Anson Wainwright

Q&A: Matthew Macklin

Much has been made of Gennady Golovkin’s rise through the middleweight ranks. He’s been dubbed the most feared man in boxing and is possibly on his way to becoming a superstar of the game. However, before we crown him he needs to earn those accolades by beating the best opposition he can, and on the June 29 at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket, Conn., he will meet his toughest test to date with versatile boxer-puncher Matthew Macklin.
While all the talk has been of “GGG,” Macklin, who recently turned 31, has quietly gone about his business at his gym in Marbella, Spain, before arriving five weeks ahead of the fight in New York where he’s worked under the stewardship of former two-weight titleholder Buddy McGirt at the Trinity gym.
He speaks respectfully of Golovkin’s many talents, adding “I think he’s very strong physically. I think it’s important not to underestimate his skill and technical ability. He wouldn’t have achieved what he did in the amateurs if he wasn’t a good technical boxer as well. He’s got a good judge of distance, good timing, he’s got a good variety of punches, nice uppercuts, good hooks, very good jab.”
High praise indeed though Macklin is quick to warn that while Golovkin has looked impressive, thus far, boxing is all about levels.

“He looked brilliant but he looked brilliant against B level at best opposition, so let’s see how he goes now with me, it’ll a different kettle of fish,” he said.
On paper, it looks a sure-fire shootout. This fight doesn’t look like one going the distance, something Macklin in inclined to agree with.

“You’ve got two strong middleweight’s who are aggressive,” he said. “Both can punch, you would think there would be fireworks.”
Through out his storied career, Macklin (29-4, 20 knockouts) has, to his credit, looked to test himself – first at junior middleweight, where he was on the wrong end of a British Fight of the Year against Jamie Moore back in 2006.

His career really took off when he stepped up to middleweight, filling into the weight and demolishing Wayne Elcock in three rounds to collect the British title before stepping up to the European level by stunning Amin Asikainen in the opening stanza. After a few initial EBU defenses, Macklin was able to challenge long-reigning WBA titleholder Felix Sturm, losing a heart breaking split decision most believed he deserved. That performance was enough to garner the opportunity to meet consensus champion Sergio Martinez last March and Macklin gave the Argentine star more than his share of trouble before succumbing in the penultimate round.
Macklin will need both adages – “third time lucky” and “the luck of the Irish” – if he’s to unseat the marauding Golovkin. However, one way or another we’ll know a lot more about GGG after this fight. It takes place next Saturday on HBO Boxing After Dark(9:45 ET/PT).
Anson Wainwright: You meet Gennady Golovkin and much has been made of him. What are your thoughts on fighting him?

Matthew Macklin: I think it’ll be a good fight. The styles will mesh well for a good fight. He’s a strong, aggressive big-punching middleweight. So am I. It’s not exactly rocket science what kind of fight it’s going to be, it should be all action.

AW: When you analyze him as a fighter what do you see?

MM: Well, I think he’s very strong, physically. I think it’s important not to underestimate his skill and technical ability; he wouldn’t have achieved what he did in the amateurs if he wasn’t a good technical boxer as well. He’s a good judge of distance, good timing, he’s got a good variety of punches, nice uppercuts, good hooks, very good jab. There’s a lot of strengths, not so many weakness, certainly nothing to exploit so far but you know he hasn’t fought anyone. Boxing is all about levels, isn’t it? And he hasn’t fought anyone on my level, so I wouldn’t have expected anything to be really exploited when you look at the calibre of opponent he’s fought.
AW: Do you see it as a fight where he’s basically been anointed as the middleweight king but he hasn’t fought the top guys yet? You’ve fought Sergio Martinez, Felix Sturm, even before that you were battle tested. We’ll find out a lot more about him from your fight with him?

MM: Exactly, and I believe that when I say “weakness,” I don’t see a weakness – not a technical weakness. He’s never been knocked down, so no obvious weakness but probably his lack experience is a weakness now and that sounds funny to say that because he’s a world champion, but because of the calibre of opponent he’s fought he’s had everything his own way so certain situations he’s not been through in a fight and I have. This is a fight I think we’re both going to go through those situations and those scenarios and having been there before I think it’ll hold me in good stead but it’ll be the first time for him.

AW: It looks like the kind of fight that’s not going the distance?

MM: It looks that way. You’ve got two strong middleweights who are aggressive, both can punch, you would think there would be fireworks, but we’ve both got good chins and we’re both clever. Sometimes it can be surprising. You think someone’s gonna go early and it ends up going the full 12. Obviously, I’ve prepared for 12 and I’m sure he has. I’m ready to adapt and do whatever’s necessary to win.
AW: As usual, you started your training camp in Marbella before more recently switching your base to America. Can you talk us through your whole camp?

