By Leonard Gunning
Manchester-based Gallagher’s Gym boxer Matthew Macklin has leapfrogged his domestic challengers to face top-ten rated middleweight Amin Asikainen. The fight tops the bill at Velodrome, Manchester. It kick-starts Hatton Promotion’s Sky TV deal.
Macklin, a former ABA amateur champion at welterweight, steps up to European level leaving a frustrated Darren Barker trailing in his wake. Matthew is confident going into his fight with the Finnish former European champ. The Birmingham born Irish fan favourite also brushed aside the misguided critics who have claimed that he is avoiding Barker – who will now, presumably, fight Andrew Facey for Macklin’s vacated British title.
“People who say that (I am avoiding Barker) are living in a bubble, they are the type that can’t see outside of London never mind seeing outside of Britain. They are in a little bubble and they probably don’t even know what The Ring magazine is, if they did, they’d know that Asikainen is ranked number six and a much tougher fighter,” blasted Macklin.
He continued: “Realistically, what has Darren Barker done? He’s been dropped by journeymen and he admittedly says that the only live opponent he faced is Darren McDermott, an area level fighter, who are they kidding!?
“In reality, it’s all good chat, it talks up a fight and hype is hype but I don’t think anyone apart from their own clique pays any heed about me ducking Darren Barker because I know who I’d rather fight. If the same title was on the line and the same rankings were available I’d fight Barker seven days a week over Asikainen.”
However, thoughts of Barker’s questionable rivalry won’t cross Macklin’s mind on Saturday night as he proceeds to fry a much larger fish. The days of undisciplined bon viveur seem to be a distant memory.
He said: “When you’re 19 or 20 you look ten years ahead and think that it’s an eternity, all of a sudden you find yourself 26 or 27 and you think ‘Jesus where did those years go?’ In another seven years I’ll be 34 and my career will be over. Although I’ve always trained really hard and been very dedicated sometimes in between fights I’d let my weight go high and maybe drank too much but now I’m dedicated all year round - even in between fights.”
This dedication has paid dividends. Since his enthralling KO defeat to Jamie Moore for the British light middleweight title in 2006 the Solihull native has stepped up to the middleweight division, where he has strung together seven consecutive victories. These include a knock out victory over Darren Rhodes, a points win over experienced campaigner ‘Yori’ Boy Campas and, in his last outing, an explosive knockout win over Wayne Elcock to relieve his Brummie rival of the British middleweight title. However, Macklin doesn’t see the Asikainen fight going the same way as the Elcock fight.
“I don’t think I rushed in with Elcock, I just landed with a good shot. The shot just came, but against Amin I just want to take my time, if he steams in then than that’s a different story. It’s a twelve round fight, it’s a long time so for the first three rounds I just want to find my range, use my jab and get going,” explained Macklin.
“Asikainen is a good fighter but it depends how he approaches it because some of his fights he stands and has a ding-dong whilst in others he gets on his bike and moves. I want to get going first, get into the groove, get into a rhythm and make sure I don’t do anything stupid earlier on or take any reckless chances. I’ll just keep cool, stick to the plan and box to the best of my ability.”
Asikainen, the part-Moroccan part-Finnish stalwart, was equally complimentary about his opponent, claiming that:
“Macklin is a strong, powerful fighter, I have watched his fight against Moore but that was a long time ago in 2006 and I watched his latest fight too, which was impressive.”
“My training has been good,” claimed the former champion. “I have had no injury and good sparring with two Russian’s and a Swedish Olympian and I come to win, always.”
If ‘Idi’ Amin’s preparation’s have gone well so, too, has Macklin’s, he told BoxingScene.com about his preparations for this contest.
“Training has gone very well. I’ve had some good sparring. I had a guy called Alex Sipos, a good guy who fought Andy Lee as well. I had Alex for two weeks,” confirmed Macklin.
“Andy struggled with him but if anything I was bashing him around and he gave Amin a good fight as well. Sipos said Amin can punch but I thought I was physically stronger and set a faster pace. I also had an Italian called Roberto Coco and Cello Renda, who fights on the undercard. So the training went well, no niggles and I’m very fit. I can’t wait.”
Macklin hopes that a good performance against Asikainen will propel him into a world title shot. He said: “Asikainen is rated number six by The Ring and he’s been in their top ten for the last three years and the two guys that beat him are [Khoren] Gevor at number four and Sebastian Sylvester at number two. Sylvester has just won the IBF title.
“So, if I can beat him (Asikainen) I should go in at number six but if I can beat him convincingly and with style then I might go in even higher. Ricky [Hatton] says that if I win this he’ll do everything he can to get me a world title shot straight away and I think Sylvester is an easier fight than Asikainen.
“I’ll be targeting Sylvester, he’s now the world IBF champion and that’s who I’d like to fight. I think he’s the weakest of the three world champions out there and once I dispose of him I’ll target Sturm and Pavlik.”
The reassured relaxed confidence that comes from a good training camp oozes from Macklin’s every pore and he aims to do his bit in making this the biggest week in Irish boxing since McCullough and Carruth both medalled at the 1992 Olympics.
“All going well, touch wood, I’ll be bringing the title belt back to Dublin on Saturday for Bernard Dunne’s first defence of his WBA super bantamweight title,” beamed Macklin.
Macklin weighed in at 159lb; Amin at 159lb 4oz; the fight will be shown on Sky Sports 2 at 10pm.