After a month of misery for Irish fighters in World title bouts Matthew Macklin believes he can deliver the goods for the Fighting Irish when he travels to Germany in June in a bid to end Felix Sturm's reign as WBA World Middleweight Champion.
Macklin has watched Paul McCloskey, Willie Casey and Brian Magee all come up short in recent World title bids but the two time European Champion is confident that he can go one better when he takes on Sturm at the 20,000 seater Lanxess Arena in Cologne on June 25th. The Birmingham based Irishman is under no illusions about the task ahead given Sturm's status as a sporting icon in Germany having reigned for almost a decade at the top of the Middleweight division.
"I have a lot of respect for Felix,” revealed the 28-year-old Macklin. “For a lot of people it was was probably his World title defence against Oscar De La Hoya that would have brought him to prominence but I've followed his career closely ever since I saw him win Gold in Birmingham at the European Junior Championships in 1997. He was only 18 at the time but you could see he was going to go on to big things. As a pro he has been a great World champion. He's been in 15 World title fights and he's been a dominant force at middleweight for almost the last 10 years.
"It's a huge challenge given his quality and the fact that it's exceptionally difficult to win in Germany but it's the kind of challenge that gets my juices flowing and I believe it's my time now. I have earned the right to be there, I've won the Irish and British titles, won the European title twice and I'm highly rated with all the sanctioning bodies (WBA 2, WBC 4, WBO 7 and IBF 8) and I'm number 5 with the Ring magazine so I'm there on merit. This is the what I've dreamed about since I first put on a pair of boxing gloves and I'm determined to make the most of the opportunity.
"My best performances have always come in fights where my back has been against the wall. A lot of people were tipping Wayne Elcock to beat me when we fought for the British title but I blew him away and I did the same to Asikainen for the European title when again a lot of people were writing off my chances. It will be the same this time but I have always believed I belong at the highest level and this is my chance to prove that.
Macklin is also hoping that he will have plenty of support in the cavernous Lanxess Arena to cheer him all the way to the World title. “The atmosphere at German fights can be fairly tame,” said Macklin. "The audiences there usually give a polite round of applause at the end of the round and during the rounds you can hear a pin drop. I'm sure it will be very different for this fight though because there will be a big contingent travelling over to Germany and they will be making a lot of noise and I intend to give them plenty to shout about."
Macklin has even promised to brush up on his German ahead of the fight so that he can do his talking in and out of the ring. "I actually studied German at school for 6 years so I still have enough to get by. I was due to go there on a couple of exchange trips as a student but ironically I always had to pull out of them because they conflicted with boxing commitments I had in the amateurs.
"I fought against Germans twice as an amateur and won both times, one of those was a win over Eduard Gutknecht who fights for the European Light Heavyweight title next month so I'm confident that I can keep that run going in the professionals and bring back the World title."
Macklin's manager, Brian Peters is equally confident that Ireland will have another World Champion to savour over the summer. "Felix Sturm is one of the longest reigning World Champions in boxing currently but I believe the timing is perfect now for Matthew to end that reign,"; said Peters. "Sturm will bring out the best in Matthew and I'm confident that it will be another huge night for Irish boxing. There's already been huge interest from fight fans looking to travel to Germany to the fight and I think that support will prove vital to Matthew pulling off a famous victory."