new places but at times and particularly during training camp it can be a lonely and monotonous existence so it’s good to have a familiar face around.
Most evenings I’ll try to switch off by watching a movie or catch up on a box set but every now and again I’ll have a look at some of Martinez fights. I don’t go overboard studying them but there are always little things you can pick up on by watching your opponent and I’ll talk them through with Buddy McGirt in the gym. I’ve really enjoyed working with Buddy again for this fight. He’s such a knowledgeable boxing guy and you learn so much just from being around him.
With less than 2 weeks to go most of my sparring has been done and for this fight I left no stone unturned and brought in the best available sparring. It doesn’t come cheap but I’ve always looked at good sparring as an investment and I’ve brought in world class fighters for this camp. I started off with Denis Douglin, a very good prospect from New Jersey and I also brought in the current WBA Light Middleweight champion Austin Trout and the world rated Sechew Powell. Trout has been in camp with Martinez on a couple of occasions and Powell was Floyd Mayweather’s chief sparring partner for his last fight. They have given me just the kind of work I need to sharpen up for Martinez.
Outside of the gym the media duties are starting to crank up a notch. There was an open media workout in the gym last week and there was a good buzz around that and the interview requests seem to have stepped up as well so I’m sure it will be like that between now and the fight especially the last week when we have the final press conference.
My tickets for the fight have sold out so I have had to order more, there are planeloads coming from Ireland and the UK and I really appreciate that level of support. Since coming over to New York last year I’ve met some great people in the Irish community here and made an awful lot of new friends. They are all pumped up for the fight as well so I think the atmosphere is going to be sensational and I plan on giving everyone a St. Patrick’s night they won’t forget even if it will mean that some of them will have a sore head the following morning!
That’s it for now and I’ll give another update when fight week rolls around but until then thanks again for all the support.
IN DEPTH WITH RICKY BURNS
Ricky Burns: ‘I’m Fed Up With Training and Waiting. Let’s Get the Fight On!’
With two world titles already on his CV, Coatbridge quiet man Ricky Burns is now primely placed to reap the material rewards of his labours.
But with a lucrative summer showdown against London rival Kevin Mitchell beckoning, and possible unification openings thereafter, this most unassuming of champions stresses to boxing writer Glynn Evans that there can be no room for complacency when he faces off with top grade Namibian Paulus Moses at Braehead Arena next Saturday.
The Scot makes the opening defence of his WBO World Lightweight crown live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546) from 7.30pm. Join at www.boxnation.tv
How do you reflect on your great win over Michael Katsidis for the WBO interim lightweight crown at Wembley last November? Do you agree it was the finest performance of your career?
It was definitely a good performance. Again, everybody had me wrote off beforehand and, again, I proved everybody wrong. It was definitely a tougher fight than when I won my (WBO) superfeather belt against Roman Martinez. Michael was exactly what we trained for; a tough, tough man and you could see at the end when I was interviewed how swollen my jaw was.
That said, it appeared a lot tougher when I watched the tape back than it had actually appeared when I was fighting the fight. I pretty much knew from the first round that I had the beating of him. The tactics were to stay on the jab and, when inevitably there were times when he managed to close the distance, to keep my hands up, counter, then use my legs to get me out of bother. It all worked perfectly. Again, I promise, there’s a lot more still to come.
It was your first championship start up at 135lbs. What difference did the added weight make during camp and on fight night?
I’d not have weighed much more inside the ring than I did when I boiled down to super-feather but it allowed training to go far more comfortably. I could train for tactics and technique not just to shed pounds. Straining to make weight definitely takes something out of you in the ring. I still looked massive for a lightweight.
Lightweight has been my natural weight for a lot longer than you’d realise. To be honest, I was surprised how long I continued at superfeather when I was fighting at Commonwealth level. We discussed lightweight a year before I won the super-feather world title. Every time it was ‘just one more fight’. However, the struggle I had making 130 for the Nicky Cook fight was absolutely ridiculous. Of course, it’s hard to walk away when you hold a world title but I knew after that it was definitely time to move up. When the opportunity to contest the ‘interim’ title at lightweight was offered, I jumped at it. A lifeline!
Your first defence against Paulus Moses on Saturday (10th) will be your first start in Scotland for 12 months. Given your last two showings at home were comparatively flat title defences over Andreas Evensen and Joseph Laryea, do you feel you owe Scottish fans a spectacular performance?
Obviously I’ll be hoping to look good for the home fans but you know I don’t ever like to talk myself up and put added pressure on myself. Getting the win is the be all and end all, for me. I understand there’s under 400 tickets left so we’re expecting a sell out. What I can say is that if I perform as well as I have been in sparring, I guarantee the fans will have a good night.
The South African is a former WBA champion who has only lost once in 29 pro fights and has 19 knockout wins on his slate. Yet you’ve accepted him as a voluntary challenger. Weren’t you tempted to take something a little less taxing?
No, I’ve always said since I started boxing at 12 that I’ll fight anyone at all. The only way to be the best, and to be considered the best by others, is to fight and beat the best around. This is a proper world title fight.
How has your preparation gone?
I’ll have had 10 or 11 weeks and six of that will have been hard sparring. There’s been a really good vibe in the gym. I’ve done a lot of rounds with Paul Appleby who’s got a big fight himself the same night (against Ireland’s Stephen Ormond) and I’ve also had Tommy Coyle, Tyrone Nurse, Patrick Liam Walsh up here before finishing off with Bradley Saunders last week. You get to a stage were you’re just fed up with training and waiting. You just want to get the fight on. That’s where I’m at.
What do you know of the 33 year old challenger?
I’m never one for studying tapes of my opponent. What happens on the night, happens. A fight’s a fight and I’ve always been good at sussing things out once we get started.
But Paulus’s record speaks for itself so I know he’s likely to give me a very good fight. He’s a former world champion, proven at very top class for quite a while and his only defeat (a sixth round knockout in the second defence of his WBA crown) was to Venezuela’s Miguel Acosta who is also a great fighter.
I’ve heard Moses is a good boxer who has a good jab but so have I. Obviously, from his record, he can bang - we’ve heard with the right hand - but I’ve been in with bangers before. Martinez and Katsidis were said to be bangers but I’ve always shown I can take a shot.
I think the first few rounds could be the key but I’m ready for anything and I’ll take each round as it comes.
Your very best performances have come as an underdog against Martinez and Katsidis yet you enter this as a 5-1 on favourite. Any chance you could be overlooking Moses in favour of the mooted mandatory summer showdown with Kevin Mitchell?
None at all. If I don’t win here, the Kevin Mitchell fight definitely isn’t going to happen. I’ve trained extremely hard for 12 rounds and I’m expecting a very tough fight. I have to get this one out of the way.
People need to realise, I just love fighting and the better the opponent, the more I love it. Most true, diehard boxing fans are aware exactly how big a challenge Paulus Moses represents. I’ve always maintained that only the very top opponents will bring out the very best in me and this is a perfect fight for me to prove that.
Ricky Burns wins a great fight; points if need be, knockout’s a bonus!
This is your first fight of 2012. What do you hope to have achieved by the end of the year?
I’m looking no further than this fight but obviously if I do get through it, the Kevin Mitchell fight should be straightforward to make as we’re both with Frank Warren. Kevin boxed very well last month so that could be a very tough fight in the summer. We’re the two best lightweights in the country and it’s the one most want to see.
You’ve been world champion for 18 months now. How are you growing into that status? You’re naturally shy. Are the commitments a bonus or a distraction?
I’m still doing my shift at the local sports store on the weekend. It breaks up my training nicely and all the staff and customers are ‘brand new’. That keeps me grounded. I do whatever’s needed publicity wise then, a fortnight before a fight I completely lock myself away and I think people appreciate the need for that.
Otherwise, I try to go to as many functions and charity bashes as I can. It’s no big deal to me but often means a lot to others. My attitude’s the same it always was. I sort of enjoy the attention but I get embarrassed, really don’t see what all the fuss is about. After a fight, I do try to lock myself away for a couple of weeks to let the commotion die down.
You’re still only 28 but have been a pro for nearly 11 years now. How long do you intend continuing for and what are your remaining ambitions? Breaking America? Unification?
A boxing ring is a boxing ring and, if I keep winning, sure, I’d go to the States, particularly for unification. That would be exciting, an adventure.
I really, really love fighting so much. I’ve a good defence and, as long as I’m not getting hurt, I tell (trainer) Billy Nelson I’m going to continue until I’ve had 100 fights! Others think I’m nuts but, really, it’s all I want to do.
BILLY JOE SAUNDERS: I'M REALLY IN LOVE WITH MY BOXING AT THE MINUTE
Hand damage, the bane of so many of the sport’s hardest punchers, has stifled the progress of the exciting Hatfield southpaw Billy Joe Saunders in the paid ranks thus far.
But the 22 year old Beijing Olympian, now 12-0, tells boxing writer Glynn Evans how he intends the Southern Area middleweight crown he secured late last year to serve as a launch pad to more significant honours in 2012.
Saunders will feature on the undercard of George Groves’ British Super-Middleweight title defence against Kenny Anderson on Friday 16th March at the Wembley Arena, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.tv
This summer, the Olympics Games shall take place just a left hook away from your training base in Canning Town, East London. Do you have any regrets about not staying amateur and chasing Olympic gold in your home country?
When I sit back and think about it....not really. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in a home Olympics but I made my decision to go pro and seriously believe I’ll be British middleweight champion by the time the Games come along in August.
Last November, you picked up your first pro title and went past six rounds for the first time when outpointing Gary Boulden over 10 for the Southern Area Belt. However, you seemed a little flat. How did you assess your performance?
I trained very, very hard but then, a week and a half before, I picked up a chest infection. Jimmy (Tibbs, his coach) was keen to pull me out but I was still managing the rounds no problem in sparring and the fight had been called off twice before from problems with venues or something so I went through with it.
Then, stupidly, I had seven protein shakes between the weigh-in and the fight, and got into the ring feeling podgy and sluggish.
I’d say I performed six or seven out of 10. I was extremely fit but my timing vanished a bit and I was a little disappointed in myself with my skill level. Gary didn’t stretch me skill wise and weren’t that hard to hit but he took some very hard shots and did well to last the ten. Respect to him. He was a fit, tough fella.
If I’d gone in the ring in that condition against one of the top three in this country there’s a chance I’d have come unstuck so, if nothing else, that fight taught me the importance of being patient.
So what are you hoping to get out of your fight on Friday week?
Eight hard rounds. Whatever opponent they get for me, I just hope they’re tough so I can try out some new things. You can only look good blasting out bums for so long. I want to look good showing my class against tough opposition.
After that, what are your hopes for 2012?
Nick Blackwell is defending his English title against Martin Concepcion and the winner is supposed to meet me. That would be a good fight, good title, but I’d be very, very confident, whoever. There’s a lot of good fighters about and I’m still only 22 but I want to be the best at my weight in this country and I know I can achieve it.
My fellow (2008 Beijing) Olympian James DeGale is already talking of world titles but I just focus on a British title and I think I’ll get it.
The British and Commonwealth belts, of course, are held by Martin Murray who just fought to a draw in a world title contest over in Germany. Do you seriously feel you could be competitive with him now?
I probably need a couple more fights to get experience but definitely this year, yeh. I’m a very quick learner and gain experience very quickly. On the GB Team in the amateurs, I only spent 15 months on the Development Squad before they promoted me up to the Podium Squad.
Talent wise, I could already cover it, no prob. I’ve tested the water sparring James DeGale, Darren Barker, Patrick Mendy and I know I belong at that level. They don’t have their own way.
It’ll take a fight against someone like Martin Murray to bring out the best in me. Sure, if he vacated it would pave an easier route but I don’t want an easier route. There’s things I see in him that tell me he’s there to be beat. Though we haven’t got any world champions, middleweight is the hardest division in Britain at the minute. Barker, Macklin and Murray are all top fighters. Darren’s a mate but business is business. Give me 12 months, I’ll be ready for all three of ‘em.