MATTHEW MACKLIN will hope that the luck of the Irish is on his side on Saturday night as he gets set to challenge SERGIO MARTINEZ for the Ring Magazine middleweight title on St Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The 29-year-old is almost certain to receive a rapturous reception from the New York crowd, in a city that is home to thousands of Irish Americans.
Despite being a native of Birmingham, Macklin’s parents are both Irish and he embraces his heritage with tremendous pride. Macklin often spent summer’s in the Emerald Isle where he was a talented hurler in his teens before going on to become ABA champion.
Standing in Macklin’s way of glory however, is a man who is not only considered to be the best middleweight in the world, but pound for pound the third best fighter in the world.
Sergio Martinez is a highly skilled and very dangerous opponent, who always has a game plan. The 37-year-old Argentine’s last win came against Britain’s own Darren Barker back in October, whom he defeated by knockout in the 11th round in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Macklin was ringside for that fight and will know more than anyone what kind of a threat Martinez possesses.
After his highly controversial loss to WBA champion Felix Sturm in Cologne last June, Macklin will feel that he has gained enough experience from that fight to be able to dethrone Martinez.
This fight with Martinez is likely to play out very similar to his previous fight with Sturm, as the German kingpin was unwilling to go hammer and tongs with “The Tipperary Tornado” and neither will Martinez.
Macklin lost the fight with Sturm by a head-scratching points decision, with even the German media scoring Macklin at least four points ahead of the home favourite.
Macklin has been known to chop and change trainers over the years and for this fight has relocated to New York to work under a new trainer, Buddy McGirt and a new promoter, Lou DiBella having recently parted ways with top British trainer, Joe Gallagher.
He has been criticised for this somewhat nomadic approach but he thrives on change and aims to prove that it is for the best.
Sergio Martinez was catapulted to stardom back in November 2010 after he defeated Paul Williams with a blistering one-punch knockout in the second round. The fight was revenge for Martinez after Williams had won their last fight in 2009 by a questionable majority decision.
Unfortunately, due to the constant political issues within the World Boxing Council (WBC), Martinez is not officially recognised as their world champion. That title instead has been given to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, with Martinez having to settle for the “Diamond Belt”.
Nevertheless, if Macklin can pull off such a daunting task then he will undoubtedly be recognised as the best middleweight in the world, despite not having a “real” world championship to prove it.
Martinez has phenomenal timing as a fighter, but likes to set a slow pace during the first couple of rounds. This was a tactic that was implemented by Felix Sturm also, but Macklin managed to brake through his defences and land a good number of shots that troubled Sturm throughout.
However, Macklin may find great difficulty in doing the same to Martinez and he proved against Darren Barker that he has enough patience to eliminate opponents late in a fight, even if he has been troubled early on.
“I was very disappointed not to get the decision against Sturm but this is the silver lining,” he said.
“Everyone in America saw that and they were way more outraged than we were in England or Ireland. Maybe it was because they love the aggression side of boxing, which I showed, and so most in America barely had Sturm even winning three rounds.
“Everyone thought I won it, but over here they felt I really dominated him completely.
“It’s a great, great honour to fight at Madison Square Garden and a lifetime dream on St Patrick’s Day,’ he admitted. ‘It makes me quite emotional.
“It’s like a fairytale”.
If Macklin wants to come through this fight victorious, then he must be able to set the pace from the start. Instead of using long, powerful shots like he did against Sturm, Macklin will have to use little bursts to attack, then cover up and try to keep himself fresh enough to last all 12 rounds.
There is a lot of pressure on Martinez, at 37-years-old he is inevitabely nearing the end. However, he will be sure to use his priceless experience to try and control and ultimately dominate Macklin.
Martinez proved against Williams that he still has unbelieveable sources of power that can end an opponent in an instant, which is something that Macklin will be sure to be wary of.
One way or another, this is bound to be a tremendous fight, if Macklin is able to dethrone the Argentinian king it would be an incredible feat that would elevate him to the top of the middleweight tree. The bookies have Macklin as a huge underdog going into this fight, but the Irish are sure to come out in force on St Patrick’s Day.
If Macklin can pull it off, then the Big Apple may be painted green, white and gold before the night is over.