MM: It was different this time. I was training out in Spain at Macklin’s gym in Marbella, the MGM; we were there six or seven weeks, training there. We had a great camp. There’s some big hills to build stamina, just your general boxing work outs, a bit of strength and conditioning, sledge hammer on the tire for three minutes.

I was training with my brother Seamus in Marbella. He did the pads with me. I actually did a couple of weeks sparring with Ruben Veron who I defended my European title against back in 2010.

I came out here and Buddy joined us. We’re all on the same page on what needs to be done. We’re all looking forward to the fight. We trained at Trinity, downtown (NYC) by ground zero.

When we came to New York, we upped the sparring and from a running point of view, track work, the long runs are in the bank so we shortened them down, did 1 km three or four times, then bring it down to 800 metres, then 400 metres and 200 metres more sets. After that you have sparring, shadow boxing, pads, the traditional boxing training, really.
AW: If we can look at both of your most recent fights, first you beat former junior middleweight titleholder Joachim Alcine in Las Vegas last September on the undercard of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sergio Martinez. I don’t want to say it was easy, that’s disrespectful to Alcine, but when you look at the result it appears that way.

MM: Yeah, the only easy fight is the one you’re talking about in the dressing room after. That was one of them. I was expecting a tricky fight because he can be pretty slick and awkward – legs apart, he goes for a little walk, a faint, that kind of thing and he was coming off a really good win over David Lemieux who’s a really big puncher. So yeah, I was expecting a tricky fight. Don’t get me wrong I was expecting to win. I just caught him in the first round; even though he got up I knew he hadn’t recovered.
AW: Why after the Alcine fight have you been out of action for so long?

MM: Well, what happened after the Alcine fight, I knew I wasn’t going to fight that side of Christmas so I had an operation on my nose to improve my breathing. I struggled with it for years, I thought I’d get it done in September and it would be OK in January/February, but after different referrals I didn’t get it done until early December so from the healing process I was out until May. Lou (DiBella) had a date for me May 11 on HBO to fight Andy Lee. Andy turned it down, some other guys were offered it, they couldn’t come up with a suitable opponent; no one HBO would take would take the fight with me, so it didn’t work out. Then there was talk of the Golovkin fight. Initially, I wanted to take a fight in June, maybe do a double header, then fight in September ‘cause I’d only had the round (Joachim Alcine fight) since the Martinez fight so that was my main concern. Then we talked it back and forth; eventually I was told the opportunity is here, it’s a world title shot, who knows what the autumn’s going to bring. I’m 31. I don’t want to be turning down world title opportunities. It’s a fight I’m confident of winning and I thought there’s hype around him so it’s going to be a huge win. Let’s get it on.
AW: Golovkin has fought twice already this year, beating Gabe Rosado in January and then Nobuhiro Ishida back in March. What did you think of those fights?

MM: Like I said before, I can’t say he doesn’t do this well or that well. It’s more a case of he looked brilliant but he looked brilliant against B-level at best opposition. So let’s see how he goes now with me, it’ll a different kettle of fish.
AW: Let’s talk about you. You’re of Irish decent but from Birmingham. Could you tell us a little about your younger days growing up?

MM: I had a brilliant upbringing. I was encouraged into sport and supported, sent to a good school, it couldn’t have been better.

I was a massive sports fan. I loved hurling. It was my first love when I was young, it’s an Irish sport. I played football at school, and for a Sunday team, rugby, Gaelic football, athletics, cross country, any sport going. I was sport mad. I actually played hurling at a very high level in Ireland. I used to go back every summer. So sport was my life from boxing to hurling rugby to football. I was constantly playing sport.
AW: What are your thoughts on the middleweight division?

MM: I think it’s the best division in boxing. I think there was a time a couple of years ago when (Kelly) Pavlik was champion, I was reading THE RING magazine (where it said) there was no opposition there for him. They were looking for Paul Williams maybe to step up from light middle, where now (in teh middleweight division) you’ve probably got one to seven or eight of the top guys who could probably beat each other on any given night. Maybe I’m stretching it a little but it’s very competitive. I think it’s opening up now and the best are fighting each other rather than trying to protect their zero. We want the best fighting the best like in the divisions hay day in the ‘40s and ‘50s you had Jake LaMotta, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Graziano, Tony Zale, and even in the ‘80s and ‘90s you had Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard. Even after that, the middleweight division is historically one of the best, so it’s good to see people fight each other and the best are prepared to fight the best.
AW: Domestically, there are several interesting fights that haven‘t been made. Any combination of you, Darren Barker, Martin Murray, Andy Lee would be exciting. However, for the most part, each of you has been able to get a world title fight without clearing things up in Britain. Is it a case where once you get to a certain level that there’s not enough on offer when you can get a world title fight anyway?

