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Azad Championship Report - Matthew “Mack the Knife” Macklin Hopes the Third Time Is the Charm

(Photo © HBO)
(Photo © HBO)

On Saturday, Birmingham’s own Matthew “Mack the Knife” Macklin, 29-4 (20), will attempt to become the first man from his region to become a world champion. To do so, he will have to overcome WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, 26-0 (23), the current darling of the boxing world, at the MGM Grand in Foxwoods Resort, Connecticut live on HBO. The bout marks Macklin’s third attempt at a world title in as many years. But don’t let his four losses fool you; anyone who shares the ring with this relentless and courageous warrior is in for the fight of his life.
“It’s my third attempt at the world title; let’s say. I should have been WBA champion on the last Saturday of June two years ago [against Felix Sturm],” Macklin told the assembled press on a recent conference call, “but I was robbed in Germany. You know, I gave [recognized World Middleweight Champion] Sergio [Martinez] a good fight and that was close. I think I was [three rounds] up on one of the cards going into the 11th round but I came up short that night. But I think I’m a better fighter [for it] and have more experience.”

“Matt’s a true 160 pound contender, truly one of the best in the world,” said his promoter, Lou DiBella. (Golovkin is promoted by K2 Promotions). “He tested Sergio Martinez throughout their fight, was ahead midway through that fight, made it as good a fight as you can make it and ultimately lost on a TKO. But we all know that Sergio is one of the best fighters pound-for-pound in the world. Matt gave him everything he could take and we expect Matt to press Gennady.”
DiBella, who also handles Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez, watched Macklin in June of 2011 take former WBA titleholder Felix Sturm to the limit and seemingly beyond. To most eyes, Macklin should have won but when the scores were read, the hometown favorite, Sturm, was the split decision victor. In need of complementary styles for Martinez to fight here in the U.S. (but also enamored of Macklin’s passion in the ring), Dibella signed him.
“[The Sturm] fight made me salivate and want to promote Matt Macklin not only because he should have been a world champion but because he’s absolutely one of the most exciting fighters in all of boxing,” said Dibella. “He has the blood-and-guts warrior spirit that you know you saw in Arturo Gatti and guys like Micky Ward and others who are really willing to walk through the fire to prove what they have. I don’t see any way it’s going to be anything but a great fight.”
Fighters like Macklin are rarely, if ever, in bad fights. Aggressive with a punch that commands respect, Macklin is the perfect challenger. He will push the champion, press the action and ask questions of his opponent that better have answers. Arguably, Macklin’s greatest asset is his belief that he belongs on the world stage. Yet another is an open attitude toward change. That’s one reason he brought in veteran trainer James “Buddy” McGirt, who looks at this fight as a special challenge, in part because veteran trainer Abel Sanchez is in Golovkin’s corner.
“I have to say for a while I never knew who was training Golovkin. But when I found out Abel was training him, then I had to really put my thinking cap on,” McGirt told the press. “And the last time I had to put my thinking cap on has been over about eight years when I had [Antonio] Tarver fight Roy Jones, where I really had to focus on doing different things and that’s what I am doing with Matthew, to make sure that we win this fight coming [into] the 29th.”
In the first Antonio Tarver- Roy Jones Jr. fight, Tarver lost a controversial decision but fought well. He simply left some opportunities on the table. In the rematch, McGirt made his fighter adjust by punching with the speedy Jones instead of waiting to counter. Tarver knocked Jones out in two rounds doing just that.
McGirt, a former world champion, helped Macklin nearly take Martinez’s title in March of 2012. For much of the fight, Macklin took the fight to Martinez. In the seventh, Macklin put Martinez on the canvas and for a moment, it seemed like the aging champion’s time had run out. But as all great fighters do, Martinez adjusted and roared back to drop Macklin twice in the 11th, prompting McGirt to end the fight before the final round. To the naked eye, it appeared as if Macklin just hit a stamina wall but he insists he could have continued.
“You know, my corner pulled me out at the end of 11 before the 12th round. I felt…you know, I wanted to continue on the night. I felt okay. You know, maybe it was the right call. You know Buddy made the call. He made the decision to save me for another day but, you know, I think it wasn’t so much a tired thing. I think Sergio maybe just worked me out or tired me a little bit,” Macklin said\, “but, you know, I feel I’m in better shape for this fight then I was for the Sergio fight anyway. And I think stamina, if anything, is one of my stronger points.”
Now Macklin faces Golovkin, an economical power-puncher whose recent stretch of opponents is more about gaining experience and building a following than truly testing Golovkin - with one exception: Grzegorz Proksa, a legit top 20 middleweight who was turned back in five rounds last September. But Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida and Kassim Ouma, to name a few, were either junior middles or experienced also-rans. Macklin feels this step up in class will be the difference in the fight.
“Gennady’s a pretty impressive fighter, you know, but - and this is through no fault of his own – but, you know, most of the guys he has been walking through have been 154-pounders,” said Macklin. “You know I’m strong, [a] big-punching 160-pounder. And, you know, that changes things. You know, when, all of a sudden, he’s going to have to be a lot more preoccupied with defense in this fight than he has probably all of his previous ones. You know, he’s got a lot of hype around him. You know, if it wasn’t for his amateur pedigree, I wouldn’t really read into the hype at all because he hasn’t really beaten anybody of any note.”
Macklin did concede that Golovkin’s amateur résumé, boasting a 345-5 amateur record, including an Olympic silver medal, was indeed impressive.
“I remember him from the World Junior Championships in Budapest back in 2000,” said Macklin, “so I’ve been familiar with him since then. I’ve always thought he had a ton of talent, and funny enough, but I think 13 years later, we’re now fighting each other. So, you know, as a professional, I’m certainly the more proven entity. And I’ve had the much, much tougher opposition. And I think that will hold me a good seat on the night but, you know, of course, the amateur pedigree suggests that he’s the real deal. And, you know, I remember watching him myself at the same age as me boxing the World Junior Championships when I did, so I know how good a fighter he is. And like I said before, I’m looking forward to this fight. You know, even with this guy, I’m going to hit him back just as hard as he’s going to hit me. So yes, he is accurate. He’s got good timing. He’s heavy-handed and, you know, so am I, so you know it’s going to be an exciting fight.”
In the Martinez fight, Macklin had trouble at times with the quick feet and hands of “Maravilla.” Martinez is a natural counterpuncher who lures you into throwing and then comes back with something ugly. Golovkin is an aggressive pressure fighter who Macklin won’t have to look for. To his mind, that favors “Mack the Knife.”
However, Golovkin is not a typical fighter. At 31, he is still developing at the world-class level. To say he will simply be aggressive is to underestimate a very experienced fighter who, even though it was in the amateurs, has been fighting at a world-class level for a very long time. Adjustments may be the difference throughout this fight.
“I think there’s a lot of ways this fight could go,” said Macklin. “You know what I mean? I think that’s why you have to be ready to - you know, myself and Buddy talk [about] a lot of things – [make] a lot of different game plans, you know, because it could be a tactical 12-round boxing match. It could be a [Marvelous Marvin] Hagler-[Thomas] Hearns three-round war. There’s a lot of ways it could go and, you know, we’re just ready for every way the fight pans out. We’re ready to adapt.”
However the fight plays out, when one fighter has an 88% knockout ratio (Golovkin) and the other gets it done 60% of the time, going to the fridge may be ill-advised. As DiBella said, there is no way this fight will be a boring one. Will the third time be the charm? That, dear readers, is anyone’s guess.
You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim, now at its new home, You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.

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