By Frank Warren
It’s never easy to concede that you’re wrong but I had to hold my hands up this week after veteran gladiator Enzo Maccarinelli was notified that he’ll fulfil his dream of competing at world level again.
On April 5th, ‘Big Macc’ challenges local rascal Juergen Braehmer for the WBA light-heavyweight title in Rostock, Germany.
The boyo from Bonymaen in the Swansea valleys is not only one of the most crippling punchers I’ve been associated with but also one of the most decent and pleasant human beings.
Born into a fighting family, Enzo first hit the boxing gym that was run by his late father Mario – a fine man – during his primary school years.
He turned professional in his late teens and by 22 had captured the WBU cruiserweight title when he rose from a first round knockdown to topple Hackney hard man Bruce Scott in 2003.
After seven defences, he upgraded to the WBO belt by almost decapitating previously indestructible Argentinean Marcelo Dominguez at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
He successfully retained that crown four times and subsequently added the European and British cruiser titles and Commonwealth light-heavy strap to establish himself one of the most decorated Welsh champions in history.
It wasn’t only the belts collected that defined him but also the manner in which they were attained. Enzo never inquired about the identity or record of his opponent and earned a rep with fans as one of the gamest, most entertaining warriors to ever lace up.
He was also blessed with the rare gift of being able to terminate fights with a single blow – a trick he could apply from either glove.
I was hugely confident he’d prevail when he was pitched against WBA/WBC king David Haye in a cruiserweight unifier at London’s O2 Arena in 2008. However, the Welshman was unexpectedly blown away in two rounds and the damage to his confidence proved catastrophic.
In 2009-10 further sickening knockout defeats followed against Ola Afolabi, Denis Lebedev and Alexander Frenkel – all world class men – and there was a clamour from those who cared, for Enzo to retire before he became a casualty of his own unquestionable valour.
It’s no secret that I fronted that crusade. I valued Enzo as a dear friend, we’d shared some fabulous successes and I wanted him to call it a day. Matters certainly weren’t eased when his father – to whom he was extremely close - passed away and the youngest of his five children was diagnosed with autism. He endured a dark period, both professionally and personally.
With reluctance and great care, I continued to deliver him work because I knew that if I didn’t this natural fighting man might drift into MMA or, worse still, the unlicensed scene.
Credit for his renaissance also goes to Gary Lockett- once his stablemate at the Calzaghe gym in Cwmcarn and now a bright rising coach.
Over the past 18 months, ‘The Rocket’ has not only rekindled Enzo’s self-belief, he has also re-constructed a sometimes porous defence which had led to six stoppage defeats.
Most significantly, Lockett convinced Maccarinelli to take the rare plunge and drop down a weight class so he’d absorb shots from smaller, lighter men. Suddenly, Enzo was revelling in his status as senior pro at Lockett’s gym; a fabulous role model to a crop of young prospects.
There was a corresponding upturn in his form and he has won six of his last seven - against a farcically premature stoppage loss to Ovill McKenzie which he emphatically avenged.
Still, given he was unranked, it took some serious manoeuvring to secure ‘Big Macc’ his latest world title crack and, reluctantly, we have to travel.
Enzo will enter a rank outsider. Champion Braehmer is not only southpaw but a quality operator who scalped both Ricky Hatton and Carl Froch in the amateurs and has won 42 of 44 pro fights. Ominously, 31 victims were forced to take an early shower.
Yet there are several reasons for Maccarinelli to embark with optimism. He is four inches taller, two years younger and carries the firepower to render foreign judges redundant.
Fighting abroad won’t prove insurmountable either. In 2010, he ventured to St Petersburg, Russia to capture the vacant European title....with a first round knockout!
At 35, Herr Braehmer is undoubtedly gifted, but the German is notoriously temperamental and ill-disciplined – having surrendered his liberty on three separate occasions for transgressions beyond the ropes.
Enzo knows that this time he’s definitely drinking in the Last Chance Saloon and all options will have expired if he falters.
But galvanised by the possibility of becoming the first Brit since Ruby Bob Fitzsimmons in 1903 to drop down a weight and win a second world title, I guarantee Macc will turn up in fabulous shape and give it every ounce he has.
It seems last week’s decision by the IBF to order an immediate rematch between Carl Froch and George Groves satisfies neither party.
Groves’ complaint that referee Howard Foster intervened prematurely to end their epic first encounter was upheld and the principals must now re-convene within 90 days or champion Froch will be stripped.
The Nottingham man had hoped to move on to fresh challenges now that he’s 36 and closing in on retirement. A US debut was being lined up against Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr in Las Vegas. As Froch also holds the WBA belt, that could still happen.
The enforced re-sit with Groves may go out to tender with the champion mandated to enjoy an 85-15 split from the winning purse bid.
That means if it goes to purse bids challenger Groves will trouser considerably less than the ‘seven figure’ sum that is said promoters initially offered him for a second Froch fight.
If not he will have to give promotional options to them!
The promoters and TV broadcasters will probably get their wish for the rematch.
Top British referee Howard Foster was left with no option but to resign as an IBF Official after the organisation publically criticised him. Everyone has an opinion on sporting officialdom but in boxing, the hardest sport of all, a good referee can prevent a tragedy. A ring referee has to make a split second decision and is the closest to the boxers throughout the action. Without the benefit of slow- motion, action replays, all he has is instinct and experience and sometimes has to act in an instant.
In instances like this, the governing bodies should back their officials. The IBF could have ordered a rematch without levelling any criticism at the man in the middle, who was not asked to appear before any panel to explain his actions.
Groves fully deserves a rematch, but Howard should not have been reason why.
Dynamite-punching middleweight Gennady Golovkin returns to BoxNation TV screens tonight when he defends his WBA and IBO titles in the glamour capital of the French Riveira, Monte Carlo.
The unbeaten Kazakh has sent ripples around the world with his destructive performances. So far he’s stopped 25 out of 28 early and is on an impressive 15 fight KO run going back to 2008.
His challenger is US based Ghanian Osumanu Adama who’s won 22 from 25 fights and carries a bang himself with 16 going early. More recently he’s extended current IBF king Daniel Geale the full distance in a challenge for the world title. Despite three losses on his record, he’s never been stopped.
Golovkin, a former world amateur champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist, is something special, I don’t see Adama lasting long.
Belfast battler Carl Frampton is leading a boxing renaissance in his home city not seen since the glory days of his trainer and former world champion Barry McGuigan.
The exciting super-bantamweight star’s last three fights have been in front of sell-out crowds at the Odyssey Arena and his last night there against Jeremy Parodi was an unbelievable atmosphere that rivaled the likes of Ricky Hatton’s great nights at his Manchester fortress.
Unbeaten Frampton returns home on Friday 4th April when he meets solid Mexican Hugo Cazares in a final eliminator for the WBC World title and a win will see him fight World Champion Leo Santa Cruz before the end of the year.
Cazares is the true meaning of a Mexican Warrior. The former two-weight world champion has been a pro since 1997 and has 40 wins from 49 fights, with 27 going early. He was last stopped over 14 years ago so big hitting Frampton, who’s won his last seven with back-to-back knockouts, will have to be at his best to halt him.
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