MM: Yeah, I’d say there’s an element of that. I think if one of us can win a world title it’s a much bigger fight. I think that’s why. I’m fighting Golovkin, Darren Barker’s fighting Daniel Geale, please God we both come through and then that’s the time to make that fight, isn’t it? Then if that’s the case everyone will be glad it never got made three or four years ago. It’s all about timing. I want them to happen. I’m sure the other lads want them to happen. I think it’s just a case of different promoters and timing, really, to suit everyone. Hopefully, it gets to a stage where it does suit everyone.
AW: Have you ever been close to fighting any of your domestic rivals? You mentioned the Andy Lee fight. A few years back you were originally matched with Darren Barker on the “Magnificent Seven” bill Frank Warren promoted.
MM: Darren Barker, I signed to fight him on the “Magnificent Seven” card in Birmingham, he pulled out 10 days before with an injury. Andy Lee was offered the fight several times. Brian Peters offered him the fight and Lou DiBella offered him the fight this year and he turned it down every time. There was talk of me and Martin Murray fighting last summer but it never came to a stage where offers were made. I’m sure they both want the fights to happen. I want the fights to happen but it has to be at a time when it makes sense for everyone. I think we’re getting to that stage. Hopefully ,one of us wins a world title and please god it can happen.

AW: If we can focus on THE RING magazine’s middleweight ratings, could you give us your thoughts on each guy:

C – Sergio Martinez – Yeah, very awkward, good movement, good lateral movement, going left and right all the time constantly on the move, very hard to get any momentum, very hard to hit with combinations, just single shots here and there. Very good fighter.

1 – Daniel Geale – Good fighter, throws lots of punches, good work rate, he beat Sturm. I thought I beat Sturm much more convincingly than him, but he’s a good fighter, someone I’d like to fight down the line. Tough fighter, decent technical ability, good jab, very busy.

2 – Gennady Golovkin – Probably the most avoided fighter in the division. Looks the business, destroying people, C and B level opposition, a lot of hype, but a lot of that is supported because of his amateur pedigree. But this isn’t the amateurs, it’s the pros. We’ll know a lot more about him after next week.

3 – Felix Sturm – I thought I beat Sturm convincingly, punched him from pillar to post for most part of 12 rounds. Good fighter, though, very tight defense, quite explosive, not heavy handed but accurate, good jab.

4 – Peter Quillin – Peter’s a good fighter. I sparred with Peter. Good puncher, good thinker in there, clever fighter, I rate him.

5 – Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. – I think Chavez is strong, massive at the weight, I don’t think he can fight for three minutes of a round because of problems making weight, but he’s very good in there at pacing himself. There’s no doubt he’s a good fighter but I’m confident I’d win that fight if it was made.

6 – Matthew Macklin – I think I’m one of the more versatile fighters, which showed in the Sturm fight and then the difference in the Martinez fight. I can fight, I can go to war, but can box as well, good jab, good body puncher, high work rate; solid guy! (laughs)

7 – Martin Murray – Good fighter, good performance against Sergio Martinez, very tight defence, doesn’t load up with his shots, technically he’s a good fighter, he doesn’t look for power, he places his shots nicely.

8 – Hassan N’dam N’Jikam – Haven’t seen a lot of him at all, but he looks certainly not a bad fighter, quite athletic. If I said any more, I’d be telling lies (laughs)

9 – Darren Barker – I think Barker’s a good fighter, nice boxer, decent speed, decent hand speed.

10 – Brian Vera – I saw Brian against Andy Lee, he beat him and lost comfortably in the rematch. A tough guy but very beatable, he can easily be outboxed.

AW: Away from boxing what do you enjoy doing with your spare time?

MM: I’ve got the gym in Spain. It’s a charity thing, any profit we give to charity. We do (a) white collar (boxing event) once a year, which raises money for charity. In the summer, the Hurling season will be up and running so I’ll be watching that keenly. I’m a big Tipperary Hurling fan. Hopefully, they can go far this year. I’ll probably take a few trips back to Ireland for various matches as well. I like films, boxsets.

AW: In closing do you have a message for Gennady Golovkin ahead of your fight?

MM: I’m ready, he’s ready. That’s it. Talk’s cheap anyway. Let’s get it on.

Photos / Jeff Bottari-Getty Images, AFP,Dean Mouhtaropoulos-Getty Images

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