By Leonard Gunning
Steve Goodwin recently put a price on his London based Moroccan fighter Yassine El Maachi’s head. The bounty of £15,000 goes to any fighter that can defeat the 30-year-old member of the ‘Who Needs Him Club’ on the Goodwin Promotions card at York Hall, London on the 24th of April.
Although it is still a struggle to get fights for ‘The Entertainer’, trainer Kevin Maree took time to tell BoxingScene.com the murky tale of how El Maachi feared that if he was successful in fights that he would not obtain further work in the industry.
Dubliner native Maree, who runs a highly rated gym in the ground of the Stirk House Hotel in Lancashire, explained the origins of his journey with the North African enigma. “Steve Woods [of VIP Promotions] was using Thomas McDonagh on a bill but couldn’t get anyone to fight him but then found a foreigner called El Maachi to fight McDonagh, Maachi was 4-3 at the time.”
Maree, who at the time did not know El, noticed that the fighter was alone and asked where his trainer was. El Maachi explained that he didn’t have one so Maree offered to help the light middleweight warm up before his fight. From that time, Maree thought he was onto something special but El Maachi didn’t seem to take the fight seriously when he was in the ring and was playing to the crowd, laughing and dancing around the ring. The Lancashire based trainer felt that, “Maybe he is one of these guys that looks brilliant in the gym or on the pads but cant produce on fight night.” So left it at that.
About a month later, as Maree was aiding Michael Gomez prepare for a fight with Baz Carey, Maree and El Maachi’s paths crossed again. “He (El Maachi) was matched with unbeaten local fighter Eamonn Goodbrand and because I didn’t know Eamonn I said I would work El Maachi’s corner because he was on his own again. I was in the dressing room wrapping his hands and I said, ‘You better win here tonight, pal!’ and Yassine’s quizzical reply was, ‘I don’t win tonight’.”
A puzzled Maree didn’t understand and thought that maybe it was a miscommunication and asked him what he meant, and the reply was that his manager informed had him if he won he would no longer obtain fights in Britain. Maree couldn’t believe what he was hearing and informed the fighter that, “I can’t take you to the corner if that’s the way it is, I cant do that, that’s not what I do.” To which Yassine replied, “You don’t understand, if I beat these guys no one will fight me”.
Maree thought, ‘This is ridiculous’ as he felt that the Moroccan had the potential to progress further than the club circuit and made him an offer. “If you come to my gym I’ll look after you and I’ll get you fight,” declared Maree, but Yassine had heard it all before and didn’t believe the Irishman.
So Maree beckoned promoter, Carlo Rea, into the conversation and made Rea promise that if Yassine won that night that Rea would put give him a slot on their next promotion. Carlo was one too happy to agree to the deal saying, “I have another show in three month and if he beats Eamonn (Goodbrand) tonight, which I don’t think he will, then he has a place on it. You got my word”
Yassine was immediately up for the challenge and softly whispered, “This boy is in for big trouble tonight.” Yassine went out and boxed immaculately to take a points verdict in front of a partisan crowd.
Within a matter of weeks, Maree took a call from a Frank Maloney matchmaker querying El Maachi’s availability to fight Kevin Concepcion. They snatched the opportunity despite it being the less than a month since the Goodbrand battle.
At the time, Concepcion was an unbeaten fighter with a string of 13 wins and was the hot favourite. Maree revealed the bizarre events of the night. “Frank Maloney came into the away fighter’s dressing room and Yassine, ever the entertainer, shouted, ‘Frank, tonight you are make a big mistake, tonight your boy will get beat.’ Maloney laughed off the claim, so Yassine then repeated it,” revealed Maree.
“He was possibly annoyed at Maloney’s dismissal and then barked, ‘I bet you 1,000 pounds that not only will I beat your boy I will knock him out.’ Now it was not my money to tell Yassine what to do with it but I am thinking that he shouldn’t risk all his money even though I thought he would win. But the pair went ahead and made the bet and shake on it. At that moment the whole dressing room, who witnessed the bet, gets up and start cheering Yassine. I then saw something I have never seen before in my entire life. Everyone in the dressing, room including the other fighters, piled out of the changing area to watch the fight. Yassine leans over the ropes and says to Maloney, ‘Get your money ready’ then puts his gum shield in and knocks Concepcion out in the second – but Frank never paid him.”
After this Maree feared El Maachi’s ominous warning that fights would dry up if he started winning and approached Matchroom to obtain a slot on the Prizefighter series. “I phoned up Prizefighter to say that Yassine was available for any Prizefighter from light welterweight up to middleweight,” revealed Maree.
“At first, they said he couldn’t fight because he didn’t qualify for a British title. But then Coleman Barrett and Ovil McKenzie fought in it and as soon as I heard about the light middleweight version I got back on the phone to say that they got to get Yassine in. Now I don’t know if this is true but I heard that as soon as Yassine’s name got mentioned that four fighters pulled out and that’s why Yassine isn’t getting a shot. [Steve] O’Meara and [George] Hillyard were matched with Yassine and wouldn’t fight him and they get in Prizefighter! But Yassine doesn’t! Crazy!”
Fellow Maree fighter Kenny Anderson, who is in training for his British super middleweight eliminator, echoed the praise that Maree has for the London-based fighter. “If El Maachi was my weight I wouldn’t like to fight him, and that’s rare for me to say something like that. I seen him spar with Jamie Moore pre to his fight with Ryan Rhodes and he did remarkably well,” Anderson revealed.
Former WBA featherweight champion Barry McGuigan joined in the praise. “Yassine is a very talented guy, too good. I really like him, he has great biomechanics, and he slips and moves. He’s very hard to match,” McGuigan enthused.
El Maachi is due to fight on the Goodwin Promotions card at York Hall on April 24 and needs someone to share the ring with him for that fight. Steve Goodwin has made it clear that his offer is not solely for the York Hall bill – he has other dates for 2010 that need filling.
So do you know a fighter capable of stopping this sand storm? If the answer is yes then contact Steve Goodwin via www.goodwinpromotions.co.uk