NEW YORK, N.Y. – Middleweight contender Matthew Macklin is the underdog heading into his challenge to THE RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, HBO), but he is refusing to act as one.
“I think I’m a genuine top two or three contender, and at the end of the day (I) should be WBA champion,” Macklin told RingTV.com, referring to his disputed loss to Felix Sturm last year. “(Had I officially won the Sturm fight) this would be a unification fight, then people wouldn’t have me as big as an underdog.
“I do think people see me as a live underdog. I was probably a bigger underdog for the Sturm fight and I proved myself. I’m going to give a helluva performance and definitely be the new middleweight champion of the world.”
Macklin (28-3, 19 knockouts) came into the public consciousness with his stellar performance against Sturm in Germany last June, despite the highly controversial split decision loss. Macklin parlayed that performance into a shot for the true middleweight championship.
Macklin, was ringside for Martinez’s last defense against Darren Barker, as he called the bout for Sky Sports in the U.K., and saw some weaknesses that he feels he can exploit.
“There wasn’t one particular outstanding mistake, but I just thought he looked pretty ordinary,” said Macklin. “I think I would take Barker out in five or six rounds. I thought ‘Maravilla’ Martinez made hard work of it. I believe I’m a better fighter than Barker anyway, I punch harder, I’m physically stronger, much more solid, better chin, better stamina.”
The 29-year-old Irish-British fighter is being trained by the renowned Buddy McGirt for this bout, and received quality sparring at Trinity Boxing Club in New York City against southpaw junior middleweight contenders Austin Trout and Sechew Powell.
THE RING’s No. 3-rated middleweight recently moved to New York City and plans to live here for a long while. He feels he will be buoyed by the strong crowd support on Saturday, especially with the fight taking place on St. Patrick’s Day.
“I’ve been out here in New York since September, so it’s not my hometown, but it’s the next best thing,” said Macklin. “I’ll be the home fighter here. It will be nice to have the crowd cheering for me rather than against me. In Germany it was 20,000 Germans cheering Felix Sturm’s every punch. Every time I land a punch there will be a massive applause from the Irish crowd.”
“Mack the Knife” believes the 37-year-old Argentine, ranked No. 3 pound for pound by THE RING, could be slowing down and is hoping to catch him at the right time.
“He’s looked better his last two years than 10 years ago, so, it’s hard to say. People peak at different times in their career. He seems to be getting better with age. He wasn’t great his last time out, he wasn’t giving Barker the credit he deserved.
“Ultimately, he’s 37 years old, I’m 29. I’m gonna make it my kind of fight. I’m pretty versatile, I boxed in a lot of amateur international tournaments; I boxed in the world junior championships. I find a way to win. We have a plan A, B, C and D.”
Lou DiBella, who promotes both fighters, feels the fight will be action-packed and that Macklin has a better chance than a lot of pundits are giving him. Still, an upset here would surprise the former HBO Sports executive.
“It shouldn’t be 7-1 odds, that’s for sure,” said DiBella. “Macklin should be a world champ but he was robbed against Sturm. But Martinez is one of the best fighters in the world, I think second best pound for pound. I would be surprised if Macklin beat him, just because Martinez is top three in the world.
“[Macklin] would be a huge star if he won, huge. The fans are the winners, though; it’s going to be a war for as long as it lasts.”
For Macklin, becoming middleweight champion of the world would be the ultimate payoff for his long and arduous journey to the top.
“It would be a dream come true, it’s been a long road.” said Macklin. “I shouldn’t have been fighting at 154 (where he had two losses). 160’s my weight, and I’m strong as an ox.”
Photos by Teddy Blackburn and Ed Diller-DiBella Entertainment