By Chris Williamson
Former WBO cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli took time out from duties as a Boxnation TV analyst to talk to Boxingscene.com about the red hot cruiserweight division, his boxing career, relationship with promoter Frank Warren and what the future might hold.
“Lebedev is the best,” says Maccarinelli of the old foe and Russian veteran who added the IBF cruiserweight belt to his WBA Super title in May with an emphatic two round win over Victor Ramirez.
“He's now the unified champion and he's proven. (Tony) Bellew just had a tremendous win against the guy (Ilunga Makabu) nobody wanted to fight. Of course (former WBC champion Gregory) Drodz is injured and Bellew must fight him once he's ready. I spoke to Tony just the other day actually, although we didn't discuss who he's looking to fight next.”
Enzo expands on the bond he's developed with friend and promoter Frank Warren, saying: “We've always liked each other. I think one of the things Frank has always admired about me is that I've never turned a fight down.”
This attitude has led not only to the Welshman facing who's who of dangerous, often short notice opponents, but two away trips to the harsh, lonely arenas of Russia, winning on both occasions. “Both times were amazing,” says Maccarinelli. “First in St Petersburg when I knocked out (Alexander) Kotlobay in one round to win the EBU (cruiserweight) title (in 2010) and then obviously last year against Roy Jones in Moscow.”
“It was mad,” says Enzo of the build up to the latter contest in a country where President Vladimir Putin personally intervened to fast track his opponent's Russian citizenship. “They didn't give me a chance. I was under no illusion I was brought over to lose. He (Jones Jr) was mobbed and they (the Russian hosts) didn't give me a second look. It was only when they saw me on the pads I think it started to dawn on them (how dangerous I was). I told Jones at the press conference: ‘I'll knock you out.’"
“Big Mac” has long been considered one of the true nice guys of the sport and won new admirers with a dignified reaction, kneeling to pray as former great Jones Jr lay stricken on the canvas, flattened by repeated uppercuts then a final clubbing right hook in the fourth round.
“Everyone thought I reacted that way because it was Roy Jones”, he explained, “but that wasn't the case. When I was 17 I boxed a 28-year-old man, knocked him out cold and knelt in exactly the same way as I did (in Moscow). It wasn't (specific) to Roy Jones. It was more I didn't want to see anyone hurt or injured."
Maccarinelli clearly has great respect for Jones, revealing the former multi-weight world champion took time to exchange words with the man who had just knocked him out, possibly ending his career. “Jones said some great things in the dressing room after the fight, which I'll keep private out of respect and it means a lot to me.”
Enzo's 2009 WBO defence against American Wayne Braithwaite, a 12 round unanimous decision win, is widely considered the most complete performance of the Welshman's career. Far from resting and basking in the glory of that national TV win, the Welshman, a huge Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fan, reveals a more unusual “rest day” following his greatest hour.
“I entered a jujitsu competition in Bristol,” laughs Maccarinelli. “My friends were scraping around to get me a gi (competition outfit) and away I went. I even won two matches before losing in the semi-finals. I won ‘slam of the day’ and told Frank (Warren) about it.”
Enzo counts John Phillips, Swansea's BAMMA (MMA organisation) middleweight champion, as a close friend and training partner. “I've nearly had MMA bouts,” revealed Maccarinelli. “I love the sport, but it's probably a bit too late now for me to get involved. But who knows? If they offered me a striker (opponent with limited wrestling and submission skills) and a lot of money then maybe. If it was someone like Jacare (renowned Brazilian grappler and submission expert) they can f*ck off!”
Enzo is still licking his wounds from his most recent outing last month at London's York Hall, where he stepped in at late notice to tackle Ukrainian Dmytro Kucher for his old (vacant) EBU cruiserweight title. Maccarinelli was stopped in the first after a positive start to the round. “It's a shame I only had three weeks’ notice. I started well and got reckless. Kucher actually caught me on my ear, not my chin.”
Maccarinelli explains why the red mist descended after a promising start during which the Swansea man kept Kucher at the end of a sharp jab. He said: “He hit me on the back of the head and pissed me off a bit, so I thought ‘ok’ and started trading in close. My son even said to me when I was home: ‘Dad why did you fight so stupid?”
After 49 bouts, Maccarinelli's choice of ring-walk music, Tom Petty's “I won't back down” seems as apt as ever. “One more fight would see me reach 50 in total and I would love it to be against Kucher, if it could be made. That's the one I really want. I could accept a Latvian roadsweeper (journeyman) but that's not me. I felt sharp and good (against Kucher) and lost focus. So the plan is to have one more